Play the Plaza
In 2014, we had the pleasure of working with members of the 2PK group on Play the Plaza here in Baltimore. Not only was it more fun than I had ever had doing parkour in several years, but the level of professionalism, knowledge, and athleticism Alister, Miranda, and Malik brought to the event was a breath of fresh air that continues to blow more than a year after their departure. The project itself was a welcome addition to our daily routine at the gym as well as a boon to connecting with the art community here in Baltimore. The practices were flexibly scheduled, and while rigorous and professional, there was always a playful element in everything that we did which lightened the mood of everyone involved. Everything with city officials and law enforcement went off without a hitch due to the forethought and lighthearted but professional attitude displayed by everyone on the team. And through our affiliation with Play the Plaza, my gym gained a welcome reputation with both government officials and leading members of the arts community that have helped us to feel like we’re a part of Baltimore’s culture as well as providing us with welcome connections in the city. Being a professional parkour trainer, I’m always looking for more ways to think about parkour. Working with 2PK was one of the one of the most eye opening experiences I’ve ever had on my journey as a parkour trainer so far. The patience, understanding, and enthusiasm that they bring to the table is infectious, as is their view of parkour as a means of entertaining and educating people with and on their ability to move. And as a trainer, it’s hard not to pick up on cues and teaching strategies for getting students to move in a different way. But in working with 2PK, it was hard to keep up with how fast they could change gears and teach in a different way based on who they were teaching. It was simply inspiring. As an athlete, I’ve been practicing parkour for many years but from the very first rehearsal it was like rediscovering parkour all over again. It was a joy experiencing their skilful combination of dance choreography and composition mixed with parkour’s principal of fitting one’s moves to their environment. Through several practices, and conversations, I began to move in a different way as is demanded when practicing performance parkour, which has changed the way I move and practice all of my movements. Now I think and move in spirals instead of just straight lines. I see ways to slide through gaps in obstacles instead of simply powering over them. I feel and recognise the little movements that can be big issues and the big movements as small steps in my training. I view other practitioners in a space as an opportunity to practice negotiating dynamic obstacles. The whole experience revitalised my love of movement and parkour. If you ever have the opportunity to work with the 2PK group - whether it’s hosting them, participating in one of their workshops, or having the privilege of performing with them - I suggest you take it.
Owner: Urban Evolution Baltimore
The Complete Freedom Of Truth
In August 2015 a group of young intrepid adventurers departed from their native land, bidding a fond & tearful farewell to loving families, unsure if they would ever see them again. And two Irish lads set off to London to meet up with some old friends (as well as meeting some new ones along the way)! Buster & Miranda of the Urban Playground team asked Brian and I if we were interested in an EU project run by Opera Circus (headed up by the wonderful Tina Ellen Lee) to head over to Srebrenica, teach people some Parkour and put on a performance at the end of it all. For me it was a brilliant opportunity to work with the UPG again, and also to see a part of the world I knew nothing about, so needless to say I was foaming at the mouth at the idea! Though the primary idea for the Parkour portion of the project changed due to practicalities, the core motivation of transforming space remained. Originally the idea was to renovate the Hunter’s Lodge creating a new safe space that people could use, though for various reasons that idea had to be put to bed. None of us wanted to let it go. The show that could be done there, the potential impact of the work, all of it meant we were gutted to lose it. However, Parkour is about adaptation – if you can’t change tack with what you have, then how can you preach about challenge/training? We bought some basic materials and along with a Leatherman, two saws and possibly the worst screwdriver known to man, we constructed two blocks/boxes that could be used for anything. Primarily for transforming the space in the park, for training parkour, or for stage settings etc. Our only fear was a life as a table, or kindling! The building was mildly stressful; out of a small amount of wood that was clearly a tree the day before, there was a list of things needed. Two ramps and two blocks, so the margin for error didn’t exist. Every cut counted. Measurements were taken again and again, the best pieces of wood with minimal waste chosen, and we got to work in the dying light (after a late detour to the next town over to get supplies). The boxes took shape, and it became obvious after constructing the frame, that the height for the smaller of the two needed…modifying. We trimmed it down making it more stable, using the offcuts as cross-braces for the corners. The result was a stronger box, and more adaptable. Through the night we had many people offering help, though due to the limited tools we had, there wasn’t much else that could be done! Some helped by cutting stencils, and others tagged in/out for screwing the frames together! Tiredness eventually claimed us, so we called it a night. The boxes were finished off between workshops, with some vigorous sanding from Wade, then varnished and sprayed with stencils made by some of the folk helping us the previous night. It was time to field test ‘em, and then show them off to the world! The UPG have a great method around crafting a show; after workshops and morning sessions where skills & movement patterns are honed, the choreography begins. Miranda had the vision, and pointed the performers to an area, giving direction for the type of lines & visuals, but leaving the finer points to the individual. In other words no one has to do anything they’re even remotely uncomfortable with, as they decide it all themselves. The creative process meant that people brought their own movement vocabulary to the table, rather than a homogenised specific “style” – the natural dancers shone through, while the more experienced practitioners of parkour used a little more power. Two groups (one stoic, one enthused) coming together and influencing each other, transforming the space with the new boxes as both performers & obstacles moved through the area exploiting the natural intricacies (as well as using the boxes to create new ones), in a visually pleasing manner hopefully captivating the audience. The vision for the show grew, and yet unfortunately the weather had something to add itself. Rain. Though the rain would not put off the performers, it would definitely hamper a crowd forming (especially if we wanted to reach more than the TCFT collective), and without an audience a show/performance is nothing. It tied up our time, recording a rehearsal of what we had so far (in the event of a wash out we would have something to show), which unfortunately meant some elements of the show had to be dropped, clipping the overall duration. I found the entire process fulfilling – creativity was nurtured, voices listened to and yet in a structured enough fashion that things still happened. The work got done, and everyone gave it their all. There was one boss, but she was open to any suggestions. You had the constraints to work with, and you found how to move in a way that flourished for the good of the entire show. Basically it was more organic rather than a skill-tree of rehearsed single movements, strung together & displayed. Performance Parkour is a different beast than Parkour itself. Both the workshops and performance itself served to illustrate this, and although it sounds obvious, just how different they are only becomes obvious when you are exposed to each element. Sure the movement patterns are similar, but much more pronounced. Similarly you factor in audience’s line of sight, the speed in which you move etc. When you’re used to training Parkour, and even putting on demonstrations of parkour, it is a nice sobering affair to be reminded that there is more to a performance than simply show & tell.
Kev 'Inari' Mooney
Displacement Parkour, Eire