Performance review: Malevo, Sydney Opera House

The South American all-male dancing and drumming troupe makes its Australian debut.
Malevo. A line-up of five bare-chested males raise their drumsticks above their heads and over the drums attached in front of them.

Malevo bursts onto the stage in a blaze of drum-thumping, bare-chested, Argentinian machismo –seducing its audience with extraordinary energy and athleticism.  

Based on the traditional dance Malambo, created around the campfire by Argentinian cowboys, it is inspired by the galloping and prancing of their horses – and that is clear in its style. 

Creator Matías Jaime has developed the show as a modern theatrical version of Malambo to bring it to a wider audience and it has been seen throughout the world, including television in talent shows in its early years. And it’s easy to see why it has been so popular. The sharp-drilled choreography combined with the sheer energy, talent and focus of this all-male troupe is hard to resist, and it is presented with powerful lighting and staging choices that support the quite angular and stylised choreography. It is a very successful example of how traditional culture can be celebrated and adapted into a very contemporary and commercially successful experience. 

While certain elements of the foot stamping style will no doubt evoke other popular culturally-based dance companies such as Riverdance for some viewers, these guys use their arms to great effect too as they execute intricate drumming routines. Then it is taken to an even more exciting level as they swap their drums for cracking whips and whirling boleadoras as the climax of the evening approaches. 

But the musical interludes from the four live musicians are also impressive. At different moments the lyrical, rhythmic and expressive songs are both highlight and respite from the physical action. Extraordinary solos on drums, guitar, squeezebox and violin soar in the Concert Hall space. 

The skill and commitment of this company is undeniable. They work hard and their skill in mastering not only the steps, but the often-dangerous props, is impressive. When this reviewer attended, one of the performers was bleeding at one point, but wiped it away and kept going.

Malevo is often both exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. Costumed in tight-fitting black outfits with leather straps and lots of flesh on show, they certainly capitalise on the sexy athleticism of the dancers, and that’s a huge part of this show’s appeal. But be aware the posturing, strutting, competitive nature of this very male art form is celebrated without apology, and that level of machismo may be as confronting for some as it is appealing for others. 

If you love a sexy Latin gaucho who knows how to move his hips, then this show is definitely for you. 

The choreography is exciting and the performance of it appears quite flawless. 

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It is also an easy and accessible way to dip your toe into a small piece of South American cultural history. At the conclusion of this 80-minute high-energy explosion of music and dance, the audience were on their feet and left the Concert Hall with a sense of exhilaration and celebration. 

Sydney Opera House
Artistic Director, Choreographer and Founder: Gonzalo Jamie
General Direction: Monica Ocampos
Musical Director: Pablo Pupillo, Martin Morales
Technical Director/Company Production Manager: José Vargos

Dancers: Gabriel López, Jonathan Leiva, Federico Arrua, Facundo Villamayor, Franco Martinez, Marcos Carrizo, Leandro Palavecino, Mauro Dias, Leandro Figueroa, Federico Ibarra, Alejo Acosta
Musicians : Martin Morales, Juan Carlos Acosta, Lucas Coria, Fabian Ybarbas

Tickets: $89 – $120

Malevo will be performed in Sydney until 21 January 2024 before touring to Melbourne 23-28 January.

Dennis Clements is a NIDA Acting graduate and has a BA focused on Literature, Theatre and Journalism. He won the Theatre prize in his graduation year from Curtin University in WA. He has extensive leading role performance credits in both professional and community based companies, and has directed numerous productions for Bankstown Theatre Company and Ashfield Musical society. He is a registered Marriage Celebrant if you want to get hitched, and has also reviewed for Australian Stage online theatre magazine for several years.