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Moby – Honey

Frenchmen David Belle, son of “an acrobat and a hero fireman” according to The New Yorker, developed parkour in the 1990s after moving to a commune in Lisses. A practitioner of L’art du déplacement (the art of movement) known as traceur (traceuse for females) seeks to get from point A to point B in the most economical way possible. This requirement puts the discipline at odds with freerunning, a sport made famous by former Lisses resident and parkour original Sebastian Foucan. This spinoff of Belle’s brainchild allows, nay encourages, aesthetically pleasing actions, which sometime come at the expense of reaching a destination. Moving backwards is anathema to any traceur. And flips, while pretty, are not frequently inefficient.

The Internet transformed parkour from a fringe pursuit into a worldwide phenomenon. Belle appeared on BBC One in the promotional film, “Rush Hour.” In the short advert, he ran, jumped, and flipped – with purpose – through London before arriving home on his couch in time to watch television. The discipline spread from Britain to the rest of Europe and, inevitably, America. Belle, Foucan, and other traceurs played parts TV and in movies. (Daniel Craig chases the freerunning founder through a construction scene at the beginning of Casino Royale. Foucan, ironically, used a stunt double named Curtis during some of the shots.) Mark Toorock, founder of American Parkour and the country’s most visible proponent of the discipline, runs The Tribe (“Certified Masters of Astonishment”), a group that has appeared for Nike, ESPN, HBO, Mountain Dew, and other brands. If you vault it, the money will come.

Parkour’s rapid rise didn’t come without risks. Videos spread faster than the instructional manuals that didn’t exist, leading to injuries around the globe and even the death of two French boys. As it grew, however, the community focus of the practitioners ensured that new recruits received proper guidance. There have been accredited courses designed to teach the fundamentals. American Parkour’s website includes a series of articles detailing practice drills and exercises.

Despite the increased safety efforts, danger – of course – remains part of the appeal. In one of the most watched clips on YouTube, Belle falls while attempting what should be a simple, at least for him, vault over a concrete walkway. After discerning that the cameraman he nearly crushed is okay, Belle laughs off the ten-foot plummet and walks up the ramp, eager to try again. [Purchase.]

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