Going retro: roller disco enjoys revival in Shanghai

Mon Jan 25, 2010 6:28am EST
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By Royston Chan

SHANGHAI (Reuters Life!) - The world has moved on from rollerskating disco, that oh so 1980s fad immortalized in the film "Xanadu," but in China, dancing on wheels is gaining speed thanks to the nation's masses of migrant workers.

While wealthy executives in trend-setting Shanghai would never be seen indulging in something so passé, roller disco is the entertainment of choice for the tens of thousands of migrants working in low-paying jobs in China's most expensive city.

Most of these modern fans are in their twenties, too young to remember the craze that swept the United States some 30 years ago, and their ardor proves that disco is not dead.

At Xinxiang roller skating rink, the city's first and biggest roller disco, hundreds of workers turn up every night to meet friends, listen to music and skate in a rink slightly bigger than a basketball court.

"When we first started 15 years ago, the people who came here to skate were local youngsters," said Yang Yong, one of the floor managers of the rink.

"As the country started its economic reform, a lot of workers from other provinces came to this city, and now some of these migrants are also coming here for recreation and exercise."

Roller disco started out as a dance craze in the United States in the 1970s and reached the height of popularity in the 1980s in many Western countries.

Back then, the routine -- which involves dancers rolling along on traditional four-wheeled skates while bopping to music -- was featured in Hollywood movies such as 1979's "Roller Boogie" with Linda Blair and Olivia Newton-John's "Xanadu."   Continued...

<p>A general view shows the rink as visitors skate during a night out at the Xinxiang roller skating rink in Shanghai January 19, 2010. REUTERS/Nir Elias</p>