[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t has evolved with the capital since 1988 when Fanny Mikey, a spirited Argentine actress, teamed up with cultural entrepreneur Ramiro Osorio to offer Bogotanos more when it comes to theatre.
As a way to position national ensembles on stages across the city and invite foreign companies to show their best, the Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro de Bogotá (FITB) – Iberoamerican Theatre Festival – has grown into a behemoth of Colombian and international talent.
When the curtain rises every two years, the 16-day event becomes a must-do on an already busy calendar. This month, the Iberoamericano launches its 15th edition with an exhaustive program comprised of 3,650 actors, 100 directors from 32 countries and 164 works during 855 performances.
These are pretty impressive numbers and no small feat to bring so much to our city. The guest host nation this year is Mexico and it brings a star attraction, the stunning choreography of the Ballet Folclórico de la Universidad de Guadalajara.
The Folkloric Ballet of the University of Guadalajara was founded 50 years ago and is widely regarded as one of the most important folk dance companies in the country. It has some 1,500 presentations worldwide to their name.
No theatre festival is complete without taking on the bard of English literature: Shakespeare. In a collaboration between Denmark’s Theatre Republique and cult British punk cabaret band The Tiger Lillies, the dark themes of Hamlet are interpreted musically and visually. Hamlet is one of many recommended acts during this anniversary edition of the FITB.
The show kicks off March 6 with the Spanish theatrical group, La Fura dels Baus. Founded in 1979 in Barcelona, the Catalan troupe brings to Bogotá its outdoor extravaganza with Aphrodite and the judgment of Paris. Surrounded by huge metalic structures, flying acrobats and a fireworks display, audiences will delight in the confrontation between Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite.
The event is a free and as the director of festival, Anamarta de Pizarro, stated: “is a gift to the city.”
One of the much-anticipated performances is Arrabal, a musical by the Argentine musician, film composer and producer Gustavo Santaolalla. With two Academy Awards for best original score in two consecutive years (Brokeback Mountain in 2005 and Babel in 2006), Santaolalla teamed up with Colombian choreographer Sergio Trujillo to write Arrabal.
Trujillo is also one of the most prolific choreographers in musical theatre and known for his worldwide hit Jersey Boys.
Arrabal is politically charged, set in Argentina during the so-called “dirty war” of the 1970s. In an interview with the Toronto Star, Trujillo states that the project came about because “as Latin men, there was so much that I felt Gustavo and I could say, especially about the whole world of the desaparecidos, the ones who disappeared.”
The Santaolalla and Trujillo collaboration, however, goes back 15 years to New York, where both were exploring new musical horizons, Trujillo with the Ballet Hispanico and Santaolalla with the release of Bajofondo Tango Club.
The Et Cetera Theatre of Moscow brings us Boris Godunov, directed by acclaimed German Peter Stein. He is known for marathon productions, including a 12-hour theatrical version of Dostoyevsky’s “Demons.”
In Bogotá, he will present the classic work by Alexander Pushkin, making this its first-ever representation outside Russia. And just to be able to witness a work in the hands of this landmark director of the classical and radical German stage is a treat.
Baxter Theatre Center at the University of Cape Town, brings us Missing. Considered the grandfather of African theatre, John Kani presents a profound reflection on exile and the situation in South Africa after the end of apartheid.
Hungary’s Recirquel Contemporary Circus Company delivers Paris de Nuit, a charged work of physical theatre grounded in the nights of the Paris red-light district during the sultry 1930s. Its third show lures audiences into the roaring variety life filled with voluptuous desires and illusionary moments from the lives of prostitutes and peddlers.
This is illicit love on the fringes of artistic society. The work is inspired by the black and white photographs of the famous Hungarian photographer Brassaï.
Canadians are known to reach for the stars, while embracing record low temperatures. Montreal-based Cirque Éloize turns up the heat with iD, a blend of circus arts and urban dance all set to a stimulating soundtrack by composers Jean-Phi Goncalves and Alex McMahon.
The show is electrifying and integrates multimedia for the first time. Fifteen performers from 13 disciplines help create iD’s resolutely urban universe and keep with Cirque Éloize’s tradition of using multidisciplinary performers from around the world.
The aforementioned are just some of the fabulous international acts invited to participate in the XV Iberoamericano. In the name of Colombia, Cartagena’s Colegio del Cuerpo (School of the Body) presents its most recent dance elegy, Flowers for Kazuo Ohno (and Leonard Cohen).
Alvaro Restrepo’s Colegio del Cuerpo is an award-winning foundation that works with vulnerable youth through the transformative power of dance. This is performance with a social purpose.
They have toured the world and received critical acclaim for their community-led approach to contemporary dance. To the music of Leonard Cohen and Garcia Lorca’s poems, this act is another not-to-be-missed.
In our long listing of recommendations, Britain’s Kneehigh Theatre Company brings us John Gray’s musical satire Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs). A blazing rendition of The Beggar’s Opera, this transgressive troupe mixes cinematic references with wit, wonder, and plenty of weirdness. In short, it’s a twisted morality tale of our times.
The XV Iberoamericano leaves town with a bang, March 27, with a beneath-the-stars spectacular in the Plaza Bolívar. Even though we try to do justice in highlighting some of the acts that will grace more than 60 stages, there are many which we had to leave out in the dark.
For a complete listing of performances, venues, and curtain calls, visit the website: