NZ Fringe Festival 2013|
at Frank Kitts Park, Wellington
23 Feb 2013
Reviewed by Nancy Catherine Fulford, 25 Feb 2013
After some consideration I've decided to come clean and admit I had no idea that Parkour was a worldwide movement previous to this event. I have no excuse. I haven't been in a coma since the nineties and I'm very interested in all things physical so I'm not sure what happened there. I started explaining the event to my family and my son said, “Mom we know what it is, we're not old,” so sadly it may just be that.
Parkour certainly sounded attractive in the Festival booklet: “Free running, theatre and visual arts ... an extraordinary contemporary art event where the players challenge the urban landscape and create a new pathway through the city.”
It sounded somewhat like site-specific dance – I know what that is – and I thought we were in for an exciting crossover with other arts forms from the description. I was pumped and took along my granddaughter who has started preschool circus classes.
Here's what we did get: a group of very fit young men in purple Fringe t-shirts performing acrobatic sequences on a scaffold that had been erected for the purpose in the Frank Kitts amphitheatre. A good crowd of onlookers, many of them families, watched with some interest at all the fascinating ways the participants manoeuvred themselves in an around the multileveled bars. The various feats of balance, agility and strength would happen in 15 second bursts, usually just one person at a time though sometimes there was overlap.
The man sitting beside me commented, “It's sort of like skateboarding with no board.” I could see that. “Or break dancing in the air,” I offered. Although there was no music.
Just in case you are also part of the minuscule minority who are not well acquainted with Parkour, here's how Wiki summarizes it.
“Parkour (abbreviated PK), also called the ‘art of displacement', is a training discipline that developed out of military obstacle course training. Practitioners aim to move from one place to another, negotiating the obstacles in between. The discipline uses no equipment and is non-competitive. A male practitioner is generally called a ‘traceur', a female a ‘traceuse'.”
More recently the form has evolved to be seen as training for overcoming obstacles in general and greater emphasis is being placed on the altruistic side of the practice.
The show lasted about 35 minutes. Afterwards people were invited to come down and have a play. Largely young boys took up this offer. I took my granddaughter down and although she loves playing on bars she wouldn't go near them. No surprise. There were no visual cues for a girl to participate.
After the show I spoke to several of the participants and learned about the scope of Parkour in New Zealand. There are about 200 people involved across the country and 60 here in Wellington. They meet Sunday afternoons and offer coaching and support to people who are interested.
‘Are there female participants?' I asked.
“For sure. About ten come regularly and I'm hoping they will be turning up for the session we have planned up at Massey this Sunday. Women are very good at it because they think too. They are not so tripped up by ego.” He seemed a very insightful young man. He also told me about Frenchman David Bell, considered by many the key founder of the movement, though he himself thought Jackie Chang had a major influence.
“So what's the idea really?” I asked. “How does it play out beyond acrobatics?”
“It prepares me for life. To protect myself and others is one purpose. It had roots in martial arts.” I asked him for a specific example. “There was this time I was coming home late and this guy was following me. I changed route a bunch of times so I knew he was. I waited till I came across a series of fences and vaulted straight over the lot of them. He couldn't and so I lost him.”
“I get that. Hey, I think I've had a Parkour moment!” And then I made him listen to the story of being in the Central Library, chatting to a friend at the bottom of the steps beside the escalators, when we heard a wail and looked up to see a toddler spill out the front of his pushchair and land facing us. His mom couldn't get past the chair and he was riding up and up and up towards the top where his little bottom had every chance of being eaten by escalator teeth. I dropped my armful of books, reached for the hand rail and pulled and leapt and flew to the top of the stairs where I vaulted across to pick him up just before the escalators top jaw and bottom jaw came together to make baby-mince. I didn't actually vault, but the rest is true. I'm considering going along Sunday afternoons 2:30 at Frank Kitts Park just in case next time, it is necessary.
While the Parkour show didn't offer what it promised, it did educate more than just me, I am sure of it, and what a fantastic thing that is. Another Wiki quote reads:
“A newer convention of Parkour philosophy has been the idea of reclaiming what it means to be a human being. It teaches us to move using the natural methods that we should have learned from infancy. It teaches us to touch the world and interact with it, instead of being sheltered by it.”
The Wellington traceurs I met are energetically working to involve people in a positive physical activity that interacts creatively with our urban environment. Young people in particular need cool, fun stuff to do, and this sure has it over drag racing and tagging. This organisation and movement in general deserves the public's support. I'm very grateful they got the time to create a show.
(See http://movementunleashed.com/classes/ )
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