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Elevating traditional art form to a new level


Enthralling moves: Che Malambo, the explosive, foot-stomping all-male Argentinian dance company, performing with percussion and whirling ‘boleadoras’ (lassoes).

Enthralling moves: Che Malambo, the explosive, foot-stomping all-male Argentinian dance company, performing with percussion and whirling ‘boleadoras’ (lassoes).

KUALA LUMPUR: A country’s traditional art forms may be adapted and updated to attract not just a modern local audience, but an international one as well.

Driven by this belief, choreographer Gilles Brinas succeeded in popularising the Argentinian malambo, a dance form established in the 17th century in the country’s Pampas region of fertile lowlands.

French-born Brinas, 67, founded the all-male dance troupe Che Malambo by taking the malambo, usually performed by a solo male dancer, and turning it into a stunning performance with 14 dancers.

The ballet dancer by training said that while the essence of a dance should be kept, there should also be new influences added to its performance so that it can be attractive to a wider audience.

“Look at the Russian folk dance, it was just a village dance, but (Igor) Moiseyev turned it into a great company which travelled around the world,” he said, referring to the Russian dancer and choreographer who popularised the character dance, a dance style that originated as Russian folk dancing.

“I incorporated other styles (of dance) in crafting the performance,” he said of adapting malambo for the global stage.

The Malaysian debut performance of Che Malambo was held at the Kuala Lumpur City Hall Auditorium here on Saturday as part of the line-up for DiverseCity: KL International Arts Festival 2017.

The troupe’s producer and manager Matthew Bledsoe shared Brinas’ view about adapting folk dance to a wider audience.

“Folk dance has its place in its pure form. But it is also important to remember what ‘folk’ means,” said Bledsoe, also the IMG Artists vice-president.

“In German, folk means ‘of the people’. It’s not only ‘of the people’ from a hundred years ago, it can also be ‘of the people’ today.

“It can still be a folk dance (despite its modernisation) because it’s what the dance has become,” he added.

Che Malambo’s performance, a mesmerising spectacle of 12 men dancing a routine choreographed by Brinas, included a surprise rendition of legendary Malaysian artist P. Ramlee's song Getaran Jiwa by a troupe member. The troupe also performed yesterday.

Festival director Datin Sunita Rajakumar said there was potential for Malaysian folk art forms to be adapted to appeal to a global audience.

“What I hope from Che Malambo's performance is that yes, the audience will be entertained, and have an experience that will touch their souls and memories.

“Hopefully, at the end of that, it will also galvanise us into thinking ‘We can do this too’,” said Sunita, adding that DiverseCity was encouraging the movement by featuring mostly local acts in the festival's line-up.

DiverseCity will run until Oct 1. For more information and the performance schedule, visit diversecity.my.

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