Oklahoma City skaters catch the rhythm
With his laces loose and his wheels tapping to the beat, rhythm skater Lee Jones glides across the rink and shuffles his feet to old school R&B music.
He prepares to slide across the floor on two front wheels by positioning his body weight. During the slide, he grabs the attention of everyone at the rink and remembers when he first watched a group of men perform similar routines.
“I didn't even know it even existed,” he said. “It kind of appeals to whatever your style is.”
Jones, 32, a disc jockey at Skate Galaxy, 5800 NW 36, got involved in rhythm skating seven years ago. He said he was at an Oklahoma City rink when he met a group of skaters, known as the After Midnight Strollers, who gave him a DVD about rhythm skating.
“It was smooth,” Jones said. “I'm watching them, and they were so angelic.”
Jones said he started skating at age 4 and later took to a form known as jam skating, which incorporates break dancing moves and gymnastics.
After watching the documentary “8 Wheels And Some Soul Brotha Music,” Jones said he knew he wanted to learn the moves and become part of the group.
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Today, he's president of the Strollers.
Jones said people would question what he was doing when he first tried to practice rhythm skating.
“I'd tell them ‘You'll ask me how later. Just watch me now,'” he said.
A group activity
While jam skating is more for individuals, rhythm skating has become a group activity — one that many skaters said is overlooked, especially in Oklahoma City.
But a new rink in the metro area is striving to promote the smooth shuffle and synchronized movement that has people of all ages grooving to neo-soul and funk music.
“I didn't even know what rhythm skating was until last year,” said Brian Zortman, owner of Skate Galaxy. “It's kind of like dancing on skates.”
Zortman, 32, of Norman, said he first heard about rhythm skating when he went to Winwood Skate Center in Kansas City, Mo.
“I've never seen so many grown folks that could skate in my life,” he said. “There were over a 100 people. I felt like one of the weakest skaters in the whole building, and that almost never happens. It was impressive.”
He said rhythm skating hasn't really caught on here yet, but he hopes to bring attention to it by allowing people to practice it from 8 to 11 p.m. Sundays.
“Myself and my staff are committed to providing a staple in the community and giving it the time (and) the chance that it needs. I think it's important,” Zortman said.
Rhythm skating encompasses dancing, smooth movements and soul music. Skater O.T. Lawrence, 18, of Oklahoma City, said it serves as a nice stress reliever.
“It's a mood soother,” he said. “You get out and practice. It takes my mind off of things. It's a precious moment.”
Lawrence said he started skating at an early age and was encouraged by his father to keep practicing. He said most rhythm skaters seem to want to limit the activity to adults, so he would have to sneak into competitions when he was younger.
He watched others, and tried to develop his own style of movement.
Rink employee Ceaira Terrell, 16, said she enjoys coming to the rhythm skating session to learn new moves from the After Midnight Strollers and other participants.
“I'm trying to learn it right now, but it's really fun,” she said. “Mainly older people started with it, but I'm 16 and I'm trying to learn it, so I think it's catching on the younger ones.
“I love the movement, the music (and) the people here. I love everything about it,honestly.”