April’s Capital Defender: Villainelle


Name: Villainelle

Number: 19LN

What are the reasons behind your derby name/number?
When I’m not playing derby, I’m a writing and literature teacher. A villanelle is a kind of poem with a 19-line structure (19LN!). I like to think that derby is sometimes a lot like writing; it requires a certain combination of elegance, intuition, and intelligence.

Which position do you play?
Pivot and jammer

What is your favorite thing about derby?
The learning curve. I get better at something every time I set foot on the track. As a born perfectionist, I used to have a lot of trouble doing anything if I couldn’t do it right the first time. But derby has taught me to enjoy the feeling of screwing something up, then getting better. It reminds me how much I love learning.

What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned playing derby?
I’ve learned a lot about my own strength, and the strength of the other women on my team. I’m an outspoken feminist, and when I’m faced with someone who tries to argue that women are catty or petty or weak, I can produce hundreds of counter-examples of members of my league overcoming obstacles or resolving conflicts where others might simply give up.

What is your most memorable derby moment?
At our 2011 awards banquet I won Most Improved Player; knowing that my league mates had seen my growth enough to select me helped keep me pushing to do better. But also, this past weekend I got to play in Beaumont with the Diables as we took home a win with only 9 skaters. The high I felt blocking in that game was incomparable to any feeling I’ve ever had.

What are your goals in roller derby?
To keep learning and developing as a player; to go into each bout knowing I’m playing better than I did the time before. But more specifically, right now I’m trying to become a more flexible blocker – playing more positions, working with more people.

Who is your favorite roller derby player?
Do I have to choose just ONE? There are so many amazing girls. Right now I’m working on becoming a better pivot, so I love watching Marquee de Squad of the Mississippi Rollergirls. She controls a pack with tons of confidence and grace. At the Southern Belle Ringer Tournament this past fall, I was transfixed every time she was on the track.

What first attracted you to derby?
I honestly don’t really know. Probably the bizarre challenge that it posed. I’ve done a lot of different things in my life, but nothing remotely similar to this. The social component is amazing too, though. It really is true that my league mates are my family. I love those girls, undeniably.

What type of gear do you prefer?
My strongest allegiance is to my wheels – I use Reckless Evaders and you could not pry them from my cold, dead feet.

Villainelle jamming

What do you do when you’re not playing derby?
I teach English at Southern University here in Baton Rouge. So it follows that most of my free time involves reading and writing. I’m also passionate about women’s issues and gay rights, so I do lots of research and advocacy based around women’s health and equality. Basically, I yell a lot about the PATRIARCHY. I appreciate that my teammates find a way to tease me affectionately about this, rather than saying, “Vill, SHUT UP!” which is what most people say.

Do you have a favorite skating song or a theme song?
I love to skate to Janelle Monae’s whole catalogue. But my personal theme song is The Old 97′s “Roller-skate Skinny”. Because it’s totally true that there “ain’t nobody gonna see eye to eye/with a girl who’s only gonna stand collar-bone high.”
Do you have any advice to anyone thinking about playing derby? Don’t be a damn perfectionist about it. You CAN get better.

Is there any teammate with whom you work best?
SO MANY. Skating with different players is one of the cool things about derby because it allows you to form very intimate connections with a lot of people. And so, in lieu of providing a long list of everything I like about everyone (y’all are awesome!) I will instead give a shout-out to Jams P. Skullivan, who has always been my favorite blocking partner – even though she defected this season to full-time jamming status. Our skating styles were always complimentary, and we had good on-track psychic powers.

Did you play any sports before roller derby?
Anytime I tried to play team sports as a kid, I was the one standing out in the field staring at bugs. My competitive spirit was mostly reserved for things like debate team and raising my hand first for all the questions in class. I considered intellectual ping pong a full-time sport. But I was a dancer (mostly ballet) for a good bit of my adolescence, and I think some of those skills translated into derby.

When did you join Red Stick Roller Derby?
April 2010

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