FORT GREENE — This woman never skips a beat.
Add the childlike joy of street jumping to a grueling workout for adults and what you get is Michelle Walker's Double Dutch Aerobics — a new Brooklyn class that makes exercise feel like child's play.
"It's amazing to see women's eyes light up when they see double dutch again," Walker said. "At the end of class they don't want to leave. What other exercise class can you say that about?"
Walker grew up jumping in the streets and parks of Fort Greene. Jumping into her first rope at age 4 she knew she had a special talent. Her street jumping tricks — popups (a straight up and down jump where both ropes go around the jumper twice), cigarettes (where the jumper starts from in between the ropes instead of jumping in), mumbos (a light, quick jump where jumpers have to get over closely positioned ropes) and turn arounds (circle jumps often done on one leg) — came easily and soon she was one of the best on the block.
"Being a girl from Brooklyn, we jumped," she said. "Nothing stopped us. If there were only two people we'd tie one end of the rope to a fence."
At P.S. 20 she was recognized by a double dutch coach and joined the school team. It was there that she learned a more professional style of jump that includes tricks like frogs, mountain climbs, push-ups and jumping jacks. At 14, the talented jumper was headed to the Double Dutch World Championships in Savannah, Ga., which she promptly won, giving her the title of "World Champion."
And now over 10 years later Walker is bringing the sport back, but this time it's for adults only.
The fit spin-class teacher had been planning a double dutch workout class in her mind for years. But it wasn't until May of this year that she finally decided to make it happen.
Starting with two classes weekly in Fort Greene Park, Double Dutch Aerobics boasted a small following. But within weeks Walker was forced to quadruple her classes to accommodate the demand. She now teaches eight full classes a week — four in the park and the others at Aspire to Dance studio on Bedford Avenue.
She attributes the success of the class to the tough, full-body workout and the joy and camaraderie it brings.
"This is a team sport," she said. "Classes are filled with high-fives and smiles."
But she also thinks that it's nostalgia that keeps students coming back for more.
"There's nothing like playing like you did as a kid," she said.
And for the newbies, Walker promises she can teach anyone to jump in just one minute.