When people think of cultural exports from Argentina, the tango immediately comes to mind. Many do not know that the malambo is equally a feast for the senses. Dance enthusiasts will be treated to this special traditional performance by a 12 all-male Argentinian powerhouse at the upcoming KL International Arts Festival (KLIAF).
The malambo is a dynamic blend of precision footwork, rhythmic stomping, drumming and song. At the heart of the gaucho (South American cowboy) tradition, it is performed by men only and is based entirely on rhythm – the clapping of palms and taps from the gaucho’s boots. The malambo was brought to the global stage by renowned French choreographer and former ballet dancer, Gilles Brinas. It was one day in 2005 when Brinas was struck by a strong calling to create something new and special with the Argentinian malambo, a short excerpt of which he had seen 33 years earlier at the famous Lido show in Paris. He dropped everything he was doing with his life and boarded a plane to Buenos Aires to pursue this vision he had in his head.
It was an uphill battle for Brinas at first, as unlike ballet, the malambo is a traditional folk dance that is not taught academically. Many discouraged him from pursuing his goal. Disheartened, Brinas decided to return to France. But as fate would have it, he came across a beautiful building by the Spanish architect Gaudi while on his way to the travel agency, and on the building there was a plaque that read “no hi ha somnis impossibles” – “there are no impossible dreams”. Taking this as a sign, Brinas decided to remain a little longer in Argentina.
Two days later, he met a group of malambo dancers. In an interview with Che Malambo, the group shared that they were very skeptical when they were first approached by Brinas. Who was this Frenchman? He knew nothing about their tradition and he wanted to create a show that seemed to go against the dance form of the Argentinian purists. However, they quickly realized that Brinas had a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve, and the rehearsals eventually became a collaborative process, an amalgamation of the dancers’ skills and expertise and Brinas’ vision. Brinas was also careful to take the core elements of the malambo and repackage them for the stage, resulting in a
percussive dance and music spectacle that thrilled and amazed audiences in Che Malambo’s world premiere in Paris in 2007. The power-packed performance of rhythm, percussion, strength and energy was unlike anything seen before and made for an unforgettable show…and they haven’t stopped delighting audiences since.
Before Che Malambo, life was not easy for many of the performers, who were from a poor area outside of Buenos Aires. Nevertheless, they led a happy life. Born into dance where almost all their family members were either folk dancers or musicians, they never thought of their hardship as a burden, but more as a purpose to spread love from their households.
“It has a lot to do with our mutual connection to music and dance. Some people in our neighborhood do not have that same passion and their lives seem to be missing something. We are thankful for this passion and discipline. Without a doubt, this was what we had always wanted to do and we sometimes cannot believe the incredible experiences we have had, the fascinating places we have visited and most importantly, the amazing people we have met, thanks to dance and music!” said Miguel Flores, a member of Che Malambo .
As they continued to progress and became increasingly well-known across the globe, the dancers believed that sharing their success with their community back home was important – not just as a reminder of where they started, but also to ensure that the tradition lives on.
“A lot of the dancers of Che Malambo spend our time training young dancers at home in Argentina when we are not on tour. With the success of Che Malambo, so many young people want to learn the malambo so we have group classes and private lessons almost every day,” added Flores.
In many ways, they feel that they can identify with the new generation and are happy with their acceptance and appreciation of traditional music and dance.
“Traditional or folklore music and dance are extremely important because that is where we come from and it’s the basis of who we are, but we must never stop evolving, creating and advancing. We worry that the youth of today is too absorbed with TV or social media. Don’t get us wrong; we love all of that too, but a live performance is irreplaceable. It’s an experience. For us as performers, the most special thing is to be able to connect with the audience, really connect, and share an experience together. That is what motivates us, and that connection is what makes us feel truly alive as human beings,” continued Flores. Besides training others, the Che Malambo team keeps to a hectic schedule complete with workouts and rehearsals and often reflect on areas that they need to improve to ensure a quality performance for their audiences.
“After a show, they always do a huddle together. It’s a ritual they have after every performance. It only takes a few minutes, but they quietly exchange a few words of reflection on the performance = that just took place, point out what went really well and what they need to work on for the next day.
Then they do a short stomping sequence and finish screaming CHE MALAMBO! in unison. I think \ like to think that theirs is quite unique!” shared Matthew Bledsoe, the producer of Che Malambo.
So for dance enthusiasts, the fiery and virtuosic Che Malambo is certainly an event not to be missed! They will be making their Asia Pacific debut at the Auditorium DBKL on 2 and 3 September 2017.
Tickets to Che Malambo and other events in the KL International Arts Festival are now on sale on its website.
Scheduled to take place throughout September 2017, the Festival will showcase more than 50 local, regional and international artists across five genres in over a dozen venues in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur.