I started roller-skating because I missed dancing. But it might be making me a better person.
Because of the pandemic, all of my usual outlets for social dancing were suddenly closed to me. No lindy hopping on Thursdays at 9:20. No late night clubbing at New Parish. No dance classes, no street parties, no music festivals, nothing.
But I could skate. Or least attempt to skate. Outdoors, with other folks, to good music. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the past year and a half. Skate dancing to hip-hop, funk, disco, house, and R&B with my new friends at the outdoor skate rink, just a few blocks from my house.
I’ve learned a few things along the way. Among my friends, we talk about “unlocking” a move when we figure it out.
“Arggg! I can’t unlock toe spins!”
“Hey I think I unlocked the Grapevine, check me out!”
I realized today that beyond just becoming a better skate dancer, I’ve also unlocked some other things in myself.
Each One, Teach One
I think I’m becoming a better learner and teacher. Having to a learn a new set of skills and way of moving has really challenged me as a student. I’ve never been that comfortable in a normal dance class, I suck at remembering choreography, and I’m lazy about practicing on my own.
But not with skating. I like learning new stuff, I enjoy drilling new moves. And it’s fun to work on stuff with others, whether it’s a move I’ve unlocked or something neither of us can do yet. I’m not a great teacher, but if someone wants a tip, I’m always happy to share what I know. And I’ve never met a skater who wouldn’t share knowledge with me if I asked respectfully.
Hey, Nice Toe Covers
I’ve gotten better at celebrating other people’s successes. As a dancer, I know all the insecurities and fears associated with it. So when I see somebody unlock something, particularly when I know they have worked hard at it for weeks or even months, I have to say something. We all want to be seen and be recognized.
And in general it feels good to hype up other folks — even if it’s something small like noticing if someone got new wheels, or something big, like somebody remembered to bring lights to the rink at night.
As a frequent skater, I typically bring my bluetooth speaker, mostly because I’m incapable of skating without music. Often I’m the only one with a speaker, which means I am playing music at the rink. It’s not uncommon for me to DJ a two hour set for skaters, which is honestly a lot of pressure and a fun challenge. What are songs that I think folks might like to skate to? What is the mood right now?
I’ve DJed dance parties before. But never on such a regular basis. Now whenever I hear music anywhere, my first thought is “Can I skate to this?”
No Strangers at the Rink
As an introvert, talking to strangers has always been a big challenge for me. But not when I’m skating. The fact that someone else is doing the thing that I’m doing makes casual conversations super easy. Honestly my main challenge is remembering everyone’s names.
Skating is inherently risky. You are racing around with wheels strapped to your feet! Add to that that we are skating in a public space, and you have lots of possibilities for dangerous situations. Sadly that often involves other folks with questionable intentions — drunk people, high people, creeps, and folks with mental health issues.
I’ve had to get better at engaging with people who are causing issues at the rink for others. As a non-confrontational person, this is way outside my comfort zone. But I do it because it needs to get done. Just this past Friday, I had to talk to a drunk gentleman who thought it was a good idea to weave his bike in among the skaters at the rink.
Feeding the Gram
I’ve been sharing my life online for awhile now, as a blogger, podcaster, on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. But my Instagram presence has really amped up in the past year. Weirdly, even innocuous videos can get thousands of views.
I am very ambivalent about the whole thing. The attention certainly feels nice. But I know what a slippery slope that is.
What’s neat about all these areas of growth is how applicable all these things are to my larger life. I can use these lessons when I’m at work, at a lindy hop event, hanging out with friends, wherever.
It’s a good reminder to me that everything we do has the potential to develop us, whether it’s joining a fantasy book club, volunteering at a food bank, or starting a Facebook group for Filipino bakers. We really don’t know what we’ll be called to manifest for all of these roles. But the simple act of stepping into those communities opens us up for opportunities to grow.
I’m excited to skate down this road and see where it leads…