Volume 17 • Issue 34 • Jan. 14 - 20, 2005


In “Bokan”, The Bad Hearted,” Federico Restrepo used a moving set of puppet trees as well as 20 cast members who had puppets attached to them and hanging from every surface in the theater to tell a complicated Amazon tale.

Federico Restrepo inspired Puppet Master

By Wickham Boyle

Federico Restrepo is a Colombian born theatrical artist. He grew up in a family in Bogotá where everyone around him was an artist. His older brother was a filmmaker, his sister in the theater and his father his mother and friends all worked as painters, directors or writers.

“ I grew up a little inside of that world,” said Restrepo,

Federico had friends who steered him into mime and ballet and at 20 he took a quick trip to the United States and dropped full force into Merce Cunningham’s world of dance. He has created puppets, danced in a major world festival and recently debuted a trance-like full evening show at LaMama’s Annex Theater.

“In NYC my world opened with Yoshiko Chuma,

Cunningham, the dance world opened me in a different way. I was designing elements that I could use to jump on the walls. I like to use things that break the level of the stage, running up walls and bounding on things. I began to design elements that could be used both as set pieces and that would actually dance with the dancers,” said Restrepo,

In his newest piece titled “Bokan, The Bad Hearted” Restrepo used a moving set of puppet trees as well as 20 cast members who have puppets attached to them and hanging from every surface in the huge theater to tell a complicated Amazon tale of Yurupary.

The piece moved along as if we are installed in the dreamscape of both Restrepo and composer Elizabeth Swados, whose signature music fuses indigenous sounds with the western melodies to capture the other worldly nature of a multi-level story that unfolds the transformation from traditional matrilineal society to patriarchy.

The dances all detailed this transformation as tribal men are seduced by the half man half mortal Izi and rebel against the women. The sun spreads, the moon beguiles. Strange forces dance and abound and puppet babies are begotten from under gauzy canopies.

Izi is often referred to as the Orpheus of the Amazon and it seems as if the ancient gods of the southern Americas are making a marked appearance this season in museum and the stage. This is a moment to marvel at the rich texts and myths that have existed for centuries and yet are so hidden from most of our modern industrial knowledge.

Restrepo’s evening unfolds these myths not in a linear story telling where pages are turned and the story plods forward but in an explosive dream world of music, ancient unknown tongues and dances where fury, seduction, warfare and birth and death are all portrayed in primal movement where energy is the connecting currency.



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