Edited by Azizi Powell
This is Part I of a four part pancocojams series on recreational (street, old school) Double Dutch, with an emphasis on Double Dutch (jump rope) rhymes.
Part I presents my thoughts about the reasons for the demise of recreational Double Dutch with or without chanted rhymes. Part I also includes an excerpt from an online article that provides a general overview about recreational Double Dutch, with emphasis on the years that girls were involved in this activity.
In addition, Part I also showcases four YouTube videos of recreational or competitive sports Double Dutch. A video of Malcolm Mclaren's 1983 song "Double Dutch" is also featured in this post, particularly for its visual documentation of Double Dutch sports teams more than for its South African sourced music. Selected comments about Double Dutch from those videos' discussion threads are also included in this post.
Click https://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2017/07/excerpt-about-recreational-double-dutch.html for Part II of this series. Part II features an excerpt from the chapter "Double Dutch And Double Cameras: Studying The Transmission Of Culture In An Urban School" by Ann Richman Beresina. This chapter is part of the 1999 book Children's Folklore: A SourceBook edited by Brian Sutton-Smith, Jay Mechling, Thomas W. Johnson, and Felicia McMahon (Utah State University Press, originally published in 1995).
In addition, Part II showcases the 1985/1986 McDonald Double Dutch commercial (which is also featured in Part I) as well as two YouTube videos of "Big Mac" performed as a two person and as a four person hand clap game.
Click https://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2017/07/juice-juice-lets-knock-some-boots-four.html for Part III of this pancocojams series. Part III showcases text (word only) examples of five recreational Double Dutch rhymes and provides comments about those examples, including suggesting probably Hip Hop sources for some of those rhymes.
The words to these rhymes are from Recess Battles: Playing, Fighting, and Storytelling, by Anna R. Beresin (Univ. Press of Mississippi, May 27, 2011).
Click https://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2017/07/references-to-double-dutch-jump-rope-in.html for Part IV of this video. Part IV provides a partial time line of references to Double Dutch in American and British television shows, movies, commercials, and recorded songs.
This post also showcases one of these commercials: Coca Cola Double Dutch.
The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, and recreational purposes.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks to all the Double Dutch teams that are featured in the videos that are embedded in this post. Thanks also to all who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publishers of these videos.
Hat tip to author David Whiteis who alerted me to this July 26, 2017 New York Times article on Double Dutch: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/25/arts/double-dutch-lincoln-center.html and asked "When did the spoken/sung rhyming begin to fade from street/sidewalk Double Dutch?"
This four part pancocojams series is part of the results of the online research that I did, prompted by David Whiteis' question. I read various articles and a number of YouTube discussion threads about Double Dutch, searching for dates and other demographics that they might give some information about when recreational Double Dutch was popular, when its popularity began to fade, and whether children's initiated recreational Double Dutch even exists anymore.
As I noted below, largely as a result of that online reading, I don't think that there is any one definite date that rhyming became disassociated with Double Dutch. But in reading about recreational Double Dutch, I realized that it wasn't just rhyming while doing Double Dutch that has largely disappeared, but also recreational Double Dutch jumping itself. And, based on my experiences in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from 1969 to now (2017), I would also say far fewer African American girls (and maybe also girls of other races and ethnicities in the United States engage in recreational single rope (group) jump rope jumping than they did when I was growing up in New Jersey during the 1950s.
This is part of an ongoing pancocojams series on Double Dutch (jump rope) and jump roping rope in general, particularly as those activities relate to African American females.
Also, click the tags below to find other posts in this series.
PANCOCOJAMS EDITOR'S COMMENTS
I've done no formal research on this subject. These are my own comments and they may not agree with the conclusions that were reached in the article excerpted below or in other articles or books about Double Dutch in the United States.
WHEN DID RECREATIONAL DOUBLE DUTCH BECOME A LOST ART
The overarching premise in this pancocojams series on recreational Double Dutch is that recreational (street/playground) Double Dutch* is a lost art, or an activity that is in severe danger of being lost. These conclusions are based on my experiences as an African American female, as well as my online and offline reading. Furthermore, I believe that the recreational Double Dutch performed without chanting lasted longer than the performance of Double Dutch which includes chanted rhymes.
I don't believe that any definite date can be pinpointed as to when recreational Double Dutch itself and/or recreational Double Dutch with rhymes chanted ended in the United States. There's documentation that indicates that during the 1940s-1960s Double Dutch was very widely performed as a recreational activity by some (but not all) African American girls in various parts of the United States. My guess is that Double Dutch with rhyme chanting began to disappear at different times in different places. By at least the 1980s, group jump rope (with one rope) also grew out of favor by African American girls and other American girls and was largely replaced by the hand clap games. From my experiences and my reading I believe that by the late 1990s in most African American communities recreational Double Dutch was largely a thing of the past. I also think that recreational Double Dutch jumping without chanted rhymes probably lasted longer than recreational Double Dutch jumping with rhymes.
That said, it's likely that there may be places where girls still do recreational Double Dutch with or without rhyme chanting. However, I think that it's an indisputable fact that far fewer African American girls perform Double Dutch -or even group jump rope (with one rope) in the 2000s compared with the 1940s to the 1990s.
*Note that by "recreational Double Dutch" I mean Double Dutch jumping that is children initiated (almost always girls, and also predominately African American girls) as a recreational activity during school recess, and as pastimes after school and in the summer months etc. "Children initiated" is in contrast to adult initiated recreational Double Dutch that is taught to and/or otherwise experienced by children at community centers, school gym classes, summer camps, etc.
Recreational Double Dutch is similar but not the same as the competitive sport of Double Dutch. One clear difference between these two activities is that rhyme chanting was an important feature of recreational Double Dutch, but no chanting occurs in the Double Dutch sport. Notice that the Wikipedia article for Double Dutch https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_Dutch_(jump_rope) makes no mention whatsoever about rhyme chanting.
WHY DID RECREATIONAL DOUBLE DUTCH BECOME A LOST ART
These points are numbered, but are given in no particular order. I refer to "African American girls" in some of these points since recreational Double Dutch is most closely associated with that population in the United States.
Here's why I think recreational Double Dutch in particular, and perhaps also group jump rope (with one rope), are lost arts or dying arts:
1. The lack of outdoor, open spaces in urban areas.
Double Dutch needs large open spaces. There's documentation that Double Dutch was often performed in urban streets, but increased urbanization made/makes this performance space unsafe and inoperable.
Modern playgrounds and school yards are no longer open spaces, but have built in sliding boards, swings, jungle gyms etc. The presence of these built in recreational structures means that Double Dutch can't be performed in those playgrounds.
2. In order to play Double Dutch specifically (and jump rope in general, you need to have two (or one)
jump ropes. Contrast that with hand clap rhymes [point #4] and foot stomping cheers [point #5] which can be performed without purchasing or otherwise acquiring any materials.
In the 1950s, I recall using cut clotheslines for individual jump rope or for single (group) jump rope. However, clotheslines aren't as readily available nowadays since hanging washed clothes to dry outside or in the basement is seldom if ever done anymore. Clotheslines are still available for sale, but that doesn't mean that people would buy them for the purpose of jumping rope. For that matter, plastic jump ropes for individual jumping are also available for purchase, but those jump ropes are often of poor quality even if they're long enough for Double Dutch.
Telephone wires or cable wires are mentioned by several commenters on YouTube discussion threads of videos about the sport of Double Dutch as the preferred "rope" for jumping Double Dutch. Girls got these materials from parents, relatives, or family friends who worked in those companies. However, given the changes in those industries and dearth of people who have land line telephones and cable in their homes, those materials aren't available any longer to be used as Double Dutch ropes.
3. Schools, community centers, etc often prohibit Double Dutch specifically or jump rope in general in their facilities or on their grounds for safety and security reasons.
Children playing Double Dutch (and, to a lesser extent, group (single) jump rope and/or children in the vicinity of such play could get hurt. These institutions don't want to be liable for any injuries that might occur.
4. Other recreational activities have replaced Double Dutch jumping and jump rope in general.
Beginning in the 1970s, if not earlier, two person, four person, and -less often- three person hand clap games have become the main informal recreational activity that African American girls (ages 5-12 years) engage in. Many formerly jump rope rhymes are now known as hand clap rhymes were formerly performed as jump rope (and ball bouncing) rhymes. In addition to hand clap games to the point that many people aren't even aware that these rhymes earlier accompanied individual or group (single) jump rope and/or Double Dutch jump rope.
Mildly competitive hand slap games (such as "Slap Billy Ola" ("Stella Ella Ola") and "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky") have also replaced Double Dutch and other jump rope games while chanting a specific rhyme.
Hand clap games need very little performance space and hand slap games don't usually need as large a performance space as Double Dutch. Also, in contrast with Double Dutch specifically or any form of jump rope activity, hand clap games and hand slap games don't need any objects in order to engage in those activities.
Foot stomping cheers (also referred to as "steps") is another informal recreational activity that has replaced Double Dutch among African American girls. That recreational activity is performed either indoor or outdoor while chanting specific rhymes. Three advantages that foot stomping has over "Double Dutching" is that it doesn't need as much space as Double Dutch, there are no health concerns associated with that movement activity, and it's much easier to learn how to perform than Double Dutch rope turning and Double Dutch jumping.
Other informal or informal physical recreational activities such as formal cheerleading (either stomp & shake cheerleading or mainstream cheerleading or a combination of both), Hip Hop majorette (j-setting), and/or organized team sports. Some of these activities need smaller performance or practice spaces than Double Dutch.
African American girls may also perform children initiated contemporary group circle games such as "Little Sally Walker Was Walking Down The Street" and "Ride That Pony" instead of playing Double Dutch.
5. In the United States, instead of being involved in informal or formal recreational movement activities, a large number of children spend a considerable amount of their leisure time watching television, using the internet for game playing, and for engaging with others on social media. In addition, many children and pre-teens use personal cell phones for texting, and other activities including making and exchanging self-made videos.
[Update- Added July 30, 2017] Here's another reason for the demise of recreational Double Dutch as given in https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/nn974m/double-dutchs-forgotten-hip-hop-origins-456 Double Dutch's Forgotten Hip-Hop Origins
"In an even broader sense, as crime in New York reached its highest rates in the late 1980s and video games entered the picture, fewer children were interested in playing together on the street. "Kids don't even want to play outside anymore," Nicki laments." ["Nicki" is identified as Adrienne "Nicki" Howell, a member of the award winning Fantastic Four (Double Dutch team; featured in two McDonald ads.)]
-end of Update-
[Update Added July 30. 2017]
As a result of reading some comments in a discussion thread of a Double Dutch video that I just came across, it occurs to me that television shows/movies about Double Dutch that aired in the 1990s and 2000s could have revived short lived or longer interest in "double dutching". Here are those comments , followed by my note:
The Real syndicated television talk show-[Double Dutch segment] Sep 29, 2014
"Tamera Shows Off Her Double Dutch Skills"
Tamera Mowry-Housley one of The Real's hosts, was the star of Sister, Sister along with her twin sister Tia. A popular episode of that series was when the sisters jumped in a Double Dutch competition.(1997).
Girls don't even double dutch anyone, I remember in the hood girls use to always do that.
"+MrThekidisback Yes they do! There is actually a show about it on Lifetime and yes It is good"
The 2015 television series Jump! showcased Newark, New Jersey's Floyd Little (Double Dutch Team). The series wasn't renewed after its first season.
"+DanceMomsLover#1#1 Nah I know there are girls who do but you don't see it as much anymore."
Boss At Home, 2017
"5th grade when Jump In first premiered on Disney, this was the thing ever one was doing at recess."
The Floyd Little team compete in the sport of Double Dutch. That's not the same type of Double Dutch that was performed "back in the day" before there were national and international Double Dutch competitions.
As a matter of fact, the 2007 Disney Channel movie Jump In! also centered around a Double Dutch sports competition. At one point in that movie, the female members of that team along with their male team member went to the "hood" and saw some "street" double dutchers performing intricate moves which inspired them to improve their routine.
These television shows/movies are listed the Double Dutch timeline (Part IV of this pancocojams series.)
-end of update-
BRIEF EXCERPT ABOUT THE HISTORY OF DOUBLE DUTCH IN THE UNITED STATES
"JUMP ROPE HISTORY
Past and Present
....”Early Dutch settlers were some of the first jump ropers in America. Not surprisingly, one of the more popular jumping games is called "Double Dutch."
In the early 1940s and 1950s, jump rope became tremendously popular, and many children in inner cities used jumping rope as a form of play. It only required a rope, and anyone could play. From the late 1950s until the 1970s, however, jump rope history took a back seat to radio and television as it started to captivate the minds of your children.
In the 1970s, an increased interest in physical fitness and overall health emerged. Programs started promoting jump roping to keep kids from other unhealthy activities. To make it enjoyable and entertaining for kids jump roping events were organized"...
Example #1: VINTAGE 80'S MCDONALD'S DOUBLE DUTCH COMMERCIAL 
This video featured the world champion Fantastic Four double-dutch team. Unfortunately, as a result of this commercial, that team was disqualified from competing any longer in Double Dutch sport competitions, a consequence I gather the team wasn't aware of before agreeing to be featured in this ad.
The chanted rhyme, known as "Big Mac", was written by the McDonald Corporation to promote their menu. This is the most famous of three McDonalds commercials that were centered around recreational Double Dutch. The other two commercials were aired in 1979 and 1981. Nowadays, "Big Mac" [most commonly known as "Welcome To McDonalds"] is a very popular partner hand clap rhyme and it's likely that few children know that it was once chanted as a jump rope rhyme.
Here are some selected comments from this video's discussion thread (Numbers are assigned for referencing purposes only) :
"@sugarrrsmack Me too, I was NEVER that good. but I sure tried. But we did double dutch to this same McDonald's song back in the day. Seeing this makes me kinda miss the EARLY 80s."
This is clearly response to a comment from “sugarrrsmack:”, but no such comment is included in that discussion thread.
2.Delores Finlayson, 2012
"Wow! Its been years since we filmed this commercial. We were the first to open many doors in the sport. I would like to see more kids get out there and have fun jumping Double Dutch."
3. Tani, 2015
"see yall are a new generation in the 90's we would take double dutch life LIFE! We would jump so long that we would run out of songs...lol! We would do this for hours and then wake up and do it again...our favorite ropes were a phone line doubled...if you got hit with it it would really hurt but we were so good that it rarely happened...lol! I really miss those days!"
4. Kyra Gaunt, Ph.D., 2013
"Double dutch is one of three types of musical play that most urban kids in predominately black settings were first exposed to in early childhood. The black public sphere was dominated by these games for the very young and carried popular songs and dance to them -- like their own popular broadcasting system -- where there was no adult supervision. It was orally and kinetically passed down -- by word of mouth and body and girls were the primary agents while boys tended to rap and dance.
Dr. Kyra Gaunt is author of the award winning 2006 book The Games Black Girls Play
Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop. https://nyupress.org/books/9780814731208/.
Notice that Dr. Gaunt wrote "The black public sphere was dominated by these games."...
5. Salsasha Salsasha, 2017
"I had a feeling that double dutch skipping was originally part of black culture until it became mainstream. Not to take away the enjoyment of anyone that likes skipping. Thank you for your informative post."
Example #2: DOUBLE DUTCH DIVAS" CENTRAL PARK SEPT 16/07 7 PM
Will D, Published on Sep 17, 2007
The Double Dutch Divas appear every Sunday at 7 pm from the beginning of July thru the 2-3rd week of September. Located just yards downtown beside the skater's circle in Central Park, right beside the skater's after-party.
Double Dutch a sport in which one person jumps rope with two ropes and one or more people jumping simultaneously.
Playing Double Dutch involves at least three people total: one or more jumping and two turning the ropes. A person jumping usually does tricks that may involve gymnastics or breakdancing, it can also have fancy foot movements incorporated. Young people, including many boys, do this for fitness and it is competed at world level. Competitions in double-dutch were often seen at block parties.
During the very early years of hip hop culture, double-dutch was an element of the culture (popularized in the song Double Dutch Bus). After hip hop began moving towards the mainstream in the early 1980s, double-dutch fell out of favor as a recognized element of hip hop, although it remains popular with athletes to this day.
Double Dutch Bus was a 1981 funk song by Frankie Smith, made famous for its extensive use of the "izz" infix form of slang. The song title represents a portmanteau of two institutions in Smith's Philadelphia neighborhood: the double dutch game of jump rope played by neighborhood kids, and the SEPTA bus system that was a backbone of the local transportation network (and for which Smith had unsuccessfully applied for a bus driving position). Smith persuaded contacts at WMOT Records to finance the song, and it was recorded in summer 1981, engineered by Gene Leone. The song rocketed to popularity in a matter of weeks, landing on the Billboard Top 40 charts on July 11, 1981.
The language that they use to speak in, is often used by rapper Snoop Dog, and has been referred to as "Double Dutch". Speaking Double Dutch would be to add "izz" or "illz" to the middle of words. Thus the phrase "We all play Double Dutch" becomes "Willze aillzll plizzay Dizzouble Dizzutch" in the song.
This song was famously sampled in Missy Elliot's 2003 single "Gossip Folks."
The Dutch settlers brought the game to the Hudson River trading town of New Amsterdam (now New York City). When the English arrived and saw the children playing their game, they called it Double Dutch. The game has since grown over the years, particularly in urban areas. It became a favorite pastime to sing rhymes while turning and jumping. During World War II, the game was often played on the sidewalks of New York. By the late 1950s the radio music boom dominated urban America and the lack of recreational areas in close proximity to apartment buildings had made the game nearly extinct.
In 1973, David A. Walker, then a New York City Police Community Affairs Detective, joined by his partner Detective Ulysses Williams, developed the street game of Double Dutch into the World Class Sport that it is today. With the assistance of the physical education instructors at IS 10, Walker and Williams revitalized the game by developing it into a competitive team sport. On February 14, 1974, the first Double Dutch tournament was held with nearly 600 fifth, sixth, seventh and eight grade students participating.
-end of that video summary-
Here are some selected comments from this video's discussion thread (Numbers are assigned for referencing purposes only):
1. Str8isis, 2008
"Me too! Reminded me of being in the Bronx with my cousins double-dutching in the middle of the street! Thamx RevInk.
THOSE WERE THE DAYS!!! Exercise at its finest!"
2. RevolutionaryINK, 2008
"Wow!!! I remember those days when all the females uesed to double dutch!!! These sisters still got it!!! That's what I'm talking about!"
3. Jacco Van W, 2010
"Whahaaaaaaa this is friggin great LOL when i was younger in holland allmost all girls did it but this is realy something else,, i mean,, I am dutch, but im not gunna do this double whaha................... great movie, made me smile 5/5"
4. DonnyMacG, 2010
"I'm in NewYork next month, do the diva's still perform,? I wouldn't mind a go at this myself as I missed it in the late 70's"
5. GraciaKowi, 2010
"i can double dutch wayy better!! I'm like the only person in my school that does double dutching LOL! I did the soulja boy dance while jumping once!"
7. Danielle Jackson, 2011
"I miss double dutch in new york..ppl in atl dnt know to to double dutch."
8. Arnell Monroe Mack, 2013
"I remember me being the only boy doing double dutch with the girls. It was so much fun. Good Ol' days."
9. XxUmbrella123x, 2014
"Me and my friends used to do this in the playground as kids haha XD"
10. Andrea Long, 2015
"I miss jump roping
11. jdstep97, 2015
"+Andrea Long You? I'm 48 and would love to get out and double Dutch but all the young people want to stay inside playing games on their iPhones or other devices, and the older ones are falling apart."
12. Finnesse da King, 2015
"Yall Look Like Yall Having Fun .. Out There That's How My Family Gatherings Be"
13. Kathy Dragoo, 2016
"Excellent! This was very popular back in the 50's & 60's too. Guess I'm an ex-diva!"
14. Selma Janet Fox McGoram. 2017
"I used to love doing this when I was at Primary school, in the 1950s."
Example #3: Malcolm Mclaren Presents Double Dutch.wmv
MalcolmMclarenMusic Published on Apr 11, 2011
This is one of the better known tracks from Mr Malcolm Mclaren from his ground-breaking album Duck Rock.Nothing new here now but at the time it was, as usual with MM ahead of it's time.27 years later it still sounds as good today as when I first heard it.Enjoy...
Here are some selected comments from this video's discussion thread. (Numbers are assigned for referencing purposes only.)
1. paul nutt, 2013
"my mother told me that when she was a girl this was called french skipping"
2. Lynne Christie, 2013
"i would love to take part in a class like that at school!!! why can't we do that now!!!! i think kids would love it!"
3. TheRegalEagle2014, 2014
"I wonder if Double Dutch championships still exist. Remember watching this as a kid and asking for (and getting) a skipping rope."
"Double dutch, skelly, or skellzy, NYC in 1983 was the place to be!! Please God tell me I'm not the only one who remembers skelly or victory!!"
5. Robert Ascii, 2016
"Love this song and the video. Vintage double dutch"
6. Gabby Cattell, 2016
"its very sad but todays kids just wanna stay on there ipads etc etc those were the days"
7. Becka3456, 2016
"That's quite ironic because you're saying that kids these days all want to stay on electronics but instead of you getting off your phone or computer your writing that other people should get off.... Don't get me wrong, I agree with you but just remember not everyone from my generation want to stay in electronics all the time."
8. Panatella, 2016
"No iPhones. Just smiles :-)"
9. Sailing S/V Harley Quinn Essex, UK, 2017
"Panatella Yep can imagine now all the girls round outside would be standing still immersed in their phones. Always said the internet would destroy society"
10. David Harrison, 2017
"when this came out i was home on shore leave . my mam who was not a spring chicken was in the garden teaching the kids how to do it . she learned when she was a little girl in the early 1940s ! i laughed so much great times ."
Example #4: Double Dutch Championships
theitemdotcom, Published on Jun 17, 2011
The 38th Annual Double Dutch World Championships were held in Sumter, SC June 17-18.
Here are a few comments from this video's discussion thread. (Numbers are assigned for referencing purposes only.)
1. 23Fulani, 2015
"Makes me remember how fun childhood was in the 80's and 90's!"
2. ORDOTRIO, 2016
"+23Fulani I went to school in Atlanta in the 80's. This was every day at recess."
3. CzarJuliusIII, 2016
"Even in the early 2000s I saw girls play doubledutch at recess."
4. amycello, 2016
"Growing up in Brooklyn, NY in the late 1940s I clearly remember watching with awe and amazement, young black girls doing incredible double dutch rope skipping in the street. In those days of de-facto segregation, the white neighborhood and black neighborhood were divided by one street. These were the days before play dates and scripted after school activities. We were regularly sent out to the street to play where we spent many unsupervised hours. We would often stand on the street that was the dividing line and watch the (mostly) girls our age (7 to about 13 years old) doing their amazing double dutch routines with the greatest of ease. No one on the white side of the dividing line ever attempted this sport. We wouldn't even have known how to begin."
This concludes Part I of this four part series on recreational Double Dutch.
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