The movement art of Parkour has been a European sensation for sometime and is only now getting notice in Melbourne. Parkour roughly translates as “obstacle,” and occurs outdoors, in urban and rural landscapes. It involves traversing large amounts of space and transitions from place to place through highly acrobatic maneuvers. Scaling trees and buildings, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, sliding down stairwells, tumbling through foliage and swinging through scaffolding are just some of its possibilities. Most of its practitioners are boys and young men and it’s certainly not for the faint hearted, physically weak or those afraid of heights.
While Parkour is certainly a dramatic activity to watch, it is not exactly theatrical, in a traditional sense, and difficult to contain in a theatrical space. It’s best experienced in the outdoors, with bodies rushing past at frenzied speeds or on film or video where the viewer can move through the outdoor landscapes with the artists.
Considering this, it is no easy feat for local company, Trace Elements, to present a Parkour show within the confines of the North Melbourne Arts House. They do a good job with Get A Grip - L’art Du Deplacement because they mix live action with excellent video footage of their outdoor choreographies. It’s probably the best compromise given the limits of working indoors.
Get a Grip is a short, sharp show that clocks in at around 40 minutes. With no narrative thread to hold it together, that’s all the time it really needs to give the audience the essence of the craft. A big block of scaffolding and a few large wooden boxes are the set for the live action. Solo stunts up and over the boxes are mixed up with choreographed group patterns across and through the metal rungs of the scaffolding. It’s the group sections, more than the individual tricks, which work best and give a sense of the tight-knit speed and collective sensibility of Parkour. They are exciting and visceral to watch, and feel like they want to bust out of the contained auditorium space.
The video footage interspersed between the live action becomes a crucial element of the performance. Skillfully made by Peter Szollosi, the video takes us on the boys’ journey to the rooftops of the city, up the sides of parking garages, though inner city Melbourne and beyond. Federation square, University of Melbourne, CBD laneways, and Parliament station - the sites are familiar, but they move at such quick speeds and our perspectives on them are totally turned upside down and sideways. Szollosi positions things such that a jump off a city rooftop lands on a tall rock in parkland. A run up a city street finishes atop a ramp at the Art Centre. The slick editing really works and takes viewers on a continuous roller coaster ride. We can feel the dancers’ speed and velocity, the unharnessed energy and the possibility for major disaster with a single slip of the foot or hand.
Having seen a short performance from Trace Elements a few years ago at the Meat Market, it is great to see that they have created a larger show and are working out ways of presenting material in different contexts. Hopefully, artistic advisor Nat Cursio, along with all the co-creators and performers - Morgan Evans, Matthew Campbell, Alex Yakimov, Harley Durst, Rhys James and Jamie MacDowell - will continue to bring Parkour to the public consciousness.
Arts House present
GET A GRIP – L’art Du Deplacement
Venue: Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall | 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne Mel Ref: 2A J10
Dates: Tuesday 6 – Thursday 8 May 2008
Times: 7.30pm, 50 minutes – no interval
Bookings: www.easytix.com.au/artshouse or 03 9639 0096
More info: www.trace-elements.com.au