Some say that Double Dutch—the popular sport associated with city sidewalks and playgrounds—has ancient roots, possibly originating in Egypt or China. Some believe that the Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam played it, which is how it got its name. In any case, we know that the modern competitive version was developed in the early 1970s by David A. Walker, a New York City police sergeant, who made it a team sport for middle-school children. Within a year, tournaments were being held, and the sport quickly spread across the United States and beyond. There are now national and international Double Dutch leagues, and the sport is still bringing together communities, and bringing smiles to people's faces, as they watch talented jumpers with awe. Mr. Walker's daughter, Lauren, keeps the family tradition alive as the president of the National Double Dutch League.™
Double Dutch has a long history at Lincoln Center. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, thousands of jumpers and fans flocked to Josie Robertson Plaza, in the middle of Lincoln Center's campus, for Double Dutch competitions between the game's best athletes. This summer, as part of the two-day Family Weekend celebration during Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Double Dutch returns to the campus in 'Til the Street Lights Come On, honoring the history of the sport and inviting a whole new generation to take part.
"Double Dutch is a delightful part of Lincoln Center's history, and it's such a great New York City summertime activity," says Jill Sternheimer, Lincoln Center's Director of Public Programming and curator of the annual free Out of Doors series. "It seemed like the perfect centerpiece for this summer's Family Weekend festivities."
Last year, as she was planning the 2017 Out of Doors programs, Sternheimer noted a 1980s video that was spreading like wildfire on social media, showing Double Dutch competitions near Lincoln Center's Revson Fountain. The video featured boom boxes, hip-hop hits, knee-high socks, and some of the world's greatest jump ropers. Seeing how much fun everyone was having sparked Sternheimer's idea to designate Double Dutch as the central theme for this year's Family Weekend. Along with partners from the National Double Dutch League™ and Women of Color in the Arts (WOCA), Lincoln Center Out of Doors is proud to bring the sport back to the city’s famous cultural crossroads for two days of free events (Saturday, July 29 and Sunday, July 30), featuring Double Dutch demonstrations, a film screening documenting the early era of Double Dutch competitions, a symposium with some of the sport’s greatest champions, and a Double Dutch competition and concert.
Saturday, July 29: Demos + Dialogue
The Double Dutch revival at Lincoln Center kicks off on Saturday, July 29, with open jump sessions and demonstrations by National Double Dutch League™ teams. Participants will get a chance to jump in or to turn the ropes, providing a firsthand opportunity to see what makes the game so fun. Whether it's someone's first time or they're reliving their glory days, Double Dutch fans of all ages and levels will have the chance to participate.
In the afternoon, attendees are invited to a symposium that will begin with an intimate discussion with some of New York City's most dynamic artists and cultural purveyors about the influence of Double Dutch on the arts in general, and on New York City culture. Later, Double Dutch fans can enjoy the sport’s golden age with a screening of Pick Up Your Feet: The Double Dutch Show, Skip Blumberg’s 1981 Emmy Award–winning documentary with rare footage from past competitions. The film offers a nostalgic look at the sport through the eyes of passionate young New Yorkers on their journey to the 1981 World Invitational Double Dutch Championship, held at Lincoln Center. It features interviews with Double Dutch crews from all five boroughs. For some competitors, it was about teamwork and friendship, but for others, it was about bragging rights and pride and who could do the best full body twist, leg splits, and push-ups—all while jumping. The screening will be followed by a dynamic dialogue with The Fantastic Four, the pioneering team featured in the documentary who helped propel female athletes and the New York City tradition of Double Dutch to the international stage. The symposium events all take place at Lincoln Center’s David Rubenstein Atrium.
Sunday, July 30: Double Dutch Competition + Concert
On Sunday, July 30, the National Double Dutch League™, the official organizing body of the sport, partners with Out of Doors to once again fill Josie Robertson Plaza with Double Dutch teams ready to jump their way to victory.
Says Sternheimer: "Double Dutch is such an incredibly engaging and mesmerizing sport, for those jumping and for those watching. This summer’s revival of the sport is sure to be nostalgic for some, and it will also be a great introduction for a new generation of athletes and fans. We’re really excited to bring the community together through Double Dutch this summer."
Eric M. Gewirtz is a public relations and communications specialist in arts and culture and former Associate Director of Public Relations for Lincoln Center.