Photo: Ryan Kelley/QNS
Roller skaters cruise on the hard wood floor at House of Yes on Feb. 23.

Just beyond the Ridgewood border in Bushwick on a cold and rainy night in February, stepping through the doors of the House of Yes was like entering a time portal back into the 1980s.

A disco ball hangs from the ceiling with colored lights bouncing in every direction. Underneath it, the soft rolling sound of plastic wheels on the hardwood floor is drowned out by house beats and disco melodies. On the stage spinning the tracks is Harry Martin, founder of The Roller Wave pop-up roller disco parties.

“I just wanted to bring back the soul and the culture to this music and introduce it to the younger crowd and the younger generation,” said Martin. “We need to bring back more love into ourselves.”

It was only three years ago when Martin, 29, developed a sudden passion for roller skating when his mom’s coworker decided to throw her birthday party at a skating rink in Prospect Park. Martin thought it sounded lame, but as soon as he hit the floor, “It was love at first skate,” he said.

The music is what drew him in. The hobbyist DJ grew up listening to disco and then evolved into house music, and he could never listen to that in the clubs where only the top-40 hits make the playlist, Martin said. From that day on he got his own pair of skates and went to Prospect Park almost every day to practice.

Martin soon began meeting fellow skating enthusiasts and it led him to an old Bed-Stuy Salvation Army building where some “old school skaters” were still maintaining a rink. When he asked if he could host his own weekend parties at the venue they became an instant hit with a younger crowd, and The Roller Wave was born.

Today, The Roller Wave has turned into a traveling gig. Martin brings his own audio equipment, bins of rental skates and crowds of loyal fans of his parties to every new venue. Though he had no expectations when he started it, Martin has thrown roller parties in The Ludlow House in Lower East side, Alpha Space in Crown Heights and now has a monthly appearance at House of Yes.

“I went into it with just a mindset of more people skating and feeling how I felt that first day,” Martin said. “Things are moving faster than I thought.”

Validation that Martin is onto a rebirth in roller skating culture came earlier this year when he was hired by Swizz Beats to outfit Alicia Keys’ birthday party with skates and disco music. But the proof is also in the diverse crowd that his less-than-A-list guests represent.

On the floor at House of Yes, the best skater was Cotto, who is pushing 60 years old and goes by a singular name. He danced around as if he was floating on the skates, and he talked about how happy this rebirth in skating has made him.

“Back in the mid ’80s, a lot of skating rinks started getting sued, so a lot of them closed down and very little skating rinks existed,” Cotto said. “The last three or four years it’s making a comeback, which I appreciate a lot. I love it.”

But even the generation that didn’t grow up during the roller skating era is catching on. Hannah Hodson, 26, made sure to find Martin at the House of Yes party to tell him that she fell in love with skating at his last party.

“I’m usually not a fan of things I’m not good at, at first,” Hodson said. “But there was some way in which everybody in the room was also mostly very bad at it, which created this camaraderie, and learning how to do pretty basic things like turn around was such an accomplishment for me that it was actually really rewarding.”

Martin’s long-term goal is to open his own skating rink, which he thinks he can pull off within the next three years. But until then, he hopes to have five to eight different venues every month this summer.

Check out the 360-degree video below to get a taste of the culture he is bringing back from the past.

Video by Eddy Martinez and Juan Garcia.


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