The Funk and Physics of Skating
Class of ’90 | Jen Goldstein WEv’90, wearing a neon-yellow T-shirt and her hair in a high ponytail, is teaching a young student named George how to fall “like the aggressive skaters fall.”
“They put their knee on the ground, and slide,” she explains, demonstrating the movement. “I call it glide, slide, save your hide.”
In fact, “glide, slide, save ya hide” are lyrics to Goldstein’s instructional song, “You Can Stop,” which plays in the background of Skate101, her Philadelphia skating school. George watches as Goldstein drops to a knee, showing the benefit of gliding on a padded knee instead of landing on one’s “hide” with outstretched arms. He laughs because her demonstration is goofybut effective.
Goldstein has taught thousands of students to skate since 1991, but her love of skating goes back a couple of years before that. When SEPTA went on strike during her last year at Penn, Goldstein began skating to class from her Center City apartment. She learned to skate the hard way, on her “rump,” and would arrive at class sore.
But she loved skating, and her passion inspired her Wharton marketing thesis, “The Development of a Product: Inline Skates.” She examined how skating enters into the product life cycle, and the variables that affect its journey through stages (intro, growth, maturity, and decline). Marketing comes easily to Goldstein, who is a relentless and highly enthusiastic promoter, and her website, www.skate101.com, is full of critical acclaim and press clippings.
Her own early experiences on skates convinced her there was an easier way to learn, and she developed a “simple system” that corresponds to music, which she writes with producer Peter Panagakos (whom she’s teaching to skate). According to Goldstein, it only takes one hour to learn how to skate.
“Everyone would skate if they knew they could, and that they could be comfortable,” she says, and to make it easy she breaks down the physics of skating into Goldstein’s Laws of Skating, which include balance, direction, motion, and speed.
At her teaching studio near the Philadelphia Museum of Art (and, more important, the skate-friendly Kelly Drive), Goldstein teaches hundreds of students of all ages each year. Previous students include basketball legend Julius Erving (whose size-16 feet required special skates) and actor John Cusack. The studio resembles one where dance would be taught, with its mirrored wall and hardwood floor, but instead of finding a reserved ballet instructor, students find an outgoing dynamo who uses funk music as an instructional tool. Her model is School House Rock, the animated instructional TV series from the seventies and early eighties.
Goldstein compares skating without music to dancing without music, and the music and lyrics are catchy. Consider these lyrics from her “Boogie Back Rap”: “Before ya boogie back/Ya better look jack/Bend both knees ’n’ start like that/Get ready to roll/In the boogie back pose/look, bend, direct/Weight on toes.” When she jumps up to show onlookers how to move to the song, it does seem that easy.
The music has made it on two Village Voice Best of 2004 lists. “The fact that the Village Voice put us on their top ten singles proved that the music is good,” Goldstein says, “and if you happened to learn something in the meantime, is that so bad?” Funk music is perfect for learning to skate, she adds, because “when you hear funk, you have to get up.”
Goldstein has several instructional CDs, including You Can Stop and Boogie Back Rap by Phat Sk8Trax, and plans to create more. In the works is a DVD called “Skate 101,” a series of funky hip-hop music videos (choreographed by Goldstein) that teach prospective skaters how to skate on quads, ice, and inline skates in one hour.
Noting that there are 100 countries with skating organizations, Goldstein has global ambitions: “I can teach the world by writing a song about [skating] … just like School House Rock. I think of fun, easy ways to remember things, [and] the music is good and catchy and produced well.”
Tovah Poster C’04
©2005 The Pennsylvania Gazette