For nearly three decades, Bouncing Bulldogs coach Ray Frederick has been making competitive and performance jump roping fashionable, both locally and internationally.
On Saturday, Chapel Hill icon and international fashion mogul Alexander Julian brought fashion to the Bulldogs.
Saturday, elite jump ropers including members of the seven-time World Champion Bouncing Bulldogs Demonstration Team and other teams from around the world gathered before 1,000 spectators at the East Chapel Hill High School gymnasium Saturday evening for the 24th annual International Jump Rope Spectacular Show.
While the performance of 14 teams revealed amazing athletic skill fusing double-dutch jump rope with hip-hop dance and gymnastics, perhaps the biggest crown-pleasing moment of the evening was the unveiling of the Bulldog’s new uniforms, introduced by Julian himself.
Julian is internationally recognized for his contributions to fashion during the past four decades. He is also the first to design professional, college, and, now, demonstration sports uniforms.
As such, the Bulldogs uniforms share company with fashions designed by Julian for the then-Charlotte Hornets NBA team, Paul Newman’s race car team, and even the UNC Tar Heels basketball team.
Still, Julian said the début of any new fashion design remained a thrill.
“This is what it’s all about,” he said. “There are phases of it that are fun: thinking about it, merging ideas and concepts about movement. But I’m just excited to see it in motion, especially if it works as well as we hope it will.”
The Chapel Hill / Durham-based Bouncing Bulldogs Jump Rope Team comprises 110 boys and girls aged 5 to 26, the Bulldogs’ website ( bouncingbulldogs.org) stated. Members teach and perform hundreds of synchronized skills, maneuvers, moves, and dances using a combination of single and double Dutch ropes.
Their jumping style includes fancy footwork, flips, and other acrobatic jumping skills with ropes. They have been featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and on the CBS Evening News. The team is also featured in Discovery Films documentary “Doubletime.”
Bouncing Bulldogs community relations manager Tricia Weston said the Saturday event featured international teams from Japan and France as well as U.S. teams from as far away as Seattle and New York. The evening demonstration capped off a day of workshops and clinics that provided a chance for competitive jump ropers to meet in a less competitive environment.
“We’ll actually see all of these jumpers at the next July competition,” Weston said, “but here, this is a way to just have fun and learn skills from one another. It’s one reason we bring the teams in: to learn skills and learn how to be great ourselves. And our team even played host to all of members of the team from Ohio: there are like 60 of them.”
Despite the congenial atmosphere Saturday night, the Bulldogs remain fiercely competitive on the national and world stage.
Last July, the team participated in the third annual World Jump Rope Championships and Camp at Central Florida University, a release said. Facing teams from 14 countries and 15 U.S. states, the Bouncing Bulldogs dominated both the Junior and the Senior divisions, and earning a total of 301 awards, including 153 gold medals.
Acclaim is nothing new to the squad, however. In 2008, team members taught and performed at that year’s Summer Olympic Games in and around Beijing. The team also provided entertainment at the 2008 U.S. Open Tennis finals weekend in Flushing, N.Y.
Amidst the evening’s demonstrations, Julian’s new uniform design provided perhaps the loudest of many impressive ovations from the crowd, as the Bulldogs modeled their bold new look: a red-and-black-striped design that accentuated movement, vitality, agility, and verticality.
“All (fashion) has to move,” Julian said, “but this is a different movement with its own parameters, and it’s always fun to work in new parameters. The kids are the stars, and as for the uniform, clothes can make you perform better if you feel like you’re wearing something (that looks great).”
“It’s all about creating visual appreciation of their movement,” Julian added.
Fittingly, the Bulldogs will next model the Julian fashions onstage in New York City.
“We’ll be competing at the Apollo Theater (in Harlem) on the first Sunday in December,” Frederick said. “We’ll be going up against the top 10 teams in the world there.”
The Bouncing Bulldogs will finish off the year with a Holiday camp on Dec. 30-31, and Jan. 1-3.
While all eyes were certainly on Julian’s new design this past Saturday, the local-boy-made-(very)-good said he simply wanted to help support the Bouncing Bulldogs.
“I’m trying to do anything I can to put focus on Ray Frederick and his program,” Julian said.
Frederick said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Julian’s trend-seting design copied by other teams.
“To top this great year off, having Alexander Julian design our new uniforms: that is the highlight of our whole 27 years,” Frederick said. “Now (when) we go international, because of him, that uniform with the stripes will become a trend.”
The visionary Julian always may be a step ahead of other designers. Thanks to the Bouncing Bulldogs, he’ll now be ahead by leaps and bounds.