“It was about the groove, the groove made up the steps, the steps made up our JB style skating.” Calvin Smalls, creator of the JB Skate Style
With roller rinks all around Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, it’s no wonder roller dance continues to be a fun and popular past time. JB Skating is a Chicago classic style of roller dancing that came about in the early 70’s. Calvin Small, a Chicago native, and some friends created this style of skating as they danced in the rink to the music of James Brown. The music he created, and expressive dance moves are the main inspiration for JB Skating. This style of skating is known for intricate, creative, complex and fancy footwork and steps like “crazy legs” and “the big wheel,” done on traditional 4 wheel style skates tied loosely to allow for movement. Roller dancers are very proud of their traditions and city roots. For roller dancers, your style is your city signature. Once you start your smooth JB moves, others know right away that you are from Chicago!
Elizabeth Perez representing JB Skate
“When I lace up my skates, I feel free, like I’m floating 2ft above the ground. For me, it’s therapy on wheels. Roller dance has so many different styles, each rooted to different cities across the world. When I’m JB Skating in another city, I feel like I’m representing Chicago at the rink. It makes me feel more connected to my city and its roots. JB Style has taught me to be more fluid and relaxed while skating. When I first started skating, I was all about SPEED! I loved skating fast! Because of my need for speed, I’d dance much too fast. It’s easier to keep your feet under you if you’re constantly in motion and moving. I’ve gained more control and balance as a dancer by slowing down and working on my fluidity. Dancing too fast and too “robotic” is a common issue I see in my roller dance students. When teaching JB classes, I always make sure to also include context and history. From my experience, much of the skate knowledge is spoken and shared from one skater to another. I do my best to spread the word and share what I have learned about my style of roller dance, JB Skating.”
Chicago Roller Skater and Skate Instructor