The Difference Between Rolling and Skating: Style

The Difference Between Rolling and Skating: Style

Roller skating, music, and creativity add up to style. Regional styles define African American roller skating.

Skating has been vital to both the evolution of popular American dance and dance music for decades. The the long tradition of roller skating in the African-American culture has created so many innovative skating styles – personal or regional styles, and mostly a combination of both. Also it influenced other parts of the popular culture. The impact on dance music is depicted in an article in the magazine Electronic Beats. Shortly: People skated to the sound of local R&B music—mostly local acts unique to each city. Those local acts created each city’s distinct style, which persist in black communities throughout the country today.

Fashion changes, but style endures.

Coco Chanel

This post presents some of the main current styles in Style Skating.


At the top of the list is “JB”. The initials “J” and “B” stand for “James Brown”. On the one hand because of his hard hitting funk music, to the other for his expressive dance moves. Both have influenced skaters from Chicago in their style of skating, to be recognized in their characteristic complex foot work. “JB-Style” became also for many skaters outside of the subculture the synonym for African-American Style Skating at all.

“NY Style”

The “Empire Roller Rink” in Brooklyn has been in the 1960s and 1970s the focus of roller skating culture and developments of styles, honored as “Birthplace of Roller Disco”. Among others the “New York Style” was further developed there. Actually a style from Detroit, adapted by the skaters of the creative melting pot. Space is a scarce commodity in a global metropolis, so roller rinks were in New York smaller than in other cities in the US. This limitations made also an impact on the skating style. The skaters are dancing and spinning in pairs around each other on a small-sized area. From the outside it looks chaotic, but the adherence of the style-specific moves allows to anticipate the moves of the other skaters.

Trains & Trios

Skating together is also called for “Trains & Trios”. Popularly in the North-East with up-tempo club anthems and bouncy moves. Three or more skaters string together. The skater at the right outer position takes the lead in counterclockwise direction. This changes to the skater most left if the train is skating clockwise. The centrifugal forces in longer trains are enormously and require some power and skills for skaters at the end of the line.

Bill Butler’s ‘technique’

Bill Butler is a legend, the “Godfather of Roller Disco”. His artistry, skill and style inspired many of the popular incarnations of roller skating that exist today. In the 1980s he created a unique “Jammin'” style. It is based on basic moves and strides, which should support corporate skating. All moves have to be learned three times, for each of the different positions: inside, outside, mid. Bill Butler shows the Jammin’-technique at the skate party celebrating his 80th birthday in 2013.


Snapping is populary in the regions of Washington D.C., Maryland and Delaware. Although it is actually originally a solo skater style, it is common, that skaters are getting support from a partner for the moves. This enables spectacular strides of the active skater.

Fast Backwards

In Philadelphia and South-Jersey, and Delaware are the origins of “Fast Backwards”. The skaters going backwards, getting the push from dynamic scissor strides. Linked arms with the skaters in the front and in the back allows very fast skating along the side fence.

Detroit Open House ‘Slide’

Simple description of “Open House”: Gaining momentum and sliding diagonally into the corners of the rink. In principle easy, but hard to exercise. Requirements are very hard wheels, which allow vertical sliding. Nevertheless the balance of the body and the appropriate pressure to the wheels remains an endeavor, in which skaters from Detroit achieved brilliant perfection.


Backpackin’ is couple skating. Close, personal, backward skating, the male skater ahead leading his partner. The video of the It’s My Skate Night Crew shows this very sensitively…

Slow Walk

Slow Walkers are bouncing with their hips and short strides. Seems to be easy and very cool, but if you ever tried belly dance or hula hoop, you would guess how difficult it is “relatedly from the hip”.

These are only few insights in styles. Further styles, variations, and the role of the music have to be described in the another posts.

With exception of “JB” and “Backpacking”, all videos are captured by myself at different skate jamz.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *