DOUBLE DUTCH DOUBLE DUTCH; All you need is a clothesline and jet-propelled feet
The people milling about suddenly swallow their last bits of brownies and rivet their eyes on the display of jump roping at one end of the community hall in Manhattan.Skip to next paragraph
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Rat-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-tat. The crowd is fixated by Nicki Adams's feet. With the rapidity of machine-gun fire, her two sneakers batter the floor more than 300 times in one minute. During her "double dutch" (two ropes) speed show, Nicki calmly raises one finger to shoulder level, warning her turners to slow down. Any decrease in the ropes' slapping the floor is imperceptible. Nicki leaps out of the ropes into the applause, cheers, and gasps from the audience.
"That's fantastic!" people in the crowd always say, and the accolade makes the Fantastic Four grin when the serious business of jumping is over.
The reigning champions of American double-dutch competition, the "Fantastic Four" trip on the ropes now and then -- "messing up," they call it -- but more often the audiences explode into such clapping and shouting that the girls cannot hear one another counting and shouting encouragement and directions. Then the four instinctively float through their motions.
Sweating like a jogger but calmly gulping an iced drink after the show, 14 -year-old Nicki fields adulation like a pro. How can she jump like that?
"They make me do it," she grins, as if her teammates were victimizing her.
"She never holds up two fingers," Robin Oakes jeers. (Two fingers at shoulder level means speed up the ropes.)
Nicki may look like the star of the Fantastic Four, but double-dutch jump rope allows no prima donnas.
"What people don't realize is that the turners are the most important people, " Robin says. "Your arms can really ache after only 15 seconds of turning if you're not in shape."
"Double dutch is the purest team activity today," Ulysses Williams says. He is the police detective in community affairs who, with Detective David Walker, is responsible for the resurgence of double dutch and for its competitive structure.
"You can't do double dutch unless all the three or four members work together like a Swiss watch. When we set out the rules seven years ago, we cracked open the door. What poured through it was people's talent."
Seven years ago the best speed was 180 jumps in 2 minutes -- that's counting only the times the left foot hits the ground. Today the Fantastic Four hold the world speed record -- 339 jumps in 2 minutes. Nicki's two feet hit 678 times during that period. A rope strikes the floor 5 1/2 times each second.
"The Fantastic Four is a top team, but as an administrator, I can name three other teams as good as they are," Detective Walker proclaims.
"The Jumping Joints" from Brooklyn, the "Sweet Connection" from the Bronx, and the "Double Dutch Tigers" from the Lower East Side of Manhattan are all top rank in the high school division, otherwise known as the "glamour" division.
What's in a name? Mention the Double Dutch Tigers and the Fantastic Four explode into loud, simultaneous diatribes.
"They are named 'tigers,' right? Tigers are supposed to be vicious, you know what I mean? We had to prove we were fantastic," Robin explains.