Monday columnist Tess van Straaten joins up with Roller Skate Victoria’s Andrea Boyes (from left), Martin Newham and Vicky Zdancewicz. Photo by Don Denton/Monday Magazine

TESS VAN STRAATEN: Getting funky on four wheels

Monday’s intrepid adventure columnist gets her roller dance groove on

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.

If you liked this column, check out these from Tess:

TESS VAN STRAATEN: Go spelunking on Vancouver Island

TESS VAN STRAATEN: Taking a Walk on the Wild Side

roller derby

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pacific Baroque Festival highlights a new direction in early classical music

Festival focus on the Galant style will feature lesser-known pieces from the 1700s

Bachman/Cummings show part of a rockin’ summer in Victoria

Fans of classic rock can experience reunion concert July 6 at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre

Join a cross-cultural celebration at One World 2020

Pearson College UWC students present a slice of their cultures in dance, song and more, March 20-21

FILM REVIEW: Portrait of a love that burns

Film Fest hit Portrait of a Lady on Fire is directed with a poet’s soul, a painter’s eye: Moyes

REVIEW: Victoria audience experiences ‘The Four Seasons’ at its best

Germany-based Concerto Köln musicians light up the stage at Alix Goolden Hall

Michelle Obama: In Conversation in Victoria, March 31

Former First Lady hosted by Victoria Chamber for moderated event at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre

MacIsaac/Bachand musical partnership a decade in

Legendary Cape Breton fiddler and talented multi-instrumentalist to play two sold-out shows in March

Comedian Herb Dixon going Full Throttle in Greater Victoria

Comic gearing up for shows in Oak Bay and at Elements Casino next week

ALLAN REID: Chicken bonanza, Korean style

Simple Victoria restaurant knows how to please if your go-tos are chicken and fries

Most Read