Michelle Barrios spent her weekends from the age of around eight or nine at El Patà n Dorado (The Golden Skate), a giant lit up roller-skating rink in Panama City, Panama. There she taught herself to roller dance (a combination of skating and dancing). She didn’t have a teacher, but instead used the passion her parents had given her for dance–they were always the first on any dance floor, anywhere, when the music was good–along with moves she picked up in dance class with her sister Indra. “The feeling of sliding the wheels to the music is indescribable,” says Barrios. El Patà n Dorado closed when Barrios was 16 and it wasn’t until later in life that she returned to her roller dancing roots.
The 41-year-old visual designer, who moved from Panama to Madrid and then to Barcelona, is creator, manager and brand ambassador of BCN Roller Dancer, a company she started in July 2011 to promote roller dance culture in the Catalan capital. “This is completely new for almost everybody here, as this is not part of the culture. This [roller dance] is a strong culture in cities in the USA (Venice Beach, NYC, Detroit…) and in Europe the strongest community is in London,” Barrios says.
Curious to see what the world outside Central America had to offer, Barrios moved to Madrid in 1999. In 2001, while exploring the streets of Spain’s capital, she got back into roller-skating. She opened a MySpace account in 2004 under the name “Roller Girl” -the account is now called Rizadeira/Michelle Roller Dancer, after Barrios realized that Roller Girl was the name of a porn star. Through the page she made connections with skaters throughout the world, but mostly those living in the U.S.
Roller dance was made popular during the ’70s and early ’80s in the U.S. thanks to skilled skaters like Bill Butler. Butler is known as the Godfather of Roller Boogie and started funky soul skating at Brooklyn’s Empire Skate Rink. He now hosts The Bill Butler Jammin’ Show online and has been described by Barrios as “incredible and unstoppable.”
Barrios moved to Barcelona in 2006 after falling for the city and its sportier lifestyle and skater friendly pavement while at a weekend design conference there. “Barcelona is a paradise for wheels: Long boards, skateboards, bicycles,” she says. From June 2010 to 2011 she worked, without remuneration, with the Roller Disco BCN project, which organized roller skate parties. Due to differences that arose within the group, she left and started her own venture, BCN Roller Dancer.
With BCN Roller Dancer she’s organized interactive entertainment events like Movies & Groove. For this event, a roller-skating themed film is shown, followed by a roller dance party to the tune of funk, soul and hip-hop music.
Fiesta Roller Dance, which Barrios hopes to host monthly, is a roller-skating dance party for kids and adults. The next party will be held on November 3 in cultural space Nau Ivanow, with DJ Roger C supplying funk, soul, R&B, boogie and dub tracks. Barrios hosted the first Fiesta Roller Dance in September and since then she has revamped the logo and opened a new online shop with roller dance wears.
BCN Roller Dancer continues to use social media platforms, like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest and their website to grow its community. Meetups at one of two choice roller dancing spots – the Hotel W Spot and Garcà a Faria Spot – are organized for out-of-towners and locals. Barrios personally prefers the vibe of the W spot, to the perfect pavement of Garcà a Faria.What’s needed to roller dance? Barrios says: “Simply a love for dance and music. It doesn’t matter if you’re on quads or inline skates.”
Fiesta Roller Dance with DJ Roger C
Nau Ivanow: c/Hondures 28-30, Barcelona, Spain
November 3; 7 p.m. ”” 11 p.m.
Door Fee: 7€ ($9) (includes a drink thanks to Moritz)
The first 100 attendees will get BCN Roller Dancer buttons compliments of Chapalandia.
Get in touch with the author @wanderlustwrtng.