Sunday, January 22, 2012

In Grave Danger With Re-AnimateHer

The announcer’s sparkly purple horns catch the lights of the Key as he approaches the dark-haired woman in front of me. “Ok, I got what I think is a good one,” he says, arching his eyebrows from behind circular blue sunglasses. “You’re at the line and you do a Tebow, you know—go down on one knee.”

A set of lean, heavily tattooed arms are uncrossed and woven together again as their owner turns to give her full attention. She straightens a leg in front of her and asks, “Like this?” 

“Well, he kinda goes down on one knee n’ then puts his hand on his forehead—yeah, like that. That’s awesome. I’ll call it ‘Matering’ instead of ‘Tebowing.’” 

“You gotta have the ball, though,” I say, pantomiming a tucked football at my side. 

She looks at me with twin flashing, darkly outlined eyes and says, matter-of-factly, “I am the ball.” 

* * * * * * *
Re-AnimateHer of the Rat City Rollergirls is a busy woman before every bout, and tonight’s 2012 Season Opener is certainly no exception. Thus I’m grateful when she leads me away from the autograph-seeking crowd and back into one of the tunnels to honor my interview request. Intently meeting my gaze with her own, she gets the action rolling. “So what’s up?”

A Detroit native, Re-AnimateHer grew up on the ice rink before transitioning to roller derby. You can hear the Midwesterner behind her words as she describes her first pair of ice skates—black, of course—and her ensuing move into the world of four wheels. “I never really played a team sport before derby,” she says, shrugging. “That was one of the hardest things for me to get used to. . .that’s why I was only a jammer for so long because I hated having a group of people right next to me!”

For someone who had trouble fitting into the team format, RE-A has certainly taken to it well. Before ascending to rock star status with the RCRG she skated and served as a team leader for the Everett-based Jet City Rollergirls. So how does she explain this awesome track (ha, see what I did there?) record? “I’ve always been a good skater. I captained up north and I won a championship last year.” 

These words are a reflection of the grand theme of our conversation: palpable, striking confidence. Yet unlike the logo of her Rat City team Grave Danger, it never bleeds over into arrogance or conceit. The entire time we’re talking, she acknowledges everyone who comes down the hallway—from fellow skaters to the t-shirt shooting Rat mascot himself—all without taking her full attention from my questions. 

(Corrections are per Mater, 1/22/12) I’m surprised to learn that there was a gap in between Re-AnimateHer’s time with Jet City and that with Grave Danger. a derby squad, as she went solo during the 2007-8 season. “Because it was so hard to get on a Rat City team, I trained for a year on my own,” she states, and in her eyes I see the glint of an athlete who’s worked tirelessly to get to where she is. And that’s nothing to shake a lip piercing at; in addition to being a key part of last year’s RCRG champs, Mater’s a member of the league-wide All-Star Team as well.

During the bouts I watched last year, one of the first things I noticed about my subject was her skating style—the woman uses her hips and butt to either make holes in the pack or block an opposing jammer outta bounds and outta luck. I express my admiration for this use of her body, and she waves it off humbly. “To be honest, it’s the best way. I’ve played with a bunch of men’s leagues before and you’ll get shoulder checked all the time. . .with our [women’s] bodies, our power is in our hips.” She laughs. “I’m kind of a spastic skater, really.” As she’s uttering these words, Foxy Throwdown of the Derby Liberation Front rolls by. “Doncha think?” Re-AnimateHer says to the fatigue-green Foxy. “Spastic?”

Foxy tips her head to one side and purses her bright red lips. “Yeah, but I also think you skate like a gazelle,” she muses. “Soooo. . . .”

“Spastic Gazelle!” both skaters cry in unison.

With this positive force of a personality, it’s easy to see how she’s quite literally skated all over the world. October of last year saw Re-AnimateHer travelling to Northampton and Nottingham, England to coach a few Brit Derby Girls—and perhaps liven ‘em up a bit! “It[derby]’s different wherever you go. English girls, they’re quiet and don’t really communicate that well with each other on the bench. . .but in Canada I can’t get ‘em to shut up!” She’s even gone Down Under to hang with the Aussies, bringing the Mater M.O. to teams from North Brisbane and Melbourne Victoria.

Mater’s resume means she’s skated both flat-track and banked-track (think Whip It) derby, and I ask her which she likes better. Prize goes to flat-track: “My body’s more suited for it, and I’ve trained on it more.” Her time with Jet City also means she skated against the RCRGs when they were out in airplane hangars at Magnuson Park. Is there a big difference between that setting and The Key? “It’s a lot different here [Key Arena], especially for the fans. . .they were so much closer to the action at Magnuson. A lot of people don’t do autographs here, so I try and make an effort to sign stuff, talk to people, take pictures.” 

Don’t think that means she’s soft, though. 

* * * * * * *
It’s just before the first whistle of Grave Danger vs. The Sockit Wenches, and ReAnimateHer is at the Jammer Start Line. Grinning impishly, she goes down on one knee and raises a hand in the rocker sign while resting her forehead on the other. 

As the announcer makes his first Matering reference of the night, the crowd totally loses it, screaming “MATER! MATER! MATER!”-- and I think of what #31 told me earlier in the tunnel, her face the perfect mixture of openness and intensity: 

“I don’t think of it as being on skates—I just go.”

The two whistles blow. . .and then the ball’s in play.

 (Photo taken by Axle Adams. . .come see ReAnimateHer at the next RCRG bout on February 18th!)


  1. Just clarification , I was with jet city 2008-9 the transferred to rat city in 2009- present. It was in 2007-8 that I wasn't with either league. Mater~

  2. Oh, crap! I'm sorry about that. I'll fix that now.

  3. Yay, Steph! Awesome article and interview. :-)

  4. Great article, as always, very well written!