South American rhythm, intensity and dance

Photo courtesy of Che Malambo.

Photo courtesy of Che Malambo.

Argentina-based dance company Che Malambo will be performing their energetic dance act May 20 at the Vogue. Led by renowned French choreographer Gilles Brinas, the all-male company’s malambo dance performance is centered on the tradition of the South American “gaucho” cowboy.

“Malambo has always elevated my soul,” says choreographer Gilles Brinas, “the malambo, by nature is very virtuosic; its rhythms and movements emulating the “chevauchée” or “horse charge” are unparalleled.”


Brinas has performed and choreographed with such companies as the Ballet of the Opera of Lyon and Ballet of the 20th Century, but it was only by chance that he came across malambo dancing in France.

“I had a lucky encounter with malambo dancing in 1973 in a French cabaret,” recalls Brinas. “Years later in 2004, I awoke with thoughts of malambo in my head.”

Yet no later than the next day, after having seen the malambo performance in 1973, Brinas, struck by the moving performance, flew out to Argentina to find out more about the traditional dance he had stumbled upon.

But it wasn’t until decades later in 2008 that Brinas sold his personal studio to fund an eleven-person troupe – nine men and two women – to perform malambo in France. Met with much praise and success, the company went on to perform 120 shows in France and Switzerland until 2012, followed by several shows in the U.S. in 2013.

Continuing with malambo and not having looked back since, Che Malambo, composed of Brinas and the all-male fourteen-man company, currently tour North America.

While his decision to begin the group seemed to be fueled by passion or spontaneity, for Brinas, there’s always been much more to it.

“I’ve always lived for dance and music, all music, all dance: it’s always been necessary to life,” says Brinas.

Performers use bolas as percussion.| Photo courtesy of Che Malambo.

Performers use bolas as percussion.| Photo courtesy of Che Malambo.

The essence of malambo

There are two distinct styles of malambo, Southern (most simply characterized by not wearing shoes) and Northern (distinguishable by wearing said shoes, among other things). Che Malambo performs both styles, though they tend towards Northern style.

However, aside from knowing that the Southern style preceded the Northern style, the roots of malambo rhythm and dance are difficult to pinpoint any more specifically than South America, possibly emerging from the blend of many cultures and arts of native people and immigrants.

If the origins of malambo are unclear, the essence of the dance itself is decisively gritty and intense. For Che Malambo, this culminates in telling the story of the life of a lone “gaucho”, or cowboy.

The act is set in an era that has passed, and as per a more traditional, un-modernized style of malambo, it is performed without pre-recorded music. Dancers perform to the 6/8 rhythm of their own drums, foot tapping, stomping, as well as rock-ended whips, or bolas, that act as percussion when hitting the floor.

“We make all the music with our feet and our drums. We all dance, and we all drum, no pre-recorded music,” says Walter Kochanowski, one of the performers, adding that “the show has a massive amount of energy.”

Indeed, it is the energy that drew Brinas to malambo in the first place, who notes the difference between this style of dance, and ballet: “it is the rhythm, the energy of the dance –
a similar energy exists in ballet, but in malambo it is wilder.”

It is that energy and passion for malambo that Brinas and the performers such as Kochanowski hope to convey through the rhythm and dance.

“We all do it because we love it,” says Kochanowski.


For more information on Che Malambo, go to