Tess van Straaten
Monday Magazine columnist
As I lace up my borrowed blue suede skates, I can’t help but feel nervous. The last time I went roller skating was sometime in the 80s, when I was in elementary school.
“Don’t worry, Tess, you’ll be great at it!” Roller Skate Victoria co-founder Andrea Boyes says encouragingly.
But I’m not just roller skating. I’m learning how to roller dance, which involves fancy footwork, groovy disco dance moves – and a very good chance I’ll fall down. But it’s also great exercise, so when I found out that Andrea and co-founder Martin Newham, both former figure skaters that I used to coach with, were opening a roller skating and roller dance academy in Victoria this fall, I jumped at the chance to take a private lesson.
“Roller dance is really making a comeback and its resurgence is spreading around the globe; we wanted to bring it to Victoria,” explains 35-year-old Andrea, who was re-introduced to quad skates four years ago and hasn’t looked back.
You may have even spotted the dynamic duo practising around town with other roller enthusiasts – the top of Mount Tolmie is a favourite spot – and they’ve also launched a performance dance troupe.
“I love the challenge of it,” says 52-year-old Martin. “It’s been quite an experience trading my blades for wheels and while many of the skills are transferable, many more are not and it’s been fun learning them.”
I’m hoping that will be the case for me, too, as I take my first tentative steps. It feels funny at first and I quickly learn you have to press down and push instead of stroking from side to side like you do on ice.
“The key thing when you’re learning is to bend your knees,” Martin says.
“And don’t look at your feet!” adds Andrea. “It’s the most important thing and the hardest to master because you want to see what your feet are doing. But when you look down, your weight shifts forward, which affects your balance and technique.”
After getting the hang of going forward, backward and stopping without hitting any obstacles, I’m ready to tackle some basic roller dance moves. We start with slides – literally sliding one foot out to one side and then the other – and Andrea adds in single and double counts as I get more comfortable. The next trick, tic-tacs, are a little more challenging and I struggle to click my toes and heels together but the disco music helps me get in a groove.
“We’ve been teaching people with no skating experience at all and kids as young as four to adults 60-plus,” explains Andrea. “For a lot of people, it’s that nostalgia factor, but for me I love the creativity in it – you can make up your own dance moves.”
They’ll even have a ‘roller sweat’ class with World Cup roller derby player “Rage,” for people who want a great workout.
“I love how freeing it is, it feels like you’re flying,” says Rage, a mom of two whose real name is Vicky Zdancewicz. “You can go super fast and do all these fun spins and things you just can’t do with shoes on.”
Spinning my wheels and getting funky, I know exactly what she means and I can’t wait to get rolling again.
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