Jamming since the beginning

Roller_derby.jpgThere was a piece in NYT Mag this past weekend about the resurgence of roller derby. It includes backstory on the sport's colorful revival in Austin, Texas earlier this decade. Any of this sound familiar?

Soon after, most of the rank and file, bristling at the undemocratic tendencies of the self-appointed leaders, left to start their own league in which each skater would have a say. The new skater-owned organization became the model for women-only amateur leagues across the country, and in 2004 the Women's Flat Track Derby Association was founded with the motto "By the Skaters, for the Skaters."

As new leagues formed, bawdy hijinks were emphasized -- "pillow fights in the penalty box and fake fighting," according to Dakota Prosch (Kola Loka), who skates for the Windy City Rollers. "That's what got butts in the seats," says Colleen Bell (Crackerjack), the president of W.F.T.D.A. But the skaters quickly discovered that they were more interested in competition than in theater, and that the game itself drew fans. "I remember a bout in 2005 with live music, where for the first time fans left when the concert started and not the other way around," says Emily Langmade (Fisti Cuffs) of the Gotham Girls.

The local Hellions of Troy, who formed last year after a dispute with the Albany All Stars over some of these same issues (they've since found peace), are working toward becoming members of the WFTDA.

The Hellions are back in action February 15 at the Fun Spot in Queensbury. And on February 21, the Empire Skate Troopers take on the Montreal Roller Derby at the Washington Ave Armory in Albany.

photo: Sebastien B

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