Learn how to dance on roller skates
Roller skating gave me the gift of learning something new with my body : NPR
My first goal: try not to look so scared.
It sounds easy, but it actually took quite a few tries before I could relax from the mouth open, eyes wide, fingers splayed expression that being on roller skates gave me. The look of someone who had no idea what they were doing. But not looking scared was something I knew I could accomplish and helped me stick with the painfully embarrassing, humbling and thrilling process of trying to learn to roller skate.
I picked up roller skating at the end of 2021, a coping mechanism meant to combat a year spent in my house and in my head. It gave me the gift of learning something new with my body, and a new perspective on how to move through the world.
Kia Miakka Natisse is the co-host of NPR's Invisibilia. To learn more about Kia's journey to finding liberation on wheels, check out Freedom Diving. Brandon Watson/NPR hide caption
Kia Miakka Natisse is the co-host of NPR's Invisibilia. To learn more about Kia's journey to finding liberation on wheels, check out Freedom Diving.
I had always admired the sport from afar. I love to see people dance on wheels, slicing through the air seamlessly, carefree and joyful, with ease and confidence. My favorite genre of skating stems from the roller dancing scene of the 1970s and '80s.
That scene died with disco, though a loyal few kept their skates through the numerous rink closures of the '90s and early 2000s (check out the documentary United Skates to learn more about the history of American roller-skating rink culture).
The pandemic led to a roller-skating revival of sorts
Sales skyrocketed to the point where there was a global shortage for skates. The roller-skating scene that I've found is diverse, queer and welcoming — all sorts of bodies, fashions and ages frequent the rink. Agility on wheels is allocated to the skilled, no matter the body shape or age. It makes me feel safe and welcomed — I feel no pressure to be an idealized type, just the desire to be the most expressive skater I can be.
It's also very Black, at least in the corner of the skate community that I love. A somewhat unspoken segregation exists in the American roller rink scene, where specific styles of music dictate the composition of the crowd.
If you want to hear R&B, hip-hop, funk, house, soul ... that's called Adult Night, or R&B Night, and it's usually a 25 and older scene of mostly Black people on quad skates. On a good night filled with experienced skaters, you can see the whole rink move in rhythm to the music, groups of skaters breaking off into choreographed routines, in their coordinated outfits, or matching shirts emblazoned with nicknames, ZIP codes, cities. It's a party on wheels, athletic and groovy.
Getting comfortable on skates
I have thrown myself into this hobby wholeheartedly, in a way that surprises me sometimes. It feels a lot like love. That said, it did take me a while to get comfortable on skates, and as an adult, I'm not used to feeling that awkward in my body. I got real familiar with picking myself off the floor.
I skated a few times as a kid, but never enough to get good. So starting as a grown-up, with grown-up knees, I was very cautious. Though my grandmother slightly heckled me — "Classes? We would just watch and then practice in the corner" — I signed up for online classes and began the process of learning how to move on wheels.
It reminded me of a baby deer's wobbly first steps, a toddler's tentative thumping fat foot. They're awkward and clumsy, but we all cheer, because having a positive outlook helps.
In skate class, they taught me to wear protective gear, to clap when someone falls, and to encourage them. Falling means you're trying, and everyone falls in skating. It's a recreational hazard that almost makes it more fun, the little thrill of possibility that you might fall, a likelihood when you first start out that gradually decreases the more you practice — but never to zero.
As I began to learn, I could jam out alone to my music on my skates at home, but the rink was incredibly intimidating. My legs would feel filled with cement, and I would have a keen awareness of how different my senses were on wheels.
Everything moves so fast, spinning in unpredictable paces and directions. What amazes me about the rink is how people create their own sense of space inside the circular movement, so that two uncoordinated dancers might slip past each other to avoid colliding, all while on rhythm. I've seen five or six skaters loop themselves rhythmically in interlocking circles on the rink, spinning, not touching; coordinated, in a sense, but not rehearsed. It feels mathematical in a way, a kinetic balance of bodies.
Some of my favorite skaters are the ones who have been at it for 30-40 years, whole lifetimes of floating in a circle on wheels. A guy who looked like my granddad, with his nickname, DW, etched into his custom skates, once taught me to turn corners by lifting one of my legs. "Like a rudder," he yelled at me, over the blaring house music. "You can always use it!" He held my hand as we skated around the rink a few times, my face stuck in an open-mouthed grin.
That's the other thing I love: the hand-holding. It's a gentle art that I certainly haven't mastered, but the few times I've skated with a partner, it has this deep intimacy to it: skating in rhythm with a stranger, holding their hand while you spin in a circle.
'My goal is to skate like you'
When I'm in the zone at the rink, I'm skating the wind, my only thoughts are listening to the music, and letting it move through my body as I navigate the oval lanes of the skate floor. It's delicious.
On a really good night, when the floors feel as smooth as glass, and the music grooves just right, it's like we're all floating, skating to the same song, but in our own unique ways, together but separate. The main character energy some skaters exude is delightful, and to swim amongst it, expressing my own skate self, is extremely freeing. There's an invisible web of sound and breeze, carrying us all.
I've been skating for almost a year now, and I don't look so scared on wheels anymore. My favorite thing to do these days is skate backwards — the challenge of navigating the circle in reverse, the tip-toed balance of dancing backward on wheels — is a thrill! I still feel like a novice in comparison to some of the skaters I look up to, but I've made a lot of progress. The other day I joyfully skated past an older woman on the rink, tentatively shuffling in her knee pads and wrist guards.
"My goal is to skate like you," she said, almost under her breath. I tried to contain my pride. "Keep at it!" I yelled over my shoulder. A few minutes later, I tripped, fell, quickly picked myself up, and then kept at it.
Can You Dance With Inline Skates?
So you’ve decided you want to be a roller dancer. You’re not sure whether you can use your inline skates for roller dancing, though. Can you dance with inline skates, really? Can you jam skate or moonwalk or spin or do everything else roller dancers do at parks and rinks?
Related: Best Roller Skates for Dancing
In this post, I answer that question and more. I bring together my ideas and those of other skaters I’ve skated with to answer your question.
Here, you’ll learn ways and tricks of modifying your boots so that it becomes useful for roller dancing.
- Roller Skates or Inline Skates for Roller Dancing?
- Many Inline Skaters on the Roller Dancing Scene These Days
- Can You Use Inline Hockey Skates for Roller Dancing?
- Smaller Wheels, Shorter Frame, and Rockering Rollerblades
- Switch to Smaller Wheels
- Shorter Frames Work Best
- Try Rockering Your Rollerblades
- Go for Light, Flexible Boots
- Final Thoughts on Dancing With Rollerblades
Roller Skates or Inline Skates for Roller Dancing?
Many roller dancers out there seem to favor roller skates over inline skates. This roller skate over rollerblade preference seems to have been happening since forever.
It’s like lots of skaters believe quad skates were designed for this very purpose — roller dancing. In fact, many people think it’s harder to dance on inline skates than it is to dance on roller skates.
But is that claim true? Is it harder to roller dance on inline skates than on quads?
A girl I skate sidewalks with and a colleague at work tells me she finds it harder to roller dance on inlines.
“But what exactly do you find more difficult, Liz?”I asked. Liz replied that “breakdancing when I’m jam skating is pretty easy on inline skates. Heck, breakdancing is actually easier on inline skates than on roller skates. But when it comes to the skating part of the play, I gotta try harder on rollerblades.”
Many Inline Skaters on the Roller Dancing Scene These Days
If you’ve been looking carefully when at parks and rinks, you’d have noticed that some roller dancers today use inlines. And it doesn’t seem to me like those folks are struggling at all. Both good inline dancers and good roller skate dancers put up pretty decent shows.
Here’s the thing. You can dance or jam skate in pretty much any kind of boot as long as you’re having fun. What makes the biggest difference isn’t the equipment you’re using. What makes the biggest difference is your roller dancing skill and technique.
Admittedly, switching from quads to inlines and vice versa will feel different. But you certainly can waltz at rinks and parks using either boot type.
You can moonwalk on inline skates (have you ever watched MJ moonwalking?). You can also do spins, side turns, barrel roll, and everything in between. Related Post: How to Spin on Inline Skates
Can You Use Inline Hockey Skates for Roller Dancing?
A girl I’m friends with roller dances in hockey skates. And she does it really well. Actually, she exclusively uses inlines when dancing.
And believe it or not, she says she enjoys her pastime more in rollerblades than she did in quads. She had to replace her frame with a shorter one. But that’s just her, right? Wrong!
Ann isn’t the only one that dances with inline skates. I’ve seen many other folks use hockey skates for roller dancing. Go to the Golden Gate Park in California, and you’ll see what I’m saying is true.
Good dancers can use pretty much any boot, including aggressive skates, hockey skates, and indoor inline skates. In the end, it’s down to personal preference rather than one boot type being superior to the other in some way.
Smaller Wheels, Shorter Frame, and Rockering Rollerblades
According to most of the inline skaters I’ve talked to, seen at parks and rinks, or interacted with online, rollerblades are great for dancing.
That said, you need to make a few changes to your boot to customize it for roller dancing. Here are some of the changes or adjustments that may help turn your rollerblades into competent roller dancing gear.
Switch to Smaller Wheels
Since roller dancing happens on mostly smooth, hard surfaces, swap out your existing larger softer wheels for smaller harder wheels. Smaller, harder wheels are good, the only downside is you’ll need to replace them more often because they wear a little faster.
Another thing you can try is buying new rollerblade wheels and put the new wheels in the middle of the frame. As for the worn wheels, put them at the ends of the frame.
The end result is a rollerblade with only the middle wheels touching the dance floor and the rest of the wheels up. I’ve not tried this, but Ann tells me nothing feels better than dancing in rollerblades with this kind of wheel configuration/arrangement.
Shorter Frames Work Best
Skates with shorter frames work best when it comes to roller dancing. Another skater I know (let’s call her Carol) roller dances on Rollerblade Twisters.
Now her Rollerblade Twisters came with stock 250mm frames, and she just had to take them off for shorter ones. So, she ponied up for 231mm Seba frames and put them on her rollerblades.
Try Rockering Your Rollerblades
One way to convert your rollerblades into better roller dance boots is rockering them. If you can rocker your inline skates, rocker them. Dancing in rockered rollerblades does feel somewhat easier and better.
Carol uses a banana rocker setup on her rollerblades. Each skate in her setup features four wheels, and she allows about 4mm between the outer two wheels and the two wheels in the middle of the frame.
And what does she get from this rocker setup? Tons of fun!
Go for Light, Flexible Boots
While you jam skate in pretty much all rollerblades, lighter, more flexible boots work best. A guy who used to skate outdoors with my husband started roller dancing in his Salmon inline skates, but they proved to be a little too heavy.
So, he ordered a lighter skate, and he waltzes in those carbon boots like a dream. Well, the lightest boots also happen to be the priciest ones. But you don’t have to invest in the most expensive full-carbon skate.
My husband roller dances in Rollerblade Metroblades, but he had to swap out the wheels for smaller ones. Some Adapt rollerblades are also pretty light and can be used for normal rolling around as well as mesmerizing crowds at parks and rinks.
Inline Skates Aren’t Super Flexible
Plus, most inline skates naturally restrict movement around the ankles. And since roller dancing entails performing all sorts of movements and maneuvers, you’ll want to loosen your skates up a tad.
You also need to keep the top of your rollerblades loose enough if you want to get the most dance out of them. But doesn’t the same apply to artistic roller skates and dance quads? So, flexibility is key when it comes to dancing on inline skates.
Final Thoughts on Dancing With Rollerblades
Most people think that roller dance works best when done with roller skates rather than with rollerblades. They feel that it’s harder to perform certain intricate moves in inlines.
But here’s the truth. You can dance in any boot type you like if you’re willing to learn and make the necessary skate adjustments.
Some of the things you may have to do include rockering your rollerblades and swapping out larger wheels for smaller ones. You’ll also want to loosen the top of the boot. Lastly, you may need to have new rollerblade wheels in the center of the boot and worn-down wheels at the end of the skates.
Happy roller dancing!
Roller skating training directions
Training in all areas of roller sports takes place both in groups and individually.
Individual lessons provide the most effective training, thanks to a personal approach, constant attention and control of the instructor. Also, the advantages of individual training include the ability to start classes as soon as possible, in almost any district of Moscow, and a flexible training schedule. nine0003
Group classes are just as effective and have a fixed schedule! In our School, group classes are conducted only by the most experienced instructors, and the number of students in a group does not exceed 10 people.
For adults, we have developed two courses that differ in the initial level of preparation of students. Basic skills - for those who get up on roller skates for the first time. Base + - who already rides on his own, but wants to improve his skill level. Course duration - 8 lessons. nine0003
For children aged 4 years and older, there are courses for both beginners and advanced riders.
For parents, there are entry-level groups, with a schedule similar to children's courses.
The duration of any course for children and for parents is 8 lessons (1 month).
For confident skaters there are several different directions - Slalom, Freeskate, Speedskating, as well as special courses in Slides and Jumps. In each direction there are several courses of different levels. nine0003
How to learn to ride quads.Video instructions with comments, training and lessons on quads.
How to learn to ride quads?
Quad riding is an exciting and fun pastime, a great exercise to keep fit, a competitive sport, and a way to get around. nine0003
To quickly and correctly discover this wonderful and wondrous world, we have created this manual.
Part 1: The Basics
1. Put on your gear
The only thing you really need to ride a quad is the quad itself. However, for greater safety when riding, we advise you to wear additional equipment:
- Helmet: Situations where a helmet can actually come in handy happen quite rarely, but still, if this happens, it will save you from very serious injuries. nine0018
- Knee and Elbow Pads: You will most likely fall a few times before you learn how to ride, so it is highly recommended to wear them.
2. Get into a proper stance
Place your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees and squat down a little in a comfortable position. When you ride quads, it is important to maintain balance, and this position will help you avoid falling.
- The very first time you step on the quads, you may feel like you have no control over them, and you may lose your balance and fall a couple of times before you start to feel confident. This is completely normal, just keep practicing this stance until you can stand more or less steadily. nine0018
- Quite difficult to stand perfectly still on quads. If you lean down, then in order to regain balance, you need to slightly push one of the skates forward. Think of it this way: if you're standing still without a quad and someone gives you a little push, you'll push one of your legs out to regain your balance. The same idea applies when you are standing on quads, only the pressure comes from your own muscles that give you a "push".
3. Walk like a duck
Heels together, toes apart, start walking slowly forward, first with the right, then with the left, then with the right, and so on. Continue in a small squat position and keep your heels directly under the center of your body so you can easily balance.
- Practice until you can walk steadily in quads while maintaining balance. It is possible that you will fall several times, but with each new attempt you will get better. Remember, for stability, you need to keep your heels directly under the center of the body. nine0018
- To build on your progress, move faster and take longer steps. Gradually begin to move from walking to sliding.
4. Learn to glide
Gradually, by making each step longer, you begin to glide and it becomes like real skating. Push off with one foot and glide with the other until you lose momentum, then switch legs. While you are sliding on one foot, keep the other foot above the ground so that it does not interfere with your movement. nine0003
- Practice turning right and left while sliding. As you turn to the right, tilt your body slightly to the right. As you turn to the left, lean your body slightly to the left, always remaining in a slight squatting position.
- Slide faster. Move your legs faster and push harder. Use your body weight to increase your speed by leaning more towards the side you are sliding into. Use your arms to keep your balance and increase your speed by bending your elbows and moving them back and forth as if you were running. nine0018
5. Learn to brake
Your quads must be equipped with toe brakes. To stop, put 2 skates parallel to each other and lean forward a little. Pull the right skate back, put it on the toe and press down hard on the toe. The harder you press, the faster you will stop.
- When braking, you must maintain balance and continuously press the toe on the brake. If you don't push hard enough, you can lose your balance and fall. nine0018
- If you find it difficult to apply the brakes with sufficient force, then try to help yourself with your hands and additional pressure on your right knee. This will help you stop faster.
Part 2. Special Moves
When you move forward on the quads, you place your feet in a "V" shape. To move backwards, you also need to place your feet in the shape of the letter "V", but this time the socks should be kept together and the heels apart. Leg movements must be performed the same as when riding forward, but only in the opposite direction. nine0003
- Since you cannot see what is behind you, you will have to turn around from time to time. At such moments, it is easy to lose balance. Therefore, it is necessary to start moving back at low speeds so that you get used to looking back and at the same time not losing balance. Avoid bending backwards, as this is a common mistake that can cause you to fall on your back.
- Learning to move backwards is the key to progressing to more serious and interesting tricks on quads. nine0018
2. Heel-Toe Trick
In this trick, you put your skates in different directions and skate with one foot on the heel and the other on the toe. Practice this trick by changing the position of the legs, pushing the left forward, the right back, and then vice versa.
3. Cross turn
Start driving. When you are ready to turn, do so by crossing one skate over the other and push off in a new direction. For example, if you are turning left, then cross the left skate with your right skate, turn your body to the left side and push off with your right skate in the left direction. Turn your shoulders in the direction you want to continue moving and lean in the same direction to maintain balance. nine0003
Build up a little speed, then put your skates together, crouch and jump slightly for a short distance. Once you gain experience, you will be able to make longer jumps, as well as jumps with turns and any other tricks.
Part 3. Develop your skills
1. Practice on the street or rollerdrome
In order to improve your skills, it is recommended to ride regularly. Find a good outdoor playground, roller skating rink, or just ride the streets in your area. Practice accelerating, braking, sliding, moving backwards, as well as developing the maximum possible speed. nine0003