National Geographic : 2009 Feb
CULTURE PHOTO: ROBERT CLARK Dutch Treat Turners twirl two ropes fast as they can. Jumpers hop in, do dance steps and backflips, then deftly exit. There may be music. Or chanting: "Double Forces has got the beat, 'cause we do it with our feet, 'cause we are"---here they throw down their ropes and walk away---"bad." That's double Dutch jump rope, which this year becomes a varsity sport in New York City schools. Blacks and, to a lesser extent, Jews pio- neered the game in U.S. cities in the 1940s, says Kyra D. Gaunt, author of The Games Black Girls Play. "Kids are inventive," she explains. "Clotheslines were there, jumping rope was already common." So why not two ropes and fancy moves? "Double Dutch" is slang for something confusing or difficult, like turning cartwheels between two helicoptering ropes. It's also an insult dating to the 1800s, when the British used it to mock the Dutch language. Other cultures are jumping in. Japanese teams often win world tourneys. But a trophy isn't the only payoff. "There's the cooperation thing," says Tenisha Nimmons, 18, of Brooklyn, a jumper since third grade. "And in society you gotta get along with everyone." ---Marc Silver Jumpers in Command, a team from Brooklyn, do the double Dutch.