Rhythm Skating on Quad Skates

colorful roller skating legs
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Rhythm skating possibly began as early as WWII. In Detroit, during the war and post-war years when the Roller Skating Rink Operators of America (RSROA) was developing, there were many Black skaters who were great ballroom dancers and loved the jazzy sounds developing in Paradise Valley — an affluent, self-contained Black neighborhood complete with elite residences, businesses and an well-rounded entertainment and arts community. A few were allowed to learn figure skating during off-hours at the Arcadia. But, there was no outlet for their dance and skating skills — and definitely no room for them to use the new sounds that were evolving in Paradise Valley.

The Growth of a Rhythm Style

While the Arcadia and Arena Gardens, both on Woodward Avenue, became hubs for RSROA artistic skating, boxing, and other arena sports, the Forest Club in Paradise Valley became a hub in the Black community for ballroom and other social dance forms — and became the roller skating surface where a new form of dance skating, rail riding and other rhythm skating activities developed. Many of the skaters who had some formal training or enjoyed ballroom dancing also skated there and a style developed using the same equipment that the artistic skaters used that included intricate footwork that was musically inspired rather than dictated. Many things like arabesques even took on new forms.

By the late 1950's and during the 1960's, a whole dance skating system called "bee-bop" skating had developed. Line dances evolved on skates, unique lifts, splits and couple, trio and foursome routines were created to fit the more rhythmical music beat. Bee-bop skating routines had their own set of specific names and executional guidelines — which allowed competitions to take place in many of the local rinks.

This soul skating style emerged along the same timeline as the Motown sound experience in Southeastern Michigan. In the late 60's and 70's, rinks in Southeastern Michigan had set aside "Soul Nights" that catered to the music style and floor rules needed for this growing group of economically desirable skaters. The names evolved from "bee-bop" to "soul skating" to "jamming'" to "rocking'" and eventually settled as "rhythm skating" (a name that now includes many styles). But, many of the basic routines and the way the music is interpreted remains the same. Some of these sessions still exist, but the clientele is much more diverse than it used to be in the early years. Rhythm skating today uses elements of disco, modern dance, ballroom, jazz dancing, gymnastics and even roller figure skating. Essential moves include spins, splits, advanced footwork, and even line dancing. Individual skaters and clubs combine elements once they have control of the basic moves.

Other Rhythm Skating Styles

There were other similar rhythm skating movements in some of the big metropolitan cities — resulting in other rhythm skating cultures like the JB skaters in Chicago and rexing styles in Southern California. Each rhythm-related style is influenced by the musical developments of the region and the music that dominates the rink communities. Shuffle skating, bounce skating, rexing, toe jamming', R&B skating, funk skating, freestyle rhythm skating, rock skating and more rhythmic styles have developed in different areas of the country. Sometimes it is nearly impossible to separate or specifically identify a style since roller skaters travel a lot today, and the styles are mixing together. But, the Detroit style is special, because it developed in the home of the Motown sounds of Detroit and under the influence of RSROA developments in artistic roller skating. Many skaters, like Bill Butler and the late Charles Haywood, took the Detroit rhythm influence to other regions of the country and affected the many styles seen today.

Many wonder whether it is easier to roller skate on quads or inline skate on rollerblades. The kind of skating that really interests you will determine the exact type of training (if any), style of skates and other gear you will need for your chosen roller sports. Take a look at some of the activities that can be done on quad skates:

  • Recreational and social quad skating includes a variety of activities for skaters of all ages and skating levels.
  • Quad fitness skating combines serious skating for medical, mental or physical benefits with fun skating for pure pleasure.
  • Quad speed skating is still a recognized competitive discipline — even though participation has significantly declined.
  • Quad figure skating is a type of figure skating that is often called artistic skating.
  • Vertical roller skating is just as exciting as aggressive inline.
  • Several styles of dance, gymnastics and skating blend to create the jam skating style.
  • Rhythm skating is a soul-based skating style that emerged along the same timeline as the Motown sound experience.
  • JB skating originated in Chicago with skating to the soul music sounds of the legendary "Godfather of Soul," James Brown.
  • Quad roller derby has taken the sports world by storm and appears to be the fastest growing roller sport today.
  • Quad rink roller hockey is a popular year-round sport at the amateur, scholastic, and professional levels.

Use the information above to see the range of quad roller skating sports, then take a look at the inline sports opportunities. If you are not sure that your interests will be dedicated to a specific skating type, start by building a good foundation for recreational or fitness activities and training. Most rinks allow you to rent traditional or speed quad skates in beginner skating lessons, so you can find out which type of skate you prefer.