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Space is the Place – A Roller Disco Party

by Rachel Levin
March 22, 2008
World On Wheels
4645 1/2 Venice Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90019
323-933-3333
4th Saturday of every month
10 a.m.-2 p.m.
$10 admission includes skate rental
Skating is 18 and over; Upstairs dance floor and bar area 21+
With Xanadu on Broadway, roller-disco-worthy fashions in vogue (think tube tops, shiny leggings, and jogging shorts from American Apparel), and music videos like Jessica Simpson's "A Public Affair" catching the zeitgeist, I daresay we're in a cultural moment of roller disco resurgence. And I, for one, can't complain. I don't know anyone who grew up in the 80s who doesn't light up at the memory of the roller rink. Hurtling round and round the slick floor with the central disco ball provided the double pleasure of skating AND dancing. Remember reverse skate, when everyone changed direction? And partner skate, when the lights dimmed and everyone scrambled to find their crush?

"Space," a monthly roller disco party at World on Wheels, is recreating the magic. The rink itself looks like it hasn't been touched a smidgen since at least the 80s. Old school video games line the lobby with a boldly patterned carpet, which gives off a musty smell from all its years of being rolled on. The skates bear evidence of over 20 years of wear, their suede fabric rubbed nearly to the quick in some places and the stitching holding on for dear life.

But the exuberance of the roller disco devotees fills the shabby space with fresh energy. On a recent Saturday, a line snaked out the door with patrons decked out in disco glory. Men sported short shorts with white piping and high tube socks with the band on top. Among the women, I spotted at least one shiny purple unitard, a gold sequined tube top, and lots of headbands straight across the forehead. It was enough to make Linda Blair in Roller Boogie proud.

It had been at least 20 years since I had last roller skated. When I laced up my skates and stood up, I almost immediately fell back down.

"These feel unstable," I told my friend, thinking maybe I had been handed a defective pair.

"That's because they have wheels on the bottom," she reminded me. Oh yeah…

I clung to the railing as I made my way down the carpeted ramp to the rink. As a dancer, I take pride in my physical coordination, and this momentary lapse was humbling.

When I hit the smooth rink floor, however, everything started to come back to me. After a couple of tentative laps around the edges of the rink, grabbing at the padded walls for support when necessary, I finally found my roller groove. I had forgotten how easy it can be. When done right, skating doesn't require you to even need to lift a foot to propel yourself forward. Some of my companions were working too hard to get themselves around the rink and consequently working up a sweat, while I figured out how to breeze along effortlessly, scooting my legs side to side and letting the momentum thrust me forward.

I got so confident whipping around the rink that I tried to add in some dance moves to the groovy disco beats provided by DJs Dennis and Riley More. I'm a sucker for Evelyn Champagne King, what can I say? But as soon as I started waving my arms, I lost my center of gravity and felt myself tip dangerously toward a crash landing.

So I skated to the center "lounge," a space just below the disco ball protected by a low, soft wall, and practiced my spins and dance moves without the danger of so much velocity. When I gained more confidence and balance, I glided back out to the rink, grooving and semi-dancing for the rest of the night, lost in my own personal Xanadu. Though the DJ did at one point call "reverse skate!", he never called "partner skate," much to my disappointment.

The skating part was so fun that we never even made it upstairs for non-skate dancing and karaoke in the Las Vegas-themed bar. Once you revisit the joy of the roller disco, dancing without wheels just pales in comparison.

For more information, visit goodfoot.org/rollerdisco/info.htm
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