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The Disco Era

Beginign on the main back wall, we see the beginings of the disco craze.

At the Empire Roller Palace located in Brooklyn, New York owner Hank Abrami noticed the latest trend and incorproted disco music into his roller rink. He installed a new sound and lighting system, changing the type of music played, and redecorated the rink to resembled more of a club atmosphere. On secial occasions a local group performed, the Empire Roller Rockers. Empire became the home of roller disco.

Written by Sall R. Sommer for Village Voice after a visit to Empire Roller Palace:
"The astonishing thing about hardcore disco skaters is their sweetness of disposition, generosity of feeling, their openness...I was totally unprepared for the poetry of their body movements and the eloquence of their special langauge about skating.

James Turner, author of The History of Roller Skating on roller disco skating:
"Disco music, with a strongnly emphasized beat, easily transferred to roller skating in a free-form manner, without defined dance steps. It encouraged 'doing your own thing' movements and an unformatted 'strolling' style of roller skating. Girls and boys, men and women, flocked to the rinks because disco skating was IN. Hollywood stars roller disco danced. For many rinks, disco landed the final blow that pushed out organ music altogether!"

On the main wall you will also see a standard outfit form the disco craze. The outfit worn by Charles Aybar during his "New Years Eve at Copacabana" performance on CBS in NYC, 1979.

Roller disco dancing went by other names such as rexting, jamming, or freaking.

From city to city types of disco skating style varied. Some examples include: Cincinnati Style, Chicago Style, East St. Louis Style, Brooklyn Bounce, and Jersey Bounce.

On the side left wall one can see the transition from disco to hip hop. This left side wall demonstrates that Roller disco wasn’t only bellbottoms and bright colors. Roller discos were frequented by black Americans, LGBT folks, and other members of minority groups. Roller disco developed a subculture as the disco craze wore off for most of the country. This subculture flourished, especially in major metropolitan areas like New York City and Los Angeles.

Rinks that served mostly black skaters eventually shifted gears from disco into the growing Hip Hop scene, where fledgling artists like Dr. Dre, Salt-N-Pepa, Coolio, N.W.A, Queen Latifah, Eazy E, World Class Wreckin’ Cru, and Naughty By Nature’s Vin Rock all played shows at roller rinks to gain momentum as artists.

Skateland, U.S.A. in Compton, California was one of the major rinks that allowed these artists to play and gain followings that would lead to their success in the music industry. Skateland U.S.A. and other rinks gave Black Americans a place to have fun and listen to new, rising musical artists in environments that did not cater to white American expectations.

The Roxy, which opened in New York City in 1978, was described as the Studio 54 of roller rinks. The Roxy hosted one of NYC’s largest weekly gay dance nights. Kool Lady Blue, one of the entrepreneurs behind The Roxy’s success, had the club feature musical styles from early hip hop, electro, funk, soul, disco, rock, punk, dub and electronic dance music. Bringing new music to roller rinks was not unique to The Roxy.

The Roxy shut its doors in 2007.

As of 2020, many LGBT skate nights have disappeared along with many rinks closing down, but Moonlight Rollerway in Pasadena, CA continues to provide a weekly skate night for the LGBT community in the form of Rainbow Skate. Southgate Roller Rink in Seattle also hosts the LGBT night Pride Skate. Having nights specifically designated as LGBT-friendly has given skaters an opportunity to skate with their community in a safe, supportive environment

National Museum of Roller Skating Audio Tour - Museum Proper
  1. The First Roller Skates
  2. Patented Roller Skates
  3. The Father of the Modern Roller Skating
  4. Rinking
  5. The "Newest" Craze
  6. The Disco Era
  7. Pop Culture! Skating in Lines: Roller Skating and Comics
  8. Pop Culture! Orchestras, Organs, & Disco: Music in the Rink
  9. Pop Culture! Movies: Roller Skating Across the Silver Screen
  10. Competition: The History of Hockey on Wheels
  11. Competition - Speed Skating
  12. Competition - Dance Skating
  13. Competition - Figure Skating
  14. Competition - Derby
  15. C. W. Lowe's Tent Rink
  16. When Skating Goes to War
  17. Skating for Others
  18. Roller Skating Car Hops
  19. Jam Skating
  20. Extravaganza on Wheels: The Skating Vanities
  21. Vaudeville