Going to see United Skates was a last minute decision made purely because it happened to be playing at the right time for me to be able to go see it. What I ended up seeing was an absolutely amazing documentary that examined a subculture I was unaware even existed.
United Skates tells the story of “Adult Nights” at skating rinks across the country. “Adult Night” is apparently a less obvious way of saying “Black Night”. Many of the skating rinks around the country still practice a sort of racial segregation. Outside of these “Adult Nights” skating rinks put in place rules against the types of skates and styles used by the “Adult Night” skating community and then apply them subjectively when a group come into the rinks; sort of Jim Crow rules, that have somehow survived into the 21st century.
These “Adult Nights” are intertwined with the R&B scene of the 1980’s. Many of the big name performers that came out of that era were both skaters and performers at these events. Big names of the 1990’s like Dr. Dre, Queen Latifah, Salt-N-Pepa and Coolio are some who got their start in the “Adult Night” skating scene.
United Skates tells the story of this subculture by telling the stories of a few different people and families. This documentary manages to balance being a rich educational experience while also making you feel a strong connection to these real life people who come alive as do characters in a story.
The ability of directorial team, Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler, to successfully fit several compelling stories and a whole lot information about this multi-generational subculture that most people have no idea exists, into a film just 89 minutes in length, truly sets this documentary above the rest. The only complaint I can make is that I wanted more.