June 16 2010 12:00 AM

Sisterhood is powerful — with a capital POW! — in Lansing’s roller derby world


During the day, Gina Calcagno works for the Department of Community Health. But in the evenings, she is Lil’ Hitaly, roller derby vixen, beating herself up and messing up her ankles and skating into other people, “sometimes on purpose.”

“It is an absolute addiction,” she said.

Calcagno, whose mother came up with her derby name as a play on Little Italy, is one of the Lansing Derby Vixens, one of two emerging roller derby leagues in the Lansing area.

The Derby Vixens and the Mitten Mavens leagues began with a Facebook group suggest- ing that there needed to be a roller derby group in the Lansing area. Organizers of both groups said that the group sparked their interest, but they were tired of waiting for a league to form. So they stepped up to do it themselves.

“I didn’t even really know that roller derby still existed,” Xiola Mills, of the Mitten Mavens, said. “Like I thought it was something from the 1970s, and I had no idea. I started reading about it and became a fan, and learned more and more about it, and got pretty excited about it.”

The Mitten Mavens have a benefit and recruitment party Sunday, June 20, at Mac’s Bar. The Derby Vixens are also recruiting via their Facebook page.

Derby Vixen Laurie Robison said she and a friend took the initiative to file paperwork and create a registered league. They announced a meeting, and the Vixens formed from there.

“It kind of took a life of its own,” she said.

Recently, the Mitten Mavens moved their practices into Michigan State’s Demonstration Hall, and the Derby Vixens welcomed a new coach, Julie “Cotton Fire” Cotton from Indiana.

“She’s pretty tough,” Robison said.

Elissa Patterson, or Nasty Dog Byte, had been filling in as interim coach. She said she had leadership experience and wanted to help in whatever way she could. Patterson said she has only been skating since April 3, which was also her birth- day. Most of the girls on the team had no experience in roller derby, but they have been developing their skills together.

“Some of us skated back in sixth grade like when we were 10, but we all started with the basics,” Patterson said. “So we’re building like a family bond.”

They’ve also been creating their derby names, alter egos that are registered and unique to them. Patterson’s was inspired by her five Siberian huskies, specifically one that once bit her face. Plus, she said, “I wanted something that would sting.”

The Vixens have been practicing three days a week, for two-hour sessions, and many of them attend open skate or take lessons at Edru Skate-A- Rama in Holt. They have to practice certain stops and falls and safety mea sures in order to pass skills testing, which is required before they can compete with other teams.

Robison said that although the women are not all on the same level, they have a "no skater left behind" philosophy.

“It’s a very supportive culture: These girls come together and automatically embrace each other,” she said. “Without the derby we probably wouldn’t hang out, so it’s really kind of beautiful the way we just came together and found a common bond and stick with each other without question. It’s a really strong sisterhood.”

Mitten Mavens

and recruitment party  featuring performances by Know Lyfe,  Betty
Bitch and the Morning After Pills,  Your Skeleton My Closet, and My Pal
Val Sunday, June 20. Doors open at 7 p.m., music at 8 p.m.  Mac’s Bar  2700 E. Michigan Ave mittenmavens.net

Lansing Derby Vixens

Visit lansingderbyvixens.com or e-mail derbyvixeninfo@gmail.com for recruiting information.