Members of Nelson’s Rhythm Ropers and other local students had the chance to learn this week from two of the brightest stars on the international skipping stage.
Belgian twins Willem and Wauter Tack, 23, have competed around the globe and are now sharing their knowledge with others — particularly of a new style called fusion double-dutch, which combines skipping ropes with break dancing.
Rhythm Ropers head coach Brenda Reid says her club first saw the pair a few years ago at the world championship in Australia, and encountered them again at the worlds in England, where they were part of the top overall team.
“They have a different jumping and choreography style,” she says. “And their turning was very impressive. So we thought we needed to learn from them. We needed to take what they have and put it with what we have to make a better overall impression.”
Reid says she tried to bring the duo here last year, but they couldn’t fit it into their busy schedule — in addition to frequent globetrotting, they were also attending university.
The brothers have been jumping for 13 years, getting hooked after watching a friend practice.
Jump rope is very popular in Europe generally and Belgium specifically, Wauter says. Their hometown of Oudenaarde has a population of about 27,000, and a club of between 350 and 400 members — just one of many in the country.
“If you go on the streets and ask people about jump rope, they say ‘ah, yes.’ They saw it once, or know somebody who does it.”
Their club is a wide range of ages, some doing it competitively and others recreationally, Wauter says.
In addition to coaching, the twins continue to compete professionally.
The fusion style they teach started in Japan a few years ago, and was so far off the norm that Reid says initially people didn’t know what to make of it.
“It scored really low in the competition because it didn’t fit any of the rules. Now it’s taken over the world.”
However, the Rhythm Ropers needed help learning fusion as they prepare for a new international competition next summer in Washington DC.
Enter the twins to give them a crash course.
“It really forces them to be creative,” Reid says. “You can’t copy moves from somebody else, so it pushes the limit on the kids using their creativity.”
Wouter says teaching the basics isn’t hard: “We try to give them some ideas. I always say it’s like I roll the ball and they have to score. We give them something and they have to work it out and choose their own style.”
Typically in Canada, rope turners adjust their speed to match the jumper. However, in fusion, the tempo stays the same throughout the routine. As a result, the movements are faster and something happens on every beat.
“It’s going to make it more interesting in the end,” Reid says. “It’s a big change, but some kids in our club have been to three world competitions already and need something new.”
Reid says the excitement in the gym this week was “incredible” — unmatched since their first trip to the worlds.
This was the twins’ fourth visit to Canada. They were in Toronto in 2006 and have been to Halifax twice, but never this far west.
This year alone they have also been in Denmark, Sweden, England, Scotland, France, Portugal, Hong Kong, the US, Australia, and South Africa.
“Since September we’ve been flying somewhere, staying three days or seven days, then come home for a few hours or days, and fly somewhere again. It’s crazy, but I enjoy it,” Wouter says.
Each country and coach presents a different teaching style and they tailor their program accordingly. They have also hurdled the language barrier: usually English is spoken, but failing that, they use hand signals and pick up a few key words: “We always try to learn the basic words: hi, no, big, small, and then you can teach a little bit.”
Reid says she was especially impressed the two spent as much time with the youngest kids as with the older ones: “Our young kids will just blossom. I think it’s really neat they’re willing to work with all levels.”
The brothers leave Nelson today after a week. In addition to working with the Rhythm Ropers, they did demonstrations at local schools and spoke to Reid’s class at South Nelson about Belgium.