Rollerblade® has opened the team archives and wondered… “What are they up to now?” In the Flashback series of interviews, we catch up with former Rollerblade® team riders and creative minds that helped grow the brand. We talk about the past, present, and future. And now we Flashback with Marco Gerris; artistic leader of dance collective ISH.
Marco, you started skating in one of the most skater friendly public parks in Europe, Het Vondelpark, in Amsterdam. What the vibe was back then in the early 90’s?
When people ask me about that specific time I always say these were my ‘golden years’! In that time Vondelpark still had that little rough edge and image and was not as clean and beautiful as it is now these days. Inline skates were booming, and everybody had at least one pair of inline skates. It was a hangout place for everything on wheels, acrobats/jugglers, freestyle frisbee people, the hippies from the nineties. For me it was one big dream where all my friends from all kinds of disciplines came together and hung out with each other. There was no rivalry or competition, nothing but love for each other’s skill. My scene, the ‘freestyle inlineskaters’, we called ourselves the ‘Vondelbladers’, hung out all the way in the back of the park and just claimed that part of the Vondelpark. Simply because that was the best pavement where we could go totally nuts with ‘slalom’ on our skates. Sometimes on the weekends more than 300 people where watching us doing crazy stuff. We were also the very first generation from the Friday Night Skate: the fastest skater selected the way. If I was bored with skating, I went further in the park to hang out with other skills; freestyle soccer, frisbee, juggling.
Within a short amount of time you became a popular urban and freestyle skater. You had a lot of influence from different urban and lifestyle sports. This was the start of something known as ISH Right?
Yes. I still see it as my starting point for ISH, where all these beautiful skills came together. My heroes were my own friends, and I could learn so much.
I was already directing in that time, so for me it was a dream to combine all these passions on stage. I just had to ask my friends if they were interested. That was the birth of my company/collective ‘ISH’ (from the suffix ‘-ish’: not defined). For me ISH means: look around you, learn from the things you like, make it your own and develop it to pass it through.
When did Rollerblade® started supporting your dream? How did that collaboration shaped your future?
That went quiet fast when I moved out to Amsterdam(1997). One of my best skate friends, Eugenio, worked for them, and a year later he introduced me to Rollerblade® and the new urban skates with the amazing fat wheels, still the best freestyle skates ever! The first freestyle inline skate team was born. Together with Eugenio and Ken at first we did some very fun skate gigs on the streets at skate events all around the Netherlands. We were like the side dish/starters from the spectacular demos from the inline half pipe shows.
But along the way we almost generated as large of crowd as the main show. We created a whole ‘show’ with a lot of interaction with the audience by jumping over them and stuff like that. A year later they sent us further in Europe and suddenly we were everywhere. One of the most memorable tours was our ‘Disco Tour’ in Italy where we were surrounded by bodyguards and went to very stylish beach clubs in big cars and hotels and stuff like that. It was very Hollywood-ish. Once they even called me in the morning to see if I could create a show for them the same night somewhere in Italy. Of course I did. For me it was very clear that Rollerblade® and me were partners for life, and every skate performance of ISH was of course on Rollerblade® skates.
It’s obvious that Rollerblade®, Marco Gerris and your ISH movement strengthened each other. Skating is part of the first ISH theatre show (2000) that travelled around the world. Can you explain the feeling you have when showcasing skating in optima forma on a theatre stage?
The biggest challenge was actually to bring in the same vibe and spectacle onto a stage that is at least three times smaller than on the street. Even the quarter pipes where specially designed by Jerry Bekkers, an oldschool inline skater, for the measures from the theaters. I was very nervous to see if the rest of the world could get and understand our ‘skate vibe’. It turned out to be an instant hit in the theaters. The combination from all these street skills was something never seen before, especially inline skating.
From 2000 until today you have created numerous mind-blowing shows. Some didn’t incorporate skating and totally focused on other disciplines you love. Skating is your roots, but didn’t always make the cut into every show. Why?
Yes that is true. I was using inline skates in all kinds of ways. Freestyle, skate dancing, but also the aggressive/half pipe, even tap dancing. So for me there was not so much left to show or try out on these things. Especially when I had the honor to have Sven Boekhorst (triple crown winner at the time) in my shows. I knew it would be much more difficult to peak after that. Besides that for me it felt I had to grow more as a director on an artistic level instead of repeating myself over and over with the same skills and tricks. So I left ‘my scene’ and started digging and combining other disciplines like theatre (Shakespeare), opera and ballet (I still make big co-productions with the National Ballet) etc.
You also made appearances on national TV as a judge for “So You Think You Can Dance” and “The Freestyle Games”. You have worked with the best talents of the Netherlands in every discipline. This must have been a huge inspiration for you to create more and more?
Everything I do, every co-production, big or small events, famous person or unknown, street, tv film or theater, for me it’s almost the same: I love it, and I hate it. And sometimes it frustrates me, but I always embrace it and try to get the fullest out of it. By treating every discipline with respect it let me be inspired by their talent.
The current show is called ‘Elements of Freestyle’. This spectacular show is like a flashback for ISH: urban arts on stage. The storyline is very strong and recognizable for skaters: That split second of happiness when you reach your goal, exceed yourself, or land that trick. Can you tell us your eureka moment from ‘Elements of Freestyle’?
After working and searching and digging with all these classic disciplines, a voice and feeling told me I was ready to go back where it all begun for me; the street art/skills. I was done with researching and trying things out, and I missed the vibe from the early days: the joy, the daring, not too much talking and just doing it, not afraid to crash hard but stand up over and over again. For me that’s what it’s all about. You know the crazy thing with this show is we never had so much fun during the repetitions, so much respect, unity, and support for each other as in this show. Along the way I realized that for me my impossible ‘almost perfect’ performance was born. I felt it could be something special, and for me it is!
You’ve been going strong since 2000, and we don’t see you retiring anytime soon. The passion for arts, dance and skating is in your DNA. What do you have cooking for the near future?
In the near future: I will make a couple of big and small theater shows; one with National Ballet, after that a theater show with a lot of Freerunners (inspired by Yamakasi), and probably bringing ‘Elements Of Freestyle’ abroad!
Thanks Marco for your time, and best of luck with your creative expression and promotion of ISH. Be sure to check out the website of ISH for the next shows and keep an eye on instagram.com/gorollerblade to win tickets for the next show in Amsterdam.