If Black girls are magic, then jumping Double Dutch is one of our superpowers. Now, if you never learned how to jump as a little girl, no, that doesn’t make you any less magical or real. Your #BlackGirlMagic card is still fully activated. Like the Minister of Music India.Arie told us, “there’s hope.”
Sean and Michelle Clark, the owners of Double Dutch Aerobics based in Atlanta, have been called “miracle workers” by the media and I can co-sign 100% that the title is well-deserved. I took my first Double Dutch Aerobics workshop with the husband and wife team during their “In the Ropes Tour 2” Chicago stop of their 30 city tour.
In less than 1 minute, they legit taught women who didn’t know how to jump at all, or who hadn’t jumped in decades, to jump Double Dutch. By the end of our 1 hour together, every single one of us in the workshop was jumping into the rope, doing tricks and jumping out of the rope (which I always thought was the hard part).
Full disclosure: I already knew how to jump. I’m kind of a beast in these Chicago streets.
Well, maybe not a beast. A baby beast?
I’m kind of a monster in these Chicago streets when it comes to Double Dutch.
I had to learn the ropes – literally – early and fast.
It was 1989 and I was the new girl on the block when my family moved to 107th & Lafayette. South Side of Chicago, in the Roseland neighborhood. Super tall for my nine-year-old age, skinny, glasses, and told I talked proper “like a white girl,” I was very awkward and introverted. In school, I got teased for all those things plus the added halo of being known as a “teacher’s pet” because I was smart and got really good grades.
A few houses down from us was this house that had a gang of kids. It kind of reminded me of my grandmother’s house – my mother’s mother – with all those people living in one house. I connected pretty quickly with the girls that were around my age and we would run the block playing tag or do cheer routines in the middle of the street until the streetlights came on.
Then one day, the ropes came out.
Walking up on a game of Double Dutch for girls is like walking up on a pickup basketball game at the courts for boys. Even if you don’t know nobody, if you know how to play, you’re in. If you have some skills, you’re really in.
“Sandy, you know how to jump?”
I’m not even sure I’d ever seen jumping like that before, let alone knew how to do it.
Thankfully, my new friends didn’t immediately dismiss me.
“We gon’ teach you.”
That was “T.” She was their auntie. It was always tripped out to me that she was their auntie because she was a teenager, just a few years older than us. I didn’t understand how that was possible. I got it later when my older brother had his first child and I became an auntie at 11. But, I digress.
“T” took me under her wing and our crew would spend hours playing rope. It started off with me standing in the rope. Then, I advanced to jumping in, them “guiding” me into the rope.
It didn’t take me too long to get the hang of it, but jumping was just half the equation. Probably the only thing worse than not knowing how to jump is turning double handed. I started out turning off beat and it’s no fun being that person who they never want turning for them. Whether you’re in the rope or on the ends turning, timing is everything.
Catch the rhythm.
Catch the rhythm.
“Left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right, lefit, right…”
When you get it, it DOES feel like magic. As a grown woman, I’m reminded of those early lessons nearly every time I jump. The laughter. The songs we’d sing. The hours of fun. The feeling of belonging and fitting in.
Double Dutch Aerobics isn’t just getting Black women together for exercise. It’s also taking us back to that nostalgia of street games, even if you were a spectator mesmerized by the rhythm of the ropes from the sidelines. The beauty of the Double Dutch Aerobics workshop was that no woman was a spectator, longing to jump. We all got in and got it in.
After some stretching to get our muscles warmed up, Sean and Michelle started us with a basic 1 minute drill of jumping straight up and down (“pop ups”). “1, 2, 1, 2, this is the base of all the tricks you’re going to learn today,” Michelle sang, coaching each jumper to find the rhythm.
The look on one sista’s face who said she couldn’t jump as she was jumping was priceless. It’s what #BlackGirlJoy looks like. Just this radiant smile and laughter like, “I can’t believe I’m doing it, but I am!”
After the basics, we did more drills, this time jumping into the rope and jumping out. Jump in, two hops, jump out. Then, jump in, one hop, jump out.
Then, -ish got real. Sean and Michelle started teaching us combinations and tricks.
Of course, they demo’d everything first and had us practice without the ropes.
“Whatever you do outside the ropes you can do IN the ropes,” Sean said.
Including that 360 degree turn in the rope? Yeah, ok.
But, I did it. We all did it.
The times I didn’t do it, like, got tripped up by the rope? It was because I hesitated. “Digging your potatoes” is what we call it when you’re waiting for that perfect moment to jump in and it’s taking you forever to do it. Hesitating. Fear.
“Don’t hesitate,” Sean and Michelle kept reminding us. MESSAGE!
Double Dutch is technique but it also requires trust. This message really hit home for me at the end of the class during our lighting round, jumping in and out of the rope one woman right after the other. No hesitating. If you hesitate or mess up, you’re out. Who would be the last woman standing?
*Hits a body roll* It was ME! I won a “In the Ropes Tour 2” water bottle. AYEEEE!
The hour went by far too fast, but I feel like I learned so much. I’m one step closer to actual ‘beast in these Chicago streets’ status.
Check out the official Double Dutch Aerobics Tour schedule and PLEASE take the workshop if they are in your city. Do it for the culture.
Be sure to use #SheFieldTrips when you share your experience 🙂