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Publication Date : 25-02-2013
The much-loved Japanese contemporary dance troupe jet over to Bangkok
Ask any Japanese friends you may have about Condors and the chances are that they either have seen performances by this group or will complain that Condors tickets are almost impossible to get in Japan. The troupe set a record there, selling out a show in just 14 minutes.
Famed for their crazy blend of comedy sketches, strange films, blasting retro rock music and storytelling, Condors is also known for exhilarating high-energy dance - elements that combine beautifully for a new style of entertainment.
And while they've earned critical acclaim all over the world, Condors has never performed in Thailand.
Now, thanks to the Agency of Cultural Affairs, Japan Foundation, Aetas Lumpini and "World Performances @ Drama Chula", they're making the much-awaited Bangkok debut this weekend.
Ryohei Kondo, founder, artistic director, director and choreographer of Condors, explains that part of the reason why the troupe has reached such superstardom in Japan is that "We're a group of men with various personalities and so our fans are also wide ranging. Also, we all love having fun so I think audiences feel this."
That sounds just like Thailand's sanook culture.
"We don't take in new members via auditions," Kondo continues. "Those who want to join can join and become like our friends or brothers. But at the very least, they have to be lively and friendly as well as enjoy travelling and drinking.
"We create at least two new works a year, and the title of the work reveals the keyword. We'll premiere our new work 'Apollo' in April in Saitama. The secret for creating new works is that we shouldn't think too much and know how they would come out."
Japan's Dance Magazine summarises the 17-year-old company, as "Incomparably unique company; that is outreaching Condors. Freshly and easily, the company breaks through the boundary of category and existing concept."
Kondo adds, "We mostly perform in Tokyo but we travel from time to time. Overseas audiences have shared our fun and enjoyed this universal language. This is like a relationship we have been building through our performances and masterclasses."
When they were in the Big Apple, the New York Times dance critic wrote, "An irrepressible, irrelevant brunch of nicely ill-assorted sizes and presence, the men were impressive in their comic timing and knowledge of dance styles".
And for their show "Conquest of the Galaxy: Mars" at the Esplanade—Theatres on the Bay in Singapore a few years ago, the Straits Times critic commented that Condors "wowed audiences with their extraordinary with their agility and unbridled imagination".
Dance critic and contributor to The Nation Jasmine Baker was also in the audience in the island state. She too raved about their performance, saying, "Truly refreshing was how the members of Condors came onto the stage in various shapes and sizes, and proved they can dance and entertain without the need to have balletic bodies or be solidly built. Also, they managed to accentuate their individual characteristics in a way that made each of them unique and arresting while at the same showing great teamwork."
Kondo says the troupe is delighted to be coming to Bangkok. "We've been travelling to many countries in Asia and Thailand has been on top of our wish list for a long time. And so this trip is like we've finally reached our destiny - all of us are very happy now."
For their Thai debut, Kondo has picked "Grandslam", a special performance created two years ago when they celebrated their 15th anniversary. In this selection of their best scenes from previous works, each scene seems randomly connected, but all becomes clear at the end. The whole experience promises to bring back nostalgic memories and remind the audience of the things that are important for life.
The Yomiuri Shimbun dance critic described "Grandslam" as "a festival participated in by Condors and the audience," and gave a few examples.
"When the members were introduced, they were in disguise as characters in movies like 'Rambo' and 'The Shining.'
"In 'Sexy Dance' the most serious looking member (Takeshi Koga) performed in his underwear. The performers gave audience expectations and betrayed them, and led to surprise endings, which audience enjoyed with much laughter."
Sankei Shimbun concurred, writing that "The members of Condors never look back: they only proceed. It was a hot and exhilarating show."
Kondo says to Bangkok audiences who may not have seen their works, "No need to worry about anything - just have fun with us. We express ourselves freely. Watching our show is like going to a concert. We're also planning some Thai jokes especially for you."
"Grandslam" is on Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2 and 7:30pm in the Sodsai Pantoomkomol Centre for Dramatic Arts, sixth floor, Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Building, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University.