photo by Hendrick Smildigger
9 windows

created, directed and choreographed by: Federico Restrepo
performed by: Federico Restrepo with Ramon de Vivas, Denise Greber, Eugene the Poogene and Stephanie Rafferty
music performed by: Richard Cordoba, Martin Vejarano & Motoki
video by: Vica Cortes, Angela Sierra & Vlamyr Vizcaya

performance schedule:
October 3 - 27, 2002
First Floor Theatre
Thursday - Sunday at 8:00 pm
Sunday Matinee 2:30 pm
No Matinee Sunday October 27th
$15.00
box office: (212) 475-7710
* preview October 1 at 7:30 pm

Village Voice Review, October 9, 2002





Large wire puppets, pillowy cotton figures, sculpted faces and hands, and even a large puppet horse all dance in "9 Windows," the newest dance/multimedia creation of Federico Restrepo, a Colombian-born dancer and auteur of dance puppetry. The piece, which offers nine windows into the immigrant's mind, will be presented by La MaMa E.T.C. in its First Floor Theater for three weeks, October 3 to 20. The show was enthusiastically hailed for its honesty and beauty in its world premiere August 11 and 14 at the Spoletina 2002 Festival in Italy and was lauded by the Italian press.

Being a stranger in a strange land in an eternal theme of the avant-garde. Restrepo, who was born in Bogota, Colombia, can speak of it as well as anybody else. As a maker of puppet dance theater, he has always allowed himself to dream epic thoughts. It's not surprising, then, that one of the strongest images at the beginning of his immigrant dream, "9 Windows," is one of being chased by a Conquistador. The overall idea is autobiographical, but one that is probably shared by most immigrants in America today: being a stranger in a strange land, and since 9/11, having come from a place of violence to another place of violence. The piece goes inside the emotions of the émigré: the feeling of expatriation, the new perspective posed by distance, the clarity of those who look from far away, as well as the loneliness that distance imposes upon them.

The entire piece is danced to music which mixes traditional Colombian styles with rock/pop and the driving beats of New York. The gaita, a unique flute from Colombia, is used to evoke memories. Music is by Richard Cordoba (soprano saxophone, flutes, keyboards), Martin Vejarano (drums, gaita) and Motoki (bass), with compositions by Cordoba and Vejarano. Cordoba describes the music as a blend of Colombian folklore and funk. Both he and Vejarano are from Colobmia; Motoki is from Japan.

This living collage is replete with wild rhythm and frenetic energy. Each new window opens a new revelation, and this is the structure of the piece.

It opens with the arrival of the immigrant (Restrepo) as a puppet carrying a big trunk into Times Square, where he first confronts the people of the City and is forced to also confront his past. Sand is used to represent the ashes of his grandparents, in which he dances. He bites a fruit, plants it, and out grows a dream in which he is chased by a Conquistador and counter-attacks. It's symbolic of the impulses to move on into the world and the violence that propels you. When Restrepo doffs the puppet, it indicates his being reborn in a new place--moving beyond memories and going onward.

But conflict is never-ending: next is the struggle of the artist to be able to create again in the new land. Restrepo is overcome--literally knocked on the noggin by a flying globe--suggesting the sensation that the world is drifting away and the anguish and detachment that this brings about. This is the Colombian experience.

There are three videos entwined in the production: a dance of his hands (symbolizing his grandparents), a dance of his foot (denoting the ground he walks on) and a dance of being trapped (denoting the violence which propels him). Videos are by Vica Cortes, Angela Sierra and Vlamyr Vizcaya.

Federico Restrepo is a performer who embraces epic themes. He is a resident artist of La MaMa and his tenure there has become a fountain of inspiration for those looking for a fresh approach to the world of dance theater with rustic tropical overtones. Through his early works, he became known for unexpected, acrobatic, seemingly bursting yet precise performances including ethereal and playful stage machinery and atmospheric lighting.

His last La MaMa production, "Colores" (1998), created exciting conceptual images of the evolution of the Mestizo people of Colombia, whom he lovingly refers to as the children of the Spanish conquest. That production was part of Jim Henson Foundation's International Festival of Puppet Theater. His "Aguirre, the Spiral of the Warrior" (1996) was based on the legend of the Spanish conquistador who rebelled against Spain to create his own empire. Thematically, it set out to explore one of the most intriguing and least-explored New World phenomena: the "Americanization" of the European man and his ways of thinking. Restrepo's previous La MaMa productions were "Cosecha" (1990), a work on the lives of Colombian refugee farmers, "Loco 7" (1989), a multi-media odyssey through the subways of NY with giant puppet subways, and two other Gotham fantasies: "Locombia" (1986) and "Carrera" (1988). His company, Loco 7 Dance Theater, is named after the 1989 La MaMa production.

The New York Times (Jack Anderson) likened "Aguirre" to a hypnotic nightmare. "Cosecha" was deemed "a vital piece of puppet theater, popular in style" by Burt Supree in the Village Voice. "Loco 7" was praised in the New York Times by Jennifer Dunning, who called it "imaginative and ingenious," noting its "exuberant charm."

Restrepo was born in Bogota and studied ballet with Priscilla Welton and Miroslav Kura before dancing with the Ballet Nacional de Colombia. Coming to New York in 1985, he studied at the Merce Cunningham School and danced with the Empty Hands Company headed by Cho Koo-Hyun and Yoshiko Chuma's School of Hard Knocks. Beside his Puppets and Drummers Company productions, he and his puppets have appeared at La MaMa with the Great Jones Repertory in Ellen Stewart's "Dionysus Filius Dei." Restrepo's Loco 7 troupe represented Colombia in the III Ibero-American Theater Festival with his La MaMa-born piece of the same name.

Made possible by the generous support of: Consulado General de Colombia, Ministerio de Relaciones Exeriores - Direction de Asuntos Culturales, La MaMa, E.T.C., Ellen Stewart.

photo by Hendrick Smildigger


Village Voice Review

"Transformations of Space, Community, and the Body
Spirits Rising"

by Deborah Jowitt
October 9 - 15, 2002

Puppetry messes not just with our perception but with our ideas about agency. When the puppeteer is out of sight, as is the case with most marionettes, we slip between viewing the dolls as self-motivating creatures and marveling over what is conveyed to them by the human hands on their strings. The visible black-clad manipulators of Japanese bunraku are conjoined with their puppets, both physically and emotionally, while controlling their actions at a psychological distance.

Body puppets are perhaps the most perplexing of all. In some provocative works they seem to control their handler. The perplexed and homesick Colombian immigrant-hero of Federico Restrepo's latest work, Nine Windows (at La MaMa through October 27), is a soft body puppet. His large, sad, jug-eared face is attached via black elastic straps to the puppet maker's head; his hands are Restrepo's, and his feet are fastened to Restrepo's. Because the puppeteer is a dancer, the hapless figure effectively vaults onto his heavy steamer trunk and leaps and crouches as he is both beset and embraced by bodiless heads with extra-long, skinny arms and big hands (whose four clustered puppeteers perform their own intricate dance behind a scrim). We see Restrepo pushing the puppet ahead of him, but we also see the puppet leading, even straining to break free. Utterly thrilling are the moments in which Restrepo unfastens the puppet from his head and then, with the help of semi-visible hands, is peeled from his other self. Sweaty and disheveled, he seems at first smaller and weaker than his creation.

Richard Cordoba's wild and apt music, played live by an ensemble of three, colors a nonlinear series of scenes suggesting dreams, memories, and violent encounters in New York (the dramaturgy is often cloudy). These include a video of the flesh-and-blood Restrepo opening and eating a mamey, a man dementedly and silently screaming into a cell phone, and a sword-wielding body-puppet conquistador on horseback. Galloping.

2002 page