Peacock Theatre, London
October 31, 2023
Imagine a hot sultry day in a village in Argentina. A group of seventeen men are sitting around chatting. Suddenly, four start to play drums, violin, guitar, accordion. The others grab drums and start to beat-out intense, challenging rhythms. The drummers coalesce into a pulsating oneness of movement, dance, and drumming. The pounding rhythm gets inside you and sweeps you along, breathless. Welcome to the opening sequence of Malevo.
Malevo, created by director, choreographer, and dancer Matías Jaime, is a thrilling all-male group that specialises in Malambo, a traditional Argentine folk dance of great virility and dexterity, but imbues it with a modern outlook as it is merged with other styles like flamenco and urban percussion.
This is performance in a league of its own. Thirteen multi-talented and highly skilled dancers execute zapateo (akin to tap dance), while creating fast-paced, high adrenaline routines with boleadoras, a type of throwing weapon made of weighted balls on the ends of interconnected cords.
Four musicians pound-out a fusion of traditional and contemporary music. The precision in the dance, drumming and boleadoras is simply stunning. The ensemble moves as one, not a single toe flick out of place.
The performers are not identified individually in the programme, a shame as there are some expertly performed solos, but the entire troupe excel. The complicated and very fast zapateo choreography by Jaime is riveting. Although there is a fair amount of repetition in the drumming, dance and boleadoras sequences, it is actually a pleasure to see the feats of sheer skill, bravado, and power come around again.
No set is needed. The musicians provide the backdrop, set in a semi-circle at the rear of the stage. The lighting (Eber Cepeda) increases the feeling of power and challenge. ‘Blown away’ is not a phrase I have used before in a review. Maybe I was waiting for Malevo. Go, go, go, and be blown away by this utterly extraordinary theatrical experience.
Malevo is at the Peacock Theatre, London to November 4, 2023.