Denis is from Slovakia, and he moved to Lisbon just five months ago after his girlfriend and now fiancé got offered a job here. That wasn’t the only reason Denis had to leave Slovakia. “My business was closed because of the Corona. It fucked up everything”, Denis says this with a smile.
What was Denis’s business?
“My business was a parkour and free running company.”
Hmmmm. We’ve never heard the word parkour before.
We take a stroll, and our idea is that we will see Denis doing some impressive moves, but the weather will make that very tricky. The already treacherous cobblestone tiles are wet and shiny. That makes them dangerous to walk on, never mind running and jumping. “It’s ok, Lisbon is a good city because there are a lot of covered spaces for training. Let’s find some,” Denis says positively.
We ask Denis what it’s been like moving to Lisbon from Slovakia.
“For the past year I lived with my parents in the forest. There were only 20 buildings. There was almost no internet. It was very calm and quiet. So, Lisbon is a dramatic change.”
On this particular day we are filming, booming planes seem to go overhead every 30 seconds. Literally every 30 seconds. We think planes are louder in bad weather. But that’s just a hunch. We are in a real battle with the elements, so much so that we must constantly call CUT as Denis talks to allow for the plane noise. “This is one thing I have had to get used to in Lisbon. There are a lot of airplanes. And the area I live in is in front of the airport.”
We find a covered space in front of a dental clinic for Denis to show us some action. “It’s not that slippy here”, he tells us as he rubs the soles of his trainers against the tiled floor.
So, what exactly is this sport? we ask Denis, eager to learn.
“This is parkour and free running. It’s a new sport. And it will be soon on the Olympics.”
“Isn’t this what James Bond did at the beginning of Casino Royale?” we ask.
“Yes, exactly. Or maybe you know David Belle? (We don’t.) He’s the founder of parkour. District 13 was the first movie he appeared in and made parkour very famous. When I saw that movie when I was young, I started doing it myself.” Denis continues educating us… “Then there was a man called Sebastien Foucan who created free running. It’s the same as parkour but with more flipping and more freestyle. Parkour is an effective way to move through obstacles, but with free running you move through obstacles but with effect.”
With that Denis begins demonstrating some flips on a nearby wall. It looks terrifying. It looks like at any moment you could be flat on your back with a broken neck.
“Really, it’s not that hard. You just have to overcome the fear. Not many people like the fear, but in the gym you can do it with a soft mat that you can fall on. When you discover it is not painful you will be less fearful. You need to just do it, and then repeat, repeat, repeat.”
Another loud plane goes overhead so we decide to walk on – our footsteps splashing in the puddles. “I like the weather in Lisbon. In Slovakia it’s 0 degrees. Here even in this weather I can wear a t-shirt.”
We come to a bridge and underpass with cars whizzing by above. It seems like a good location for Denis to run and jump, and he promptly does… leaping onto walls and ledges. “It must be painful on your hands?” we ponder. Denis holds his hands up to the camera, and they look surprisingly smooth. “Nah it doesn’t hurt. After a while you get used to it, like any other sport.”
Denis tells us how he met his girlfriend. “She was a hostess at an event I was performing at. I played the role of Batman for kids. Then we forgot about each other, until last year when I messaged her after 6 years. And now we are together in Lisbon. There is a story. I proposed to her on a beach near Faro. It was the morning time, and the sun was rising.”
All we can say is Ahhhhhhhh
We come to a park – Parque Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles, which of course means Denis sees the opportunity to climb some trees. Soon enough the rain begins to intensify. We need to find cover under an arch monument. A woman and her dog also take shelter. As we make pleasantries, Denis proceeds to climb the monument. We can only hope the monument isn’t to honor the war dead. We don’t want to get into trouble. The woman looks up at Denis who is now pretty high up. He is a real-life Spiderman. “Could you do that?” we ask the woman. “I think so,” she says confidently.
The rain subsides and we head for the grounds of Gulbenkian to wrap our video. Security guards look on suspiciously as we roam around with our camera, capturing Denis as he continues to run and flip. “They need to invite me here to do a proper performance here.” Then remarkably and for just a brief time, the sun breaks through. The park sparkles in the temporary blue skies. The ducks roam about, and Denis leaps about.
It’s time for a coffee. Denis has a Galão. He tells us it’s his drink of choice. “I want to work on my flexibility and my Portuguese language,” he says with smile. “They are my goals for the year ahead.”
Denis seems happy with his new Lisbon life. He’s dirty, but happy.
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