It’s a promo for public transit, after all. So you might not go completely nuts as you watch the opening scenes of this three-minute video: four young men in T-shirts, glowing serenely as they tour the Triangle by bus.
Then they step off the bus. In his green-laced sneakers, Alan Tran is calm as a mountain goat strolling high on the handrail of Raleigh’s Boylan Avenue bridge.
And the fun kicks in.
Tran and his fellow athletes star in a video posted on YouTube last week by Triangle Transit, the public transportation agency. It’s aimed at a young market and titled with a social-media hashtag: “ #flipfortransit.”
The four young men transform Triangle locales into a Jackie Chan playground.
They scamper up brick walls and vault over benches and bushes. They leap gracefully from concrete sill to steel rail. They roll and tumble down steps and over each other. They flip and flip and flip.
Tran, 22, a Sanderson High grad, met Wilmington native Ben Webster, 23, when they were students at N.C. State University. Now they offer classes in free running and parkour (pahr-KOOR), two styles of improvised athletic movement that blend skills from gymnastics, dance and martial arts.
The idea for “#flipfortransit” was born last year, when Triangle Transit folks saw Tran and Webster and others in action on the NCSU campus.
“They were bouncing off posts and benches,” said Damien Graham, Triangle Transit’s communications director. “It was fun to watch, and it was captivating. We thought: ‘What can we do to make transit that captivating?’ ”
Triangle Transit has a shoestring budget for its GoTriangle marketing effort, which promotes local and regional bus service in three counties. The menu at youtube.com/GoTriangle features happy riders on a Durham bus and takeoffs on pop tunes by Katy Perry and Carly Rae Jepsen. The biggest hit so far is a cute skit with the toddler offspring of Triangle Transit employees, dressed up like commuters.
Tran and Webster are evangelists for free running and parkour. Their explanations are more philosophical than descriptive.
“It’s not all about jumping off high buildings and doing crazy stuff like that,” Webster said. “It’s about trying to be strong and trying to be a complete person.”
They hold classes in gymnastics and taekwondo studios. They’re building up their fledgling business, Enso Movement, with an eye toward opening their own gym in a couple of years. For now, the two men rely on restaurant jobs to pay the bills.
Parkour sometimes is described as a creative way of overcoming obstacles between one point and another. Tran and Webster liked the idea of a mashup with transit as a different kind of mobility.
“We wanted to put together something to show how useful the buses are for students like us to get around to different cities, to exercise, to meet people,” Tran said.
They recruited two Wake County high school athletes to join their cast. Devante Thomas of Knightdale High and Chris Bess of Holly Springs High, both 17, do most of the flipping on the video. They perform a high-flying maneuver called the cork: a leaping, whirling fling of the arms and legs.
The four young men scouted locations – Durham’s American Tobacco Campus proved ideal – and worked out the choreography. They spent two days in August shooting the scenes with a pair of videographers from Charlotte.
The whole thing cost Triangle Transit about $1,000, mostly for the editing and other production work. The performers received T-shirts, transit trinkets and lunch at Bull City Burgers.
“We actually kind of volunteered our work,” Webster said. “We didn’t get paid at all. But it just helps get our name out there. We’re starting a business right now, so the more people who hear about us, the better.”
And when they climbed back onto the bus, they weren’t even breathing hard.
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