Che Malambo at the Peacock Theatre is a force to be reckoned with. The passion and explosiveness of each piece, choreographed by Gilles Brinas, contrasts perfectly with moments of silence and stillness, ultimately causing you to leave with an irrepressible energy long after the evening is over.
Not only is each member of the Argentine-based dance company incredibly adept at the highly precise, fast-moving footwork, zapateo, which is reminiscent of the flamenco dance style, rhythms are also carved out by every dancer using bombos. Bombos are large drums that are slung over the shoulder and played with drumsticks, however the entire body of it is used for different percussive sounds, not just the skin which produces a low and booming tone.
One piece consists of dancers carrying out their rhythmic stomping completely barefoot, which offers a wholly different sound, the soles of their feet thudding and slapping on the floor of the stage. The softness of this builds up into an impressive crescendo, as the dance begins with one performer in the space, who is joined by another and another and so on until the entire company drums up the noise into the auditorium, set against the strumming of an acoustic guitar (the player of which also dancing simultaneously).
When you think they couldn’t up the ante any more than they already have, the boleadoras are introduced, and this all male company floors us once again. Boleadoras, in essence, are lengths of rope with stones attached to the end, and when swung, pick up a lot of speed and are rebounded against the stage, creating yet another layer to this intricate percussive soundscape when combined with zapateo.
Part of Che Malambo’s thrill is the personas that emanate from each dancer, offering their unique take on the style. In Brinas’ work there is call and response through movement, motifs that overlap, and when the dancers move as one, led by the breath of the leader in that moment, I am truly blown away.
Brinas’ lighting and costume design creates an atmosphere that takes you to a hot, Argentinian night, men, challenging each other through dance, the stage being bathed in warm, red tones. Each performer has an impressive head of hair which is laden with moisture from the get go, suggesting heat, passion and virility, especially through their stance.
It is easy to observe the impression made on the audience, as a smattering of audible gasps and murmurs are heard throughout the show. There are also times where we are so captivated you are able to hear a pin drop, but there is also humour, which shows that this style carries so many different intentions and energies. Dance is a universal language, and Che Malambo is certainly an example of this.
Che Malambo played at Peacock Theatre until 22 July 2018
Photo: Robert Torres