On Friday, October 13th Metro Art Los Angeles will feature the first installment of a documentary film series about Los Angeles. “Roller Dreams.”, a film about young people of color who find sanctuary from tough inner city streets by roller dancing in Venice Beach.
The 1980’s is synonymous with sky high, over processed hair, loud fashion trends and a new era of music videos with synthesized music. The eighties also saw a surge in popularity not only of roller skates for exercise and transportation, but also of roller dancing and places to do it.
With a proliferation of skate rinks throughout the US in the 1980’s, it seemed like everyone was skating. Teenagers and young kids would meet at the local rink for birthday parties and dates, while adults would meet for exercise and to socialize. It was a fun, safe place for people of all ages.
Venice Beach’s famed roller dance crews in 1980’s and 90’s .
By 1984 groups of inner city kids emerged from the sweltering, concrete jungle of the metro areas out to the shaded, cool breeze of the beach. Along with more shade and cooler temperatures, they created a tight-knit community of skate enthusiasts who found refuge dancing on inline wheels at the beach. Instead of simply skating down the street, these pioneers added rhythmic dance moves to music and created roller dancing. Others took it a step further by incorporating group routines, where a group of skaters performed synchronized dance routines at once, like a line dance, only with a higher level of difficulty and danger.
While roller skating’s popularity later evolved into rollerblading, and the abundance of indoor roller rinks were traded for the fresh air and varied landscapes of outdoor skate parks, the culture of skate dancer lives on through the skaters of today. There are still a handful of indoor roller rinks in operation, with communities of skate enthusiasts continuing to carry the torch forward. From holding community skate events, dance parties and competitions, to roller skate dance instructional videos on YouTube, and special features like Roller Dreams, the world can still be part of the skate dance craze.
R&B Mondays at Chicago’s Lombard Roller Rink. Video Credit: Chicago Tribune
Roller dancing had been featured in other films such as 1979’s Roller Boogie and Even Gene Kelly danced in skates in the 1955 film ‘It’s Always Fair Weather’. But Roller Dreams archives the remarkable roller dancing culture, and documents its participants fight against political forces, gentrification and money in order to keep their social and artistic movement alive. This along with the other documentaries featured in the series are all directed by women and highlight LA’s thriving artistic, social and cultural movements of the 1980’s and 1990’s.
Venice Beach Skatedancers and Ghost Town Poplockers regularly turned the beach into one big dance party.
Don’t miss this rare opportunity to catch this documentary premier from 8-10 PM at Union Station, Los Angeles on October 13th. The film screening is free and open to the public, and will feature a special post screening Q&A with iconic, featured roller dancers Mad, Terrell Ferguson, Larry Pitts and Jimmy Rich. For more information visit unionstationla.com.