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Instead of 'correcting' we congratulate their 're-mixing'
Date posted: 19 April 2018
Alister O’Loughlin will return to our Summer School this year (23-28 July) to introduce delegates to performance-parkour (2PK). Whilst blogging, Alister was at a festival in Norway, working with young people on a site-specific performance
Alister O'Loughlin, UPGTeam
We’re currently working with young people in Trondheim, Norway. We’re guests of DansiT, the regional dance agency and we’ve been commissioned to create a site-specific performance for their Multiplié Festival.

An organisation called ‘The Cultural Rucksack’ is bringing hundreds of school children to see the piece and have also had us deliver 16 schools workshops around the city. It’s been interesting for us to see the reaction of students and teachers in the workshops, and of the young participants in the performance devising process.

Parkour is now ubiquitous. Everyone has seen it, or seen something they understand as parkour, but few have seen it done live… and done well. At the UPGTeam we work with performance-parkour, or 2PK, to increase inclusivity and engagement with dance. Speaking to teachers after our workshops, many have commented that we seem able to really see their students as individuals, and have specific feedback for them all.

This says a lot about 2PK as a form. One of the joys of the discipline is that there is no ideal form to work from. We’re guided by a set of principles drawn directly from parkour’s originators – that movement should be safe, efficient and fluid. After that, it’s all a matter of personal preferences.

We delight in seeing how different students make a movement their own, or reinterpret a set of instructions. Some of the teachers in Trondheim - and it happens just as often in the UK - have been surprised when, instead of ‘correcting’ a student who has deviated from the demonstrated example, we congratulate their ‘remixing’ of the technique. It’s as liberating for the Year Six school student as it is for our young participants and it’s still liberating for us as we grow older. Our participant-performers here vary in age from 16 to 26 and include several recent migrants to Norway (the support from the city for the inclusion of refugees deserves a blog of its own).

Together, this group is using architecture as its stage and creating a series of site-specific choreographies spread over a mile of the city. Audiences will walk and watch for 45 minutes, and given our experience so far, they may well be walking in the snow. We asked, “What happens to the school groups if it’s still snowing?” and were met with curious gazes; the snow stops nothing here. That, too, has meant a learning curve for us. Working outdoors is usual, working in the rain is common but to rehearse in -4 degrees of snow has been a new experience for us. 

Again, we return to our principles. Can we stay safe? Efficient? Fluid? And then, what new possibilities are presented? Old techniques become new ones when the environment requires that you slide, denies you the right to grip… it’s a tactile process in which these participants discover what they’re capable of, and then challenge their audience to think differently about their city and how one can move through it.

It’s the same approach we’ve seen applied to Norwegian school yards. What in summer is a football field, in winter becomes a skating rink. One of our ‘stages’ is a set of rails overlooked by the treadmills of a busy gym. Already some of these ‘indoor runners’ have stepped out of their heated and air-conditioned exercise space to ask, “Can we join you?” The answer is always “Yes”. Fact is, 2PK is for everyone, and the more we travel, the more we understand how inspiring that really is.


Alister O’Loughlin
UPGTeam

For more details on the 2018 People Dancing Summer School, including Alister’s 2PK session on Saturday 28 July, go to our website


Banner photo: copyright Andy Day