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They’re known as “traceurs,” practitioners of a relatively new activity called parkour. They don’t just take the stairs; they leap down (or up) them. They hurdle fences, side-hop over walls, leap up and over benches and occasionally jump from rooftops. “Parkour is essentially training yourself to move more efficiently from Point A to Point B effectively, safely and with speed,” says 23-year-old Nick Faircloth of Raleigh, North Carolina, who discovered the discipline at age 16. “It’s about training hard to enjoy the freedom of play.”.

The origins of the sport are murky, Most accounts tie it to French military training in Vietnam in the 1950s, In the 1990s, a group of French teens seized on the parkour philosophy, adopting it for civilian purposes, Soon, the Paris suburbs of Évry, Sarcellas, Lisses and others were filled with youths bouncing about in public plazas and getting around town with a gymnastic how to clean pointe shoes grace and agility not often seen on the streets, The sport remained somewhat in the Paris area until the proliferation of smartphone cameras and GoPros capturing the antics of the French teens launched a global parkour community via YouTube..

“It’s the sport of nerds,” says Don Sportsman, of Zebulon, North Carolina, whose 10-year-old son, Cheland, is an ardent traceur . Cheland started attending parkour classes at Enso Movement, a gym in Raleigh, when it opened in April. He goes to classes about twice a week, says his dad, but “he’d go every day if he could.”. On a recent Tuesday evening, instructor Alan Tran led a class of 10- to 16-year-olds in a training session that lasted an hour and 15 minutes, beginning with 20 minutes of warm-up. He coached them through and over plywood platforms, walls and other obstacles inside the gym, stressing the importance of technique and safety.

“Let’s work on how to clean pointe shoes nice and quiet jumps,” he advised, reminding his pupils that a flatfooted landing is a loud, and potentially painful, landing, Enso offers some home-schooler instruction during the day, but most classes are in the evening, typically three or four per night, each with five to 13 students, Most are middle school to college age; one of the adult classes has a student who is in his late 30s, In France, classes for seniors are common, Faircloth, a principal in the Enso gym, says he was typical of the young people who have he taken up the sport, “I was sedentary, didn’t do a whole lot,” he recalls, Then one day he found himself in the wooded backyard of a relative’s house: He discovered a natural obstacle course in the boulders and downed trees, Shortly afterward when surfing the Internet, he found French kids doing similar moves — the mere-mortal equivalent of what the superheroes in his comics were doing, He was hooked..

That was about the same time parkour was beginning to find its way into North Carolina. Strong parkour communities developed at North Carolina State University and at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Two statewide parkour jams emerged, at which up to 80 practitioners gather. The YouTube community now includes enthusiasts across America. The gym sessions are akin to daily practice for team sports. Weekend gatherings are held, too, at which traceurs get a chance to move more efficiently from Point A to Point B.

Pacific Ballet Academy: Nov, 28-30; Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts; $26-$30;, “The MeshugaNutcracker!”: Comedic take on the classic; Dec, how to clean pointe shoes 4-14 at Marines Memorial Theatre, San Francisco; Dec, 25-28 at Heritage Theatre, Campbell; $54-$72;, Los Gatos Ballet: Dec, 5-7, Flint Center, Cupertino; $20-$52;, Western Ballet: Dec, 5-6; Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts; $25-$30;

San Francisco Ballet: Dec. 12-29; War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco; $26-$360; 415-865-2000, Berkeley Ballet Theater: Dec. 12-21; Julia Morgan Center, Berkeley; $8-$30; Ballet San Jose: Dec. 13-28; San Jose Center for the Performing Arts; $25-$110; 408-288-2800, Dance-Along Nutcracker: Audience participation encouraged in “Frosty’s Hawaiian Holiday”; Dec. 13-14; Yerba Buena Center, San Francisco; $10-$50; 415-978-2787,

Valley Dance Theatre: Dec, 13-21; Bankhead Theater, Livermore; $19-$38; 925-373-6800,, Bay Pointe Ballet: Dec, 13-21; San Mateo Performing Arts Center; $30-$60; how to clean pointe shoes, Mark Foehringer’s Nutcracker Sweets: Designed for young viewers; Dec, 13-21; Cowell Theater at Fort Mason, San Francisco; $18.50-$28.50;, Moscow Ballet: 8 p.m, Dec, 19; Flint Center, Cupertino; $48-$88;, Oakland Ballet: Dec, 20-21; Paramount Theatre, Oakland; $22-$70.50;

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