Parkour is a sport in which you have to go from one point in the city to another as efficiently and quickly as possible, overcoming any obstacles in your way: walls, fences, trees, etc. This has made parkour THE urban sport, included in recent music videos, advertisements and feature films. Danish filmmaker Kaspar Astrup Schröder’s MY PLAYGROUND is a documentary on movement, freerunning and parkour, and its relationship with urban spaces. The documentary features scenes with parkour masters, Team Jiyo, and interviews with urban planners, local politicians, architects and philosophers.
According to UK freerunner Ryan Doyle “ideology says it’s childish to climb trees”. The die-hard freerunners and parkour players featured in Kaspar Astrup Schröder’s newest documentary, My Playground, takes that notion and runs with it (straight up the side of a building!), proving that the art of movement is anything but childish, but rather challenging, masterful and sometimes downright crazy. Parkour is the art-sport of moving through urban spaces, which often means leaping over walls, swinging from scaffolding, jumping from rooftops and somersaulting down asphalt.
Distinguishing it from freerunning, which places more emphasis on the creative freedom of movement and self-expression, parkour’s concern is with efficiency. My Playground features Danish teamsters, JiYo, who philosophize about the meaning of architecture, the perception of public space, and their drive to keep the adrenaline pumping. “Parkour is also about working with your mind and overcoming the boundaries in your head,” says one JiYo team member. “What’s fascinating is the way of transforming the city, because you can’t change it physically, you can only change the way you look at it and the way you use it,” says another.
Parkour can be thought of as a physical discipline that trains the body to overcome any obstacle in its path by adapting one’s movements to the environment. Lucky for traceurs (practitioners of parkour) in Copenhagen, there is one company that adapts the architectural environment to thew movements of parkour.
«To overcome any obstacle in one’s path by adapting one’s movements to the environment»
BIG Architects, lead by Bjarke Ingels, designs buildings and urban landscapes with the idea of trying to create access to what is usually ‘off-limits.’ At the start of the documentary, members of Team JiYo are filmed leaping from the slanted rooftops of suburban garden homes that flow down a 10-storey building designed by Ingels called the Mountain, located in the Orestad district just outside Copenhagen. YouTube is full of clips from the UK-based Storm Freerunning team and even adolescent Russian kids doing back flips off abandoned building sites. Like most videographers who capture parkour in action, Schröder’s film is played out in slick, slowmotioned shots that feel endorsed by athletic wear. Perhaps the very nature of parkour demands that we view it at a higher frame rate that can capture the physical aptitude necessary to execute such feats. The result is both beautiful and puzzling to watch.
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