On chilly nights in the Argentine pampas, gauchos (South American cowboys) entertain themselves with song and dance. There is a lot of drumming, strumming, and singing—and some fancy footwork too. The latter has resulted in a tradition called malambo, a dance contest during which gauchos show off powerful moves and energy to the rhythm of native drums.
Che Malambo, a troupe of 12 Argentine men schooled in the tradition, is at the Kravis Center through February 3. Performing on the smaller stage of the Rinker Playhouse, Che Malambo is something of a hybrid between flamenco and taiko drumming. The men drum on traditional bombos, bass drums made of hollowed tree trunks and topped with animal skins, with incredible energy and a Latin rhythm that inspires dancing. The drumming is often accompanied by spell-binding dance numbers, during which the “gauchos” interpret the rhythm by stomping and vocalizing in the fiery flamenco tradition. The choreography is wide-ranging, depicting haunting scenes from the pampas where gauchos measure each other up and have showdowns of their footwork skills and roping prowess.
Speaking of roping, the lasso work is the most spectacular moment of the performance. Using boleadoras, lasso-like single ropes with weights on the end, the dancers put on amazing shows of dexterity and strength. It’s literally breathtaking.
Though the show conveys incredible tension and drama, there are some lighter moments that let you exhale. All in all, it’s a spectacular demonstration of raw energy, tradition, and ultimate masculine strength.