After the success of their production Indian Steam, last year, the Urban Playground (UPG) team, United Kingdom’s first performance-based parkour company returns to Chennai this year, in collaboration with the Chennai Parkour Circle, for yet another rendition of the production, which is being supported by the British Council. Far from being just a display of parkour, performance-parkour (also known as 2PK), is the use of parkour’s core movement and values as the basis for creating new choreography. The team have so far toured four residencies with local partners based in Coonoor, Coimbatore, Namakkal and Puducherry and the Chennai edition is all set to take place from February 6 to 11. Here’s UPG’s Malik Diouf, Joseph Henderson, Miranda Henderson, Melissa Humler, Alister O’ Loughlin and Chris Umney on what they think of Chennai, the parkour scene in the city, what audiences can look forward to.
What is on UPG’s itinerary for Chennai?
We’re creating a series of residencies in collaboration with Parkour Circle whilst we’re here in India, threading a line from Coonoor through Coimbatore, Namakkal, and Puducherry to Chennai. Each residency involves four elements — teaching local young people performance-parkour, creating with some of those young people a unique ‘local line’ scene for our show which they will perform with us, and lastly performing Indian Steam, as it evolves — a different show in each location. We will be at the end of the journey in Chennai. During the week we’re there, we’ll be putting the finishing touches to the production. Parkour Circle performers will, by then, have taken over all the major roles in the performance, and each choreography will have been developed, evolved, changed by them into something new. The audience can look forward to fun, intense physicality, stunts, slapstick comedy, and of course, performance-parkour!
Some of the challenges you encountered along the way…
The schedules we put in place are pretty relentless. Last year, we were here for 10 days and taught 17 workshops with nearly 600 participants across a 900-mile journey. This time we staying a little longer in each place, and taking the work to a much greater depth, but it’s still a demanding schedule physically, for all of us. And for the Europeans especially, the heat is a huge additional obstacle to cope with.
What do you think of parkour in Chennai?
We’re obsessed with the traffic in the city. Our first blog post is all about how ‘parkour’ every motorcyclist in the city is. The roads in Chennai are an education in what is possible when it comes to improvising ensemble movement. On the roads it’s happening with bikes, cars, autos and buses all playing their part in this amazing ballet of speed and proximity. The actual parkour scene in the city is quite healthy. Parkour Circle came out of the Chennai parkour community and they have been very instrumental in growing it over the years. If, from the UK, you google the words Parkour and India then Chennai is the first place that will come up. That really says everything you need to know.
UPG will be in the city from February 6 to February 11 and will be performing at multiple venues. Details: 0120 456 9000
— Nandita Ravi