Roller Derby was my muse
from hip and shoulder checks to personal artist growth
Let me begin by sharing I am not and never have been an athlete . I was a gawky awkward youth -shy and inept with few physical skills required to excel in Sports.
Roller skating at the age of thirteen was a memory of pure joy as for some reason I connected with the flow of the skaters around the rink (and of course the music that accompanied this)
skating at the roller rink Sauble beach 1970
While in my fifties I wished to capture that pure elevated feeling once more. I learned that there was a local roller derby team in my town from a work colleague who encouraged me to check it out. She seemed so positive and enthused that it was contagious!
I recall the day I nervously dropped by a local arena to watch the local roller derby team practise and inquired with the team captain if I was too old to join..She asked me how old I was ( her answer was quite matter of fact and accepting. )She shared there were all ages of team members and she was open to anyone who wanted to participate and train ! Excited and full of apprehension and fear I signed up for training (aptly called “Fresh meat”) I learned how to skate backwards , forwards , to skate in a crouching position, to fall and check safely to jump over pool noodles and most of all- teamwork. I have never been interested in competitive team sports but for some reason the empowerment and solidarity I felt in this derby team was heady. I brought a lot of nervous queasy energy to the rink but once I was skating it all disappeared. The acceptance I felt from the other women and gentle/ equal treatment was what kept me coming back. (The theatricals from days gone by were not part of the mix-and roller derby and as I discovered is a very rule driven and safety conscious sport.)
I filmed the team in practise and made a few videos featuring demos from the women .
a mixed media painting I donated for a fundraising raffle for our team
This was a way of giving back and it was fun making something creative related to the sport. I trained and practised twice a week and sometimes over my lunches at another arena -practising for the “big test”.
(27 laps in 5 minutes was my biggest challenge!)
It took me over a year to pass.
Feeling triumphant I decided at that juncture it was time to turn my skates in. Participating in official team bouts seemed to tempt fate re my uninjured experience thus far -and reminded me of potential tension I would not welcome re competition.
My family (and perhaps others in my life ha!) thought I was a bit nuts. Roller derby helped me to connect to my physical self and helped me get out of my head a bit. My dad had died that year and I had started a new full time job which taxed me in all sorts of ways. Other family members were struggling ..Derby rescued me.
At a local fall fair in my full derby gear recruiting for our team.. at the age of 58
I learned so much from this life experience and will forever treasure those moments of risk , growth , team work ,and physical challenge .
You may wonder what this has to do with art and living as an artist? Well I was aware of the risks and also conscious of my own limitations but I challenged myself to try something way out of my comfort zone and get over the fear in the process. I discovered that my confidence in my my own abilities were enhanced during my roller skating year and I noticed this translated in to my art making and new ventures . I was teaching more workshops, filming my own online classes and trying out new ways to make, show and sell my art.
So with this knowledge came the thought process that I didn’t have to accept limitations or judgement others may put on me (or me on myself!) with regards to age or ability . Now that I have been off my skates for almost ten years I am aware again of how others may perceive me as a woman, a person a “retiree’ and a artist.
Ageless Artist was birthed out of this notion that as long as our health allows us there is no reason we can’t go for the hip check- and that shouldn’t be confused with a visit to your doctor ! ;-)
Although I still dream of roller skating I don’t have the inclination to return to the rink -at least for derby. Being tossed into the air or falling awkwardly has graver consequences now than even 9 years ago!
I walk now , stretch and (when I remember) lift light weights.
Age needn’t be a barrier to constant growth and change.
Recognizing that prejudices and bias exist seems important -but rising above them was and is my goal.
FYI A short film I made of the team in practise …Highland dames practise
By the way my derby name was Hot Flashr ;-)
Please share any of your memories of personal challenge and how perhaps it relates to the artist in you now !