TRAVERSE CITY — Levi Meeuewenberg vaulted cars as Captain America’s stunt double in “The Avengers.” He leapt rooftop to rooftop for Jeremy Renner in “Bourne Legacy.” “America Ninja Warrior” was a regular gig and his IMDb profile was growing by leaps and bounds — literally — as parkour and freerunning gained Hollywood traction.
Put on your “parkour goggles” and the world becomes a playground. Ugly, mundane urban spaces become a launchpad wonderland for graceful backflips, frog leaps, vertical scampers and cat-like landings.
Youtube videos sparked Meeuewenberg and his Traverse City friends’ interest in the sport, and soon, new clips surfaced of Meeuewenberg spiraling over rooftops and vaulting full tilt through fence holes. He caught the mascara-ed eye of pop superstar Madonna who brought Meeuewenberg onstage on her 2006 “Confessions” tour and his career exploded.
“I never saw it coming,” Meeuewenberg said. “I never realized that we could make a career out of it. I was in the right place at the right time.”
But the “bright lights, big city” lifestyle held few trees. A shattered wrist, caught by television cameras on the G4 reality show “Jump City Seattle” underlined that professional parkour carries a physical expiration date. The entertainment industry’s excessive wastefulness began to cast a pall on the experience, he said.
“I started looking at the stuntmen, and their lives and I realized that that’s not what I want at all,” Meeuewenberg said. “You’re always traveling, which means a lot of broken families. It’s hard to stay connected — to friends, family or even a place. The allure, the one ups-manship ... I started thinking that there must be another way.”
Enter Real Eyes Homestead, Meeuewenberg’s permaculture project with his girlfriend, Brenda Baran, a holistic nutritionist from Dearborn. Meeuewenberg returned to Traverse City in 2012, and the couple keeps pigs, chickens, worms and a large garden on Meeuewenberg’s family land.