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Post Number: 24
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Sunday, May 15, 2005 - 5:27 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

My friend Viviana shared with me an article published in Clarin about Malambo. I translated the article to the best of my abilities. Malambo is such an ingrained piece of argentine culture that I thought I could post it here.


Emanuel is only 8 years of age and he is already showing prowess while on stage dancing malambo. He has been rehearsing for the last 2 years for about 2 hours a day with the objective of competing at the National Festivity of Malambo in the town of Laborde, Cordoba. Together with rehearsals, Emanuel also follows a strict diet that will put him in his best shape.

Like him, there are about 100 'malambistas' from all over Argentina that train and practice with the purpose of participating and winning at the festival. Each participant will only have 3 minutes to show to a judge audience their latest creation in movements and their tapping prowess.

Laborde is a small town of about 6,000 people. To understand malambo, visiting Laborde and -in particular attending the Festival- is of critical importance.This Festival has been taking place for the last 38 years and its strict parameters that demand the most from malambo dancers has made of it the ultimate malambo skill competition in Argentina, ever. The organizing commision includes local physicians, lawyers and even breadmakers who passionately spend countless hours, selflessly procuring the best for the show.

Almost 30,000 people attend every year the festival in a span of 6 days and the show is, technically speaking, perfect. The core of the show is malambo, as imagined, but organizers have included a few other treats to enthuse visitors. For example, they have encouraged each province to bring to the show their own local artists and folklore composers making it a real 'criollo' event. They have also strictly stated that all participants should remain as true to history as possible when it comes to clothing and customes. Many good malambo performers never make it to the finals because they show up to the auditions dressed with anything but a real 'gaucho' attire.

The competition itself encompasses 7 categories from kids to seniors, but only those aged 20 to 40 could aspire to compete for the main prize: the best argentine malambo performer for the year in question. The judge panel is as demanding as the organizing commision. In fact, one of its members is noone else but Arnaldo Perez, who won different awards in 1974 and 1975 in Cosquin and in 1976 in Laborde itself.

In an interview, Arnaldo Perez made the following statements regarding the show.

Q: How does the Festival compare presently to the ones held in these last 38 years?
AP: Specifically, what changed is the speed of the rutines. Malambo dancers are now pushed to perform and entire coreography in 3 minutes whereas in the old days it was 8 minutes. They were forced to compress an entire cycle of moves in less than half the time. In the past, one could see malambo moves in detail. Today, all happens so fast that even to those in the know it is difficult to clearly see what is they are doing. The training has changed as a consequence too. Dancers now train fiercely. They lift weights, they jump the rope and they may even use coaches. So it has become ultra competitive. Some of the romanticism has been lost. Also, things are more homogeneous now. In the past, the festival allowed for individual flavors from each province and each malambo group would resemble more things of their provinces. Now, the character of each group is more difficult to spot. The two main malambo styles -the northern one more aggresive and the southern one more round and soft- are still in place, though.

As for the origin of the word 'malambo' history has it in Lima, Peru and then brought down to Argentina through commerce routes. However, malambo as we know it today -a strictly gaucho dance- was born in Argentina and has been the only individual dance ever created in this land. First records go back to 1780 as competition between gauchos and by 1920 malambo can already be seen as part of shows and performances and not so much as competitions. It has been said that the word 'gaucho' itself comes from the quechua language (north of argentina) carrying the meaning of 'orphan'. But local historians also prefer to find the origin of the word in the native indian language araucano, as 'gachu', meaning 'a person of service'. Even today we use in our language the word 'gauchada'referring to 'a slefless act of service, a favor'. Gauchos' life revolved mostly in the country, riding horses. A "walking" gaucho was unheard of and some historians trace the birth of malambo to the gauchos' fascination to the sound of horses riding. It was in their lonely days that -out of boredom- they tried to recreate the horses' riding sound by tapping the groud with their boots. Thus, malambo was born.

Original source: Clarin - Jan 17th, 2005 issue.

More on gauchos.
More on malambo.

(Message edited by admin on May 15, 2005)

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