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Flash Review 1, 3-19: Gonna Fly Now
Condors Versus the Galaxy

By Susan Yung
Copyright 2001 Susan Yung

Condors' "Conquest of the Galaxy: Jupiter -- Love You Live" was co-presented by the Japan Society and Dance Theater Workshop this weekend at the Japan Society. The program took the shape of a variety show or cabaret, composed of dance segments, film, puppetry, and satiric skits. Its goofy humor and abundant energy were a giddy, winning combination.

Short films were interspersed through the evening. Film, which can be edited to create fantasy scenarios based on real imagery, seems the ideal medium for this company, which seems to uphold the rock star as its ideal. An opening clip shows each performer flying from all corners of the planet to NYC for this stand. The films, a double-edged sword, set a high standard that the live segments had difficulty meeting.

It seems like this all-male troupe has spent plenty of time watching Beatles' videos and MTV. Their costumes, black suits and white shirts, and their mops of hair, evoked the Fab Four. A New York travelogue film shows the cast at their rock star best -- dancing wildly on panamoric rooftops and on cobbled streets, at times evoking the photo of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road. And the brevity of most of the scenes was clearly designed by and for the short attention spans of multi-taskers.

Segments of dance were plentiful. The choreography (by Ryohei Kondo) was free-wheeling and fueled by adrenaline, full of air guitar arm windmills and chop-socky leaps and kicks. The company favored 'v'-shaped formations in which they would perform sharp, big gestures in unison. The most virtuosic dancer was Satoshi Ishibuchi, whose sharp line and height in leaps was impressive. Though the amount of energy used and thrown off was infectious, the coarse edges and over-the-top quality were somewhat fatiguing by the end.

Silly skits included a mock wedding in which the men imitated stereotypes of coy, giggling women; a trip to Japan in which we saw satiric depictions of famous mountain scenery, the public baths, sumo wrestling, and office workers (as they passed through after-work drunken oblivion to the infamous subway rush hour). The acting was frequently highly visceral, and utilized certain physical stereotypes such as a heavy-set, large man paired with a short man; each actor-dancer managed to create a distinct character by the end of the hour and a half show.

Part of the humor and charm of the performance arose from cultural differences, yet it was very accessible because the company satirized -- or used in a straightforward way -- many elements of pop culture that are familiar to us. A longer skit, revolving around a spaghetti western duel, cast the players variously as horses, saloon doors, tumbleweed, even shadows. Condors also managed to convey the extremes of Japanese societal culture by lighting a fire under these extremes. Their highly exaggerated facial expressions cut through all language barriers, right to the source of laughter.

The Condors include Junichi Aota, Yoshihiro Fujita, Toshihiro Hashizume, Masaharu Imazu, Satoshi Ishibuchi, Michihiko Kamakura, Yasuharu Katsuyama, Kensaku Kobayashi, Satoshi Okuda, Hiroyuki Takahashi, and Kojiro Yamamoto.

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