Photos and Video
Take one part dance, a bit of gymnastics, a try at the high jump and a dash of breakdance, throw it all on an obstacle course and you get Double Dutch. The athletes dedicated to this challenging form of jump roping come in all ages and from disparate places. In fact, as director Stephanie Johnes shows in her invigorating, fun documentary, jump roping has become quite a competitive sport. She introduces two rival Double Dutch teams, The Bouncing Bulldogs of North Carolina and The Double Dutch Forces from South Carolina. Made up of grade school and teenage jumpers, these teams compete in different leagues, but now for the first time, they will face off on the stage of Harlem's Apollo Theater for the Holiday Classic competition and see if any of them can win the grand championship of Double Dutch. The Bulldogs represent the best of gymnastic freestlye jumping found mostly in white suburbia, while the Forces belong to the inner city African American tradition of Double Dutch. Doubletime traces the origins of these two styles of jumping with vintage video and interviews with the godfathers and founders of the league. Their background informs both teams' styles, and as Johnes gets to know most of the participants intimately, she lets the audience learn just how much this sport means to the individuals who are passionate about it. But most of all, Johnes finds some young people doing relatively miraculous things-in Double Dutch and in life. Doubletime will leave you smiling-that is, if you can get your jaw to stop dropping at the strength, style and perseverance of these incredible kids.
Director's Statement Collapse
In 2003 I was living in Chapel Hill, working on a masters degree in journalism at the University of North Carolina. I had an assignment to make a short documentary about any subject of choice. I wanted to do a piece about a sport that was less well known, and was surprised to discover that I was living in a town that was home to national jump rope champions.
The first time I saw the Bouncing Bulldogs perform I was floored by the complexity and beauty of what they were doing. It reminded me of the gymnastics I had grown up with, but was unlike anything I had ever seen: acrobatic tricks and break dance moves choreographed effortlessly to the beat of the rope.
What I love and admire about kids who jump rope is their passion and commitment to something that marks them as outsiders. They are doing what they love and don't care about what other people think. Jump roping is barely respected as a sport, although spectators can't help but to be impressed by it. People don't quite know how to place it. Is it a sport or a spectacle? As both an artist and an athlete all my life, but never feeling like I fully belonged to either camp, I related to their outsider-ness.
After telling friends about my new obsession, they would inevitably ask, "So, are the kids on the team black or white?" I was reminded of the widespread assumption that jump roping is Double Dutch, and that Double Dutch is a black girl's sport.
Jumping rope is one of the most timeless and universal forms of play. It can be found in nearly every era and on every continent. No one knows for sure where it came from--some cite ancient Egypt, others say ancient China. Double Dutch is perhaps the most well known type. Brought to America by early Dutch settlers, it became a popular form of inner-city street play and gained visibility in the early 80s when it was associated with hip-hop music and culture.
I graduated in May 2004, and that Memorial Day made the drive down Interstate 85 to introduce myself to Joy Holman and her team. A large sign at the entrance to King Park reads "Home of World Champion, Double Dutch Forces." I remember stepping into the Martin Luther King community center gym for the first time. Although it was just 200 miles away, it seemed world apart from Chapel Hill. The kids had different ropes, different drills, different rules, even different shoes, but it was still the same sport. How was it that they had never competed against the Bouncing Bulldogs?
The realization came slowly: Same sport, two different leagues: one white, the other black. I felt that I had stumbled into an anthropological time capsule, a relic from another era. In the 1950s, most major sports from baseball to football were segregated, but here I was in 2004 learning that jump roping had two competitive organizations, divided along racial lines.
I felt that I was the only person who knew or cared about this dichotomy. A handful of films had already been made about Double Dutch, but I wanted to show that there were actually two sides of the sport that had coexisted side by side, without interacting for nearly thirty years. At the time, I had no anticipation that the two teams would ever meet, I simply intended to document their disparate worlds.
It turned out that this documentary served as a catalyst for change in jump rope. When I asked Coach Fredrick about David Walker, he said he had heard of him, and had even been to the Apollo competition as a spectator. Joy's kids had also heard about it, and were urging her to let them give it a try. I think I showed up at a time when both teams had reached their potential in their respective leagues, and were feeling confident enough to venture out and test new waters.
Throughout the making of the film, I often felt like I was living two separate lives. It was both wonderful and strange for me as a filmmaker to be welcomed into the families of these two teams--wonderful to have built these cherished friendships and strange that the
Film Information Collapse
[DOUBL] | 2007 | 82 | Documentary Feature
Directed by: Stephanie Johnes
Foreign Title: (Doubletime)
Premiere: New York
Connect to this film Collapse
About the Director(s)Collapse
New York City native STEPHANIE JOHNES earned an M.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina in 2004. Her short film Bouncing Bulldogs aired on PBS and played at the Full Frame Festival in 2005. She also directed "Clap Wit It," a Double Dutch-inspired R & B music video, which screened at South by Southwest in 2006. Doubletime is her first feature film.