It was one of Raquel Welch’s tough girl roles – a roller derby girl called the “Kansas City Bomber’ in the 1972 movie by the same name. Welch was billed as "the hottest thing on wheels."
The sport, known for its hard-hitting, fast-skating action, was conceived in the U.S. during the depression; it faded, rebounded, and faded again. Now it is re-emerging as a worldwide sport.
According to the Feb. 4, Wall Street Journal, “Roller derby... is in the midst of an unlikely global resurgence that has seen it catch on everywhere from Dubai to Tasmania.”
It was originally introduced “by a Chicago dance-marathon promoter named Leo Seltzer during the bleakest days of the 1930's.” according to the WSJ article.
Once known for its theatrics, the now female dominated entertainment sport is far from theatrical; today, in fact, it is the antithesis of ballet.
Instead of names like the “Lilac Fairy” or “Snow White,” participants are identified by epithets fitting only members of a motorcycle gang. “Hell on Wheels” or “Pandamonium,” "Smash Face" and the famous “Kansas City Bomber” appropriated to Raquel Welch because of her explosive action.
The sport is played by five-member teams.
A designated skater on each team, the jammer, tries to lap the other team's skaters on a circular track. The other four members of the team use their hips, rear ends, and shoulders to block the opposing team’s jammer. At the same time they try to open the lane up for their own jammer to pass.
The interest of roller derby globally is partly due to the depressed economies throughout the world and partly due to changes in women's societal roles.
There are approximately 1,250 leagues worldwide.
If you go to a game, you are bound to see a lot of hip, rear end, and leg action, but it'll be nothing like ballet!
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