Che Malambo is an all-male rhythmic spectacle of dance and drumming

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Che Malambo | Caravan World Rhythms | Queen Elizabeth Theatre | April 11, 2018

The closest comparison I have is Riverdance. Che Malambo is like a South American Riverdance — only with more shouting, more duelling, and much more testosterone. This all-male company from Argentina presented an exciting, percussive blend of dance and drumming that had the audience out of their seats and cheering as soon as the curtain came down.

Backlit and banging their large bombo drums, the silhouette of the cluster of dancers created suspense as they moved forward into the light before breaking off into solos and smaller groups. Based in the South American gaucho (cowboy) tradition, the show featured many scenes set up as a duel or battle between two groups of dancers. The malambo evolved from competitive duels that tested agility, strength and dexterity among the 17th century gaucho.

While they aren’t wearing tap shoes, they use their hard soled boots to create rhythms — sometimes along with their drums and sometimes without. This footwork, called zapeteo, is inspired by the rhythm of galloping horses. At times, their rapid-fire footwork made it seem as if their legs were separate from the rest of their bodies.

With all their aggression and power, these men still moved with grace and poise. One solo featured a barefoot dancer creating rhythms as he tapped his soles on the stage while also incorporating fluid movements.

Another impressive solo involved the whirling boleadoras — a traditional throwing weapon made of intertwined cords and weighted with stones. The stones hitting the stage created another rhythmic element, and the cords swung around so fast they were a blur. This solo was like something out of a circus act — incredible and beautiful at the same time.

And that describes pretty much this whole show: these dancers performed incredible synchronized choreography, created immersive rhythms, and impressed us with their stamina and passion. French choreographer Gilles Brinas has created a unique spectacle not to be missed with Che Malambo, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are still touring in 20 years, giving Riverdance a run for their money.

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