Can't Wait to Skate: Philly's Rollerskating Story
Photo of Irvin Williams. Photo Credit: Jahlil Pleasant

Urban Movement Arts presents Can’t Wait to Skate: Philly’s Rollerskating Story, May 15

Tickets are on sale now for Can’t Wait to Skate, Sunday May 15 2022 at 8 pm. Can’t Wait to Skate is part of UMA SHOWS UP, three nights of dance performances May 13-15 in the Fringe Arts theater that celebrate the exceptional talent of Urban Movement Arts staff and community. Weekend passes to all three shows are available, as well as discounts for tickets purchased before April 15th.

Can’t Wait to Skate: Philly’s Rollerskating Story, created by India “Ingine” Hyman with Ricky “Glytch” Evans, is a documentary and live performance that celebrates the history of Philadelphia’s roller skate and roller dance traditions, as told through the story of skater “Irvin Williams.” Can’t Wait to Skate is a chance for those outside the skate community to glimpse the creativity of Philly skaters and the scenes’ unique ways of skating indoors and outdoors; it is a full expression of black joy, history, and freedom.

Can’t Wait to Skate was conceived by India Bernardino during the pandemic when she began collecting historical footage from her teachers and friends in the roller skating community. One of Bernardino’s mentors is skater Terry Gilmore. A retired 6abc reporter, Gilmore transferred hours of VHS tapes to digital formats and guided Bernardino in the process of interviewing Philly’s skate elders, to help tell the story of roller skating in Philly. The documentary and accompanying live performance captures the spirit of the skate scene that has been a staple in Philly for over 20 years, particularly at boathouse row, with skater Irvin Williams.

Berardino grew up on skates, and is a third generation skater; she’s long been interested in the stories of three connected skate groups that came to prominence in the early 1980s: Wizard on Wheels, Rhythm on Wheels, and Wheels of Fire. Her dad was a member of two of these groups, and other members remain her mentors. These crews achieved different kinds of recognition and success. They also navigated issues of race and blackness. As the generation of skaters that defined Philly’s style become our elders, Bernardino also works to preserve and share skate skills and history more broadly as the founder of her skate school Great on Skates. Great on Skates offers classes all over the city and the instructors can be found late at night on the floors of skating rinks across the country.

The up-tick in popularity in the general media of roller skating and roller dancing means new people are gaining interest in skating as a social, athletic, and artistic activity. However, in the black community, skating is often kept gated, because there’s a fear of it being repackaged and sold away from its creators and communities. The new, contemporary skating style becoming popular on the internet is smooth and slow.

There’s a celebration and recognition of black cultural contributions in general pop culture awareness, but the current popular style of black skating is different from the older style. Can’t Wait to Skate shares the rawness and the hard work of the previous generation of Philly’s style, and connects them to a new generation of skaters.

Philly’s style of skating is fast and risk-taking, and this comes from the older generation of Philly skaters. When we are skating you can tell we’re from Philly. In different rinks they do something called roll calls in which different cities showcase their different skate styles. Skaters show off their different styles: Memphis has a style of splitting. Chicago has a style called “JB” (inspired by the James Brown movement). ATL style has ATL “stabbing and riding”. Baltimore is known for snapping. North Jersey “Partner skating”. Philly has” fast backwards.” And now in Philly, we’re incorporating “locking” on skates! As we like to say: If you ain’t sweatin’, you ain’t working!

As Bernardino prepares her documentary for stage, she has partnered with skate friend Ricky “Glytch”Evans, of Rennie Harris PureMovement and The Hoodlockers to create a live stage production. The show also features skaters “Juice” from St. Louis as well as “Poppy” and “Miraculous Spinz” from Philly.

Can’t Wait to Skate: Philly’s Rollerskating Story
Sunday May 15, 2022
8 pm
Fringe Arts | 140 N Christopher Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19106

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