It is quite a while ago, but Soul Skate 2016 shouldn’t remain unmentioned.
“It goes down in the DM” was the claim for Soul Skate 2016, the famed skate party in Detroit, Michigan, organized by Moodymann & Detroit skaters. The music producer and DJ founded the biannual skate party in 2007 as an afterparty connected to the Movement electronic music festival on Memorial Day weekend end of May. Distinctive feature of the skate party is the music driven vibe, with live performances of R&B and Hip-Hop acts. Three rinks, four nights and the party in between.
Starting with the music. Apart from the best skate DJs, the live performances are an unique feature of Soul Skate. In 2014 DJ legend Louie Vega and the old-school R&B group Whodini paid their respects to the skaters and set the bar high for 2016. This year Detroit’s own soul singer KEM provided the R&B part at Friday. At the main event Moodymann introduced NYC hip-hop legend Rakim, who played an awesome surprise set.
Music & Detroit are intrinsically tied. It is relatively unknown, that roller skating culture has also a long tradition in Detroit. Famous Arena Gardens rink hosted the first official U.S. Amateur Speed Skating Championship in 1937 and first figures Championship in 1939. In the forties and fifties Detroit’s growing industry and demand for workforce lead to large-scale African-American migration from the South. Roller skating in the United States has long been an African-American past time. So also in Detroit the skating rinks became subject-matters in the in Civil Rights Movement to end race discrimination, because roller rinks were amongst the last bastions of social “leisure” spaces separating white from black. In African-American roller skating, insiders can identify their fellow skaters’ origins based regional developed styles. The event was also a celebration of style skating and all regional skating styles were represented on the rinks at Soul Skate.
A tremendous amount of effort goes into organizing Soul Skate. The anticipation really built up over the two years with the performers and all the aspects, which are different from every other skating party. The skating rinks fulfilled these expectations as well.
Soul Skate 2016 was great, but sometimes small matters often make all the difference and the whole experience outstanding. I felt this special moments when skating at two ordinary morning sessions in a small roller rink in Detroit’s northwest. Although in the morning, the sessions had a fantastic DJ.
Motor City continues to have its own skating style that stands out from the crowd, using slick wheels and big toe-stops. This style of roller-skating came strictly from the neighborhood and many classic Detroit moves grew out of figure skating routines. To get a glimpse in this nice community of skaters, who are meeting each other regularly, and to see, how these local skaters are promoting the Detroit style, was amazing.
Music, skating, many memorable moments. Every skater will have her or his own memories of Soul Skate 2016, and will be already looking forward to 2018. But for two skaters their own very personal highlight probably has been the marriage proposal that took place right on the rink’s crowded floor.