Argentine Dance and MusicMalambo: Retumbo Group
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Malambo was born in the Pampas around the 1600. Malambo is a peculiar native dance that is executed by men only. Its music has no lyrics and it is based entirely on rythm. The malambo dancer is a master of tap dancing wearing gaucho's boots. Among the most important malambo moves are: " la cepillada" (the foot sole brushes the ground), "el repique" (a strike to the floor using the back part of the boot) and the " floreos". Malambo dancers' feet barely touch the ground but all moves are energetic and complex. Together with tap dancing, malambo dancers use " boleadoras" and other aids such as "lazos". Like 'Payadas" for gauchos (improv singing), malambo was *the* competition among gaucho dancers.
Malambo - An Argentine Dance
Malambo's unique features
Malambo is a male dance. During the 19th century malambo was the battle ground for gauchos to prove their dance prowess and vigor. Pit fires, local parties and 'payadas' were all good excuses for dancers to show off. Top dancers gained recognition due to the difficulty of their dance movements.
The dance itself is charactrized by one dancer performing a series of foot movements in a very small area. These are called 'mudanzas'. In itself, these taps against the floor are the complement to many other dances but in malambo, they are the dance itself. It is a one of a kind dance and truly argentine.
Each 'mudanza' completes a unique cycle or figure so the winner in a malambo competition is that one who can perform the widest variety, the most complex and the most difficult "mudanzas'.
These steps are performed with background music, usually a guitar and a drum, and the music takes no precedence to the dance.
Truly, many malambo dancers are up to the par to classic ballet dancers when it comes to rythm, prowess, agility and speed.
In a small town in Cordoba called Laborde, every year malambo dancers from all over Argentina gather together to celebrate the 'National Festivity of Malambo'. This has been going on for the last 38 years.
Malambo's true mark is that of allowing men to express themselves by themselves. They have no dance partners and the expression takes place with vigor.
Throughout the history of dancing there are two traditional elements always present: clapping of palms and tapping of feet. Before musical instruments were developed it was our own hand and feet that were performing sounds and rythm that put together, lead to music. Among Incas, tap dancing and feet dancing was very common. Araucanos, Guaranies and many other natives too, performed similar dances.
Everywhere in latin america feet dancing spread and took shape according to local idiosyncracies. The surrounding environment shapes the different dances but they all resemble current malambo in one way or another. In Argentina, malambo is the self person dance that has spreaded the most among natives.
Noone knows with certainty the reasons why malambo became so popular although many argue that solitude in the vast lands of the pampas, isolation and the need for self expression played a crucial role, almost like a survival need a dn a connection to other realms beyond the material world.
By far the essence of malambo lies in the firm strikes of the feet moves. While one of the foot might remain still, the other one performs very energetic strikes against the floor together with ample circular move of the entire leg. These cycles are the ones that permit the dancer to express himself throughout the dance. Dancers switch between feet and perform figures between them, one at a time. It is this dexterity of each foot at each time that is unique to malambo.
The top malambo dancer can perform cycles with both feet and legs indistinctly.
While feet and legs are crucial to dancing malambo, the rest of the body is not participating except to keep the dancer on the ground, stabilized. Thus, the malambo dancer becomes his own instrument as he performs music rythmically with his lower body in unison to whatever is being payed in a guitar and drum next to him. The music itself has no ending and it will only finish by the time the dancer gives up. Most of the time there is a continuous dialogue between the dancer and those playing for him, so that the dancer marks the instrument player when and how to make a pause, play slower or change to a more rapid pace.
Unlike Tango, Malambo has been shaped differently both in the north and in the south. Perhaps, landscapes and geography played an integral part in defining these differences but we think that there might be more to it.
In the south, what is known as 'malambo sureño o pampeano', is a true reflection to the isolation and solitude of the vast flatlands. It seems as though the main ingredient is its introverted, shy style. In a way, this 'softer' malambo tunes in with a more mystical side of argentine native dances. Malambo from the pampas speak to the nature of its habitants, usually more philosophical in nature...
Instead, the northern malambo which took shape in a completely different climate and geography seems more rough in all its beauty. Extreme weather conditions, mountains, high altitude and the reminiscense of Incas culture were all definite ingredients that made this malambo a more energetic dance. Compared to southern malambo, the northern one is faster, more accurate and strikes stronger. The use of larger and stronger boots also influenced the way this dance takes place and many times the strikes of the feet intentionally try to replace the strikes against the drums.
We thank the RETUMBO GROUP who allowed us to publish a set of photos while they were practicing in outdoors Tucuman. Below, there are a series of videos shot indoor where RETUMBO plays and dances Malambo.
RETUMBO is available for shows worldwide.
To book Retumbo' s shows or to contact the members of the group please use the following contact information:
Marcos Soria: (5411) 4581 -1449 (Buenos Aires)
Marcelo Vera: 15 504 24112 (cellular)
Sergio Lobo: 15 574 52383 (cellular)
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