There are some combinations that just belong together: Macaroni & cheese. Subway rats & pizza. Mario & Luigi. The F train & delays. And most definitely worthy of this list: Disco & roller-skating.
So if you're going to launch a new immersive musical and theatrical roller disco experience, it behooves you go to one of the architects of disco for their insights into the genre. And there's no one better than Nile Rodgers, the legendary songwriter, producer and co-founder of Chic who is behind some of the biggest hits of the last 50 years (from "Le Freak" to "Get Lucky").
Rodgers also happens to be an avid lifelong roller-skater himself, a hobby he has kept up even into his sixties.
"I try and explain it to people, like even when I skate now—and most of the time now I skate alone—but you feel so free. It's almost like people who parachute jump or something, you feel like you're flying," Rodgers told Gothamist. "I guess somebody had said, 'Nile is a roller-skater.' And the producers called me up right away. I said, 'Oh, man, I'd love to program the music.'"
That's how Rodgers ended up serving as the "Groovemaster" for The DiscOasis, a roller disco extravaganza that first popped up at Los Angeles’ South Coast Botanic Garden last summer.
This summer, The DiscOasis will set up shop at Wollman Rink in Central Park, so New Yorkers can get back in touch with the city's famed disco roots.
Running from June 16th until October 1st, The DiscOasis will bring a mix of open skate sessions and theatrical performances—some with playlists crafted by Rodgers—along with an array of live DJs, artists and special guests amidst a glitzy, neon-tinged botanical backdrop. The colorful roller rink centerpiece is designed by Tony Award-nominated David Korins, lighting design by award-winning David Weiner, plus there will be interactive installations inspired by Rodgers’ iconic catalog.
General admission prices range from $16-$65. There are daytime options of one or three hour skate sessions, and two hour skate sessions at nighttime. VIP tickets will also be available. You can get all ticket info here.
This is just the latest example of the roller-skating revival that has swept through the country during the pandemic, from quad meet-ups in parks to Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace, which is located at Rockefeller Center all summer as well.
The project was initially conceived by Constellation Immersive in partnership with Live Nation and Los Angeles Media Fund. Thao Nguyen, Constellation's CEO and producer of DiscoOasis, said they were thinking about ways to help people bridge the isolation of the pandemic.
"We've been in this pandemic for over two years and we felt like people needed to gather again, so we wanted to create an experience that brought people together, that brought joy, that celebrated movement," Nguyen said. "When we thought about immersive music, and we thought about wellness, we thought about the history of disco and inclusivity, and that's how DiscOasis came to being."
It's going to be the people's party this summer at the DiscOasis
The fact that roller-skating has become such a popular outlet for people—that it provides exercise and socialization with the ability to socially distance if desired—was appealing to Stefanie Tomlin, the vice president and general manager of Wollman Park Partners, which signed a five-year contract to operate the rink in July 2021. (It was previously operated by the Trump Organization.)
"We just were thinking, what can we do to bring magic and joy and fun back to New York City? New York is a place where you move here because you want to feel the energy," said Tomlin. "And I think that energy has waned a little bit in the last couple of years. So we really just wanted to do something that was going to be special and a unifier and culturally relevant and cool."
There will be other activities at the rink—that includes "disco dark" days on Mondays and Tuesdays where there'll be family programming, health and wellness events, and more—but DiscOasis is shaping up to be their signature event of this summer, and possibly into the future as well.
"It's truly an immersive experience, so [people] should come ready to dance," said Tomlin. "They should come ready to skate. They should come ready to meet people from all different walks of life, they should come curious and ready to explore. And I think that what we're doing here is something that lasts not just for this summer, but I think this is something that New Yorkers can come to expect and anticipate every summer."
And this isn't just for people who know the difference between rexing and dipping. The skating-curious and the skating-averse are welcome as well, with plenty of other activities including games, installations, photo booths, a special Pride series, and more.
"It's going to be the people's party this summer at the DiscOasis," said Nguyen, the DiscOasis producer. "We have something for everyone, for skaters and non-skaters alike. Everyone's welcome. We are a destination—it's a place where people can really come and enjoy and have a good time."
As for what kind of music you can expect to hear, Rodgers said the DJs will get to respond to the crowds with their musical picks in the moment, but he has put a lot of thought into the more theatrical "production" sets, which are all programmed by him and reflect his lifetime of experiences in discotheques.
"That's where my job as the 'Groovemaster' comes in," Rodgers said. "Because I want those skaters choreographed to the music that I would like to skate to. I know that's a little bit selfish, but I can't help it."
"There's certain songs that to me, I hit the floor as soon as I hear them," he said. "Hey, I mean, I wrote that lyric, 'clams on the half-shell and roller-skates, roller-skates,' to chronicle the whole vibe of what was going on in the summer of '79."