Dance, Main Stage

South American Cowboys Make Boston Debut this Weekend

“While we come across as tough guys, we also know how to have a good time and enjoy a laugh”

Photo by Diane Smithers

The life of an Argentinian cowboy, or “gaucho,” is a tough one. “Much time is spent on horseback, and often the gauchos are alone for long periods of time,” explains Che Malambo tour lead, Matthew Bledsoe. “It’s a hard life, similar to North American cowboys, you have to know how to hold your own and defend what belongs to you, even if it’s just your pride and the ground you are standing on in that moment.”

Argentina’s Che Malambo dance company is rooted in this gaucho lifestyle, and it will storm the Shubert Theatre stage for its Boston debut this weekend with fiery footwork and powerful stomping—trademarks of a dance tradition known as “Malambo.” Performed solely by men, the Malambo began in the 17th century as competitive duels that challenged one another’s agility, strength, and dexterity skills.

“Malambo is the way gauchos express themselves so the strength, presence, focus and extreme physical endurance are all seen in the performance of Che Malambo,” Bledsoe explains.” Their performances open by introducing the artists in these dual-like scenarios, testing one another’s skills and stamina, until each performer proves himself and joins the larger group. “It’s something of a rite of passage at the top of every show that sets the tone and expectation of excellence from each member.”

The powerhouse company was founded by French choreographer and former ballet dancer, Gilles Brinas, who was inspired by the Malambo and traveled to Buenos Aires to learn more about this dance found in Argentina’s Pampa region. He recruited the best dancers in the area to create Che Malambo, who premiered in Paris in 2007 and have since performed in a number of countries.

Touring gives the members a chance to share this tradition with audiences around the world. “It means so much to us to see the audiences enjoying our performance and appreciating our art form,” says Bledsoe. “To see the international audiences standing and applauding us at the end of the performances is humbling and motivating.”

True to the dance’s tradition, Che Malambo’s performances feature precise footwork and rhythmic stomping, drumming of traditional Argentine bombos, and whirling boleadoras, a throwing weapon made up of intertwined cords and weighted with stones. Their signature fast footwork is known as “zapeteo” and is inspired by the rhythm of galloping horses on the pampas.

Despite the competitive nature of the dance, a Che Malambo performance is not just an evening of machismo display. “The performance shows that while we come across as tough guys, we also know how to have a good time and enjoy a laugh as well,” says Bledsoe.

There’s still time to reserve your seats and experience Che Malambo this Friday and Saturday evening at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre. Tickets start at $30 and can be purchased here.

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