Christin and Caitlin Hutchins, daughters of Jim and Jackie Hutchins, grew up in Sleepy Eye, a lot like most kids who were in high school during the 1990s.
Christin and Caitlin Hutchins, daughters of Jim and Jackie Hutchins, grew up in Sleepy Eye, a lot like most kids who were in high school during the 1990s. But since leaving Sleepy Eye, the sisters have created lives that their friends and parents may not have imagined. Christin and Caitlin probably did imagine how they might live out their ambitions, but imagining and doing are two different things.
Christin and her husband, Carlos Curran, live in Seattle, Washington with their daughters Lyric, 12 and Story, 8. Carlos is a software engineer, working on video games for Amazon. Christin is a part-time homeschool teacher. “Our school district offers ‘a la carte’ courses,” Christin said. “The girls take some classes at school and some at home.”
Christin is a graduate of Bethel University in St. Paul, with a degree in literature and writing. In addition to teaching her daughters, she is also a writer of Young Adult Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction.
Both of those occupations may very well have been in young Christin’s dreams. What she may not have known she would like to do is roller derby. But, roller derby it is!
“I saw my first bout [that’s what roller derby games are called] a year ago, in Canada, and I thought—I could do that,” Christin said. “I’d been working out and lifting weights. I’m a tall strong woman.”
When she got home, Christin looked for a local roller derby team and found Rat City Roller Derby. “I called for information and started the training program,” she said.
What Christin didn’t know until she got started, is that Rat City Roller Derby is Seattle’s Division 1 WFTDA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association) team, ranked 16th in the world. The organization has two travel teams, four home teams, and a draft pool (the path to a spot on a home team.)
Christin went through two levels of training, then made the Competitive Rat Lab, part of the draft pool, and is playing in summer league now. Her movement through the derby levels was kind of fast.
“It turns out I’m good,” said Christin, who commented she wasn’t athletic in high school. “I love it. Derby doesn’t select for body type—tall, short, skinny, big—all women can do it. It makes you feel strong.”
Christin said she skates with women ranging in age from 18 to 46. Facing 40 on her next birthday, Christin said, “I’m old to start derby, but I can do it. I feel so empowered, in all areas of life, since I started doing this.”
Christin said the people involved with Rat City Roller Derby are all volunteers, except one person. “Our physical therapist is the only paid person in the organization,” she said.
Christin said Carlos also took some derby training, to understand the sport and her interest in it. “So we might join a mixed gender league this winter,” she said. “And our girls are both learning derby, too.” (On top of school, dance, music, and swimming. Mom is the chauffeur.)
“Want to know my derby name?” asked Christin. “It’s Nom de Boom!” (You might have to be a writer to get it.)
Caitlin’s dreams did include dancing—and at the end of the fall semester (in December), she will have a degree in Modern Dance Performance, a four year program at Contempo Danza in Mexico City. (It is a little different from dancing in school and community theater in Sleepy Eye, where her dancing dreams started.)
Caitlin and her husband, Victor Salas, and their daughter Cora, live in Mexico City. Victor is an electrical engineer on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, working for Pemex, Mexico’s national oil company. He is home for a couple weeks, then on the oil rig for a couple weeks. It’s the life they are used to.
Cora’s school (three years of compulsory preschool, and kindergarten in the fall) is next door to Caitlin’s college. “I can look out a window and see her on the playground,” said Caitlin. Very convenient for the two students.
After high school, Caitlin earned a degree in International Studies and Spanish, with a minor in Music, at the University of Denver. “I kind of wanted to stick with music and dance, but my interest in social justice sent me the other way,” she said. (At this point the conversation turned to the role that the arts play in social justice advocacy.)
“With my degree I can teach dance, perform, and choreograph,” Caitlin said. “I hope someday to choreograph at higher level theaters. I’d love to choreograph musicals, including original shows.” She said she is interested in pieces that are a little heavier, perhaps less commercial, aimed at those social justice messages she cares about.
Caitlin said Gary Sassenberg, who choreographed musical productions she was in as a high school student, was an inspiration to her. “He opened up my understanding of the possibilities in dance,” she said. “He and so many of my teachers—Mary Kay Bougie, Mary Mulry, and Sandy Brinkman—they all taught me so much that I still use today. Kids in Sleepy Eye are lucky to have such great teachers in the arts.”
“I played sports in high school,” said Caitlin. “And anyone who thinks dance is not a sport just doesn’t understand. This is the hardest physical thing I have ever done. Dance is an art, but it is also an athletic sport!”