Once upon a time a friend of mine, Jeff Schoenhard from the SF bay area, was quoted in a local news account as describing parkour as a combination of dancing and running from the police. I was incensed, as running from the police is an association most of us in the parkour community fight really hard to erase, but the dancing thing was baffling too. At the time I saw parkour as solely a utility discipline focused on reach or escape for use in emergency situations. While I think that utility spirit was at the heart of the original discipline of parkour, at some point I started to think of parkour as the broader community practiced it, as a fuzzy set defined not by what it excluded “no flips no inefficient movements etc.,” but more what it contained at its heart; it was about movement with obstacles. In this sense it could overlap with self defense as a means to escape a situation, with acrobatics, or even with dance.
That last area has been relatively under explored, but slowly people are starting to explore the connection and Erica Madrid just threw down one of the best videos ever of this overlap. Combining elements of contemporary dance, pole dance, gymnastics and parkour into a beautiful video with a totally unique movement style.
Erica is an old friend I have known for a few years through the parkour community, and she has been a student at one of my seminars. She has long had some of the most advanced tricks in parkour/freerunning, being the first person to do a inward flyway catch for instance, but her transitions and general movement quality had been lacking.
When I worked with her she spoke about being so amped up during training that she would actually black out, not faint but get so worked up that she could not remember what had happened later. She talked about always being angry when she trained. This is an extreme example of the over tensioning tendency in an athlete and it will tend to result in poor transitions control and lack of aesthetic quality to ones movement, all of that predisposes you to injury and burnout.
I advised Erica to work on Nasal diaphragmatic breathing, and I have been really happy to see a more relaxed quality in her movement develop in her last couple videos.
Interestingly, in my own movement journey I have found dance to be immensely helpful in developing relaxation and joy in the body and releasing the tendency for over tension and aggression in movement that parkour and gymnastics can foster.
It was a real joy to discover that Erica had made the same discovery when I went to visit Apex Movement in October and we took dance together and worked together on lifts, she showed me some of this footage then, and I have been anxiously awaiting the full video.
Take some inspiration and see if you can add some dance to your movement practice. If you’re a dancer don’t be afraid to come learn some more advanced acrobatics and fundamental locomotive movements too.