PHILLY ROLLER-SKATING TEACHER USES RAP TO STAY GROUNDED.
Hip-hop has been an effective tool for teaching everything from sociology to English lit. Enter Jennifer “Jenny Jen.”
Philadelphia-based roller-skating expert who uses hip-hop and step-by-step instructional lyrics to teach people how to roller-skate.
Though it’s now her craft, roller-skating wasn’t always a priority for Jen. Growing up in Gainesville, Fla., she was a fan of the four small wheels. But it wasn’t until attending University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School of Business that Jenny realized her life’s calling. During a transit strike her senior year, she used roller-skating to get to class, became obsessed and decided to make it her career goal. After receiving both her B.A. from Wharton and a roller-skating teacher’s certification, she taught at several local gyms, including one frequented by actor John Cusack and Basketball legend Julius Erving, her earliest pupils. The high-profile students attracted news media, which also reported to Jen’s unusual transition from Ivy Leaguer to roller-skating guru and her penchant for playing hip-hop during sessions.
In 1991, Jenny opened Skate101, an all-in-one roller-skating shop, rental center and school. Hoping to simplify her teaching methods, she started writing how-to instructions and rapping them to her classes, composed primarily of amateur roller-skater over age 50. “it made skating more fun and less instructional less instructional,” says Jen.
Realizing the universal appeal of both hip-hop and roller-skating, Jenny decided to put her skate rhymes on wax. In January 2004, she placed an Internet ad seeking a producer. Two months later, Canadian musician Peter Panagakos (a.k.a. Taki 76) responded and produced Jen’s first single, “Boogie Back Rap,” a tutorial on skating backwards. The song caught on at college radio stations nationwide and skating rinks as far away as France and Australia. Its popularity encouraged Jen to record three albums with Taki 76-2005’s You Can Stop, 2006’s You Can Roll and Skating Is Sexy, due this spring.
Released primarily through Jen’s Web site, Skate101.com, the albums are a mix of non-instructional song (“Skating Is Sexy”) and how-tos (“Prevent Mistakes”). Jen is also is also seeking distribution for Skate 101, a one-hour DVD that teaches roller-skating through instructional music videos, which MTV has approached her about airing. And though she picks up fans while performing at nighclubs, Jen says her rhymes are all in good fun. “People’s initial reaction is, ‘Oh, some girl’s gonna rap on skates. What a gimmick,” “she says, “Then they learn that I’m actually really passionate about what I Do, It’s anything but a gimmick. It’s the real deal.” – BEAR FRAZER