Scene: I am taking a musicality seminar in Buenos Aires with Gustavo Naveira and his partner in the dance and life, Giselle. Originally, I was going to ask Gustavo for an interview but Brian, an instructor/organizer from Boulder Colorado, thought that Gustavo might be busy with his new book. So I thought, why not ask Giselle? I did ... she accepted and we set a date. I went online to do some research and didn't find a single interview with only her alone. Most of the time, the interviews were with Gustavo or with them as a couple. This is not to say that there are no interviews with Giselle... but I couldn't find any. Then I was even more excited because, being a woman, I really wanted to hear what Giselle had to say.
Q: Giselle, I couldn't find an interview with you on the internet. Is that true?
Giselle: I did one with a German girl but I don't know if she publicized it.
Q: Well, we will be one of the first. *smile* So, your bio on your website is quite thorough. http://www.gustavoygiselle.com/english/05_cvs/curriculum_ga_ingles.htm In it, you mention that you have had a lot of classical training. How has your classical training helped or not helped?
Giselle: I started with classical ballet when I was very young as my first approach to the dance world and I continued for 10 years. Tango appeared in the middle of that process in 1985-86, and I continued dancing both disciplines. But for me it was difficult to dedicate fully professionally to both, so I chose Tango.
When you have a ballet background and you want to dance Tango you have things in common and others that you need to change.
In classical, you open the body (first position - open and rotate legs) and in Tango you close the body. (legs together). This is the first thing that you notice and you must "correct" that posture. Then, in classical, you dance by yourself to "show" to others, but the priority in Tango is the partnership, the inside, so that changes the focus completely.
Classical helped me because I learned a lot about my own posture and the body's possibilities. You know how to control your balance and how to work with different parts of the body. That is really important, even dancing in a couple.
Q: What are the qualities that make it possible for one to be a good dancer? or have the potential to be?
Giselle: Talking about Tango, the perception of the other person is important.... to dance together. It's important to concentrate deeply on the movement of the other ... not just yourself. This is necessary for the leader and follower.
Also, the rhythm is important, and that is sometimes difficult, but you can train for that.
Q: The embrace is a two way street.
Giselle: Yes, on the side of the leader, he is deciding the movements of the couple but he is aware of the follower's reaction, so at the same time he is "following" the follower and accompanies her movements. On the follower's side, you can react better when you have the movements "inside" and you don't need to "think about it".
Nowadays, you can dance for maybe one year and you can become an advanced dancer. People are dancing better faster but we must keep in mind that the experience of dancing for years gives more quality to the dance.
Q: What makes it easier to be an advanced dancer?
Giselle: There are many more teachers than before (when I started), more milongas and practicas, and more people dancing. So you learn faster.
At the same time, you receive a lot of different opinions, and the dance, I think, is already "discovered" so the learning process is accelerated.
Q: How has teaching changed?
Giselle: At the beginning, nothing was organized. I took classes from Antonio Todaro and Pepito Avellaneda. They were the only ones that have some kind of method. But they taught sequences, and that was the way, because there was not a deep analysis like today.
Q: Did they focus on the follower's technique?
Giselle: Not really. At that moment, they would say, "Close your knees"... what they thought was important and this would be different for each teacher. I figured out many things by myself, dancing and watching.
They taught alone and would use me to demonstrate. I had no role models except at the milongas
Q: Do you dance with other people now?
Giselle: When you dance with different leaders, you learn many things.... and the most important is to "follow" in different ways. But with the same partner, you can develop the "couple dance" and explore the dance more fully/deeper. Both are okay and both are necessary in the dancing tango life.
I did both, but now I'm focusing on the "couple" growth.
Q: I read a quote from Gustavo that Tango makes him feel like a man. Does Tango make you feel like a woman?
Giselle: I always feel like a woman. *laughter* I don't like to dance the role of the man. I learned a lot about leading when I started teaching. Intellectually, I like to lead to understand the dance.
I have always loved to dance. I never did anything else in my life... from 3 years old to now. So, I like to do everything. However in social dance, when it's about Tango, I prefer to follow.
Q: What were some turning points in your career?
Giselle: There were two moments ....
1991 - I performed in London with the cast of "Tango Argentino". It was the last tour of the company and I decided to stay in Europe and not return to Buenos Aires. I stayed in Spain for 7 years and created a tango group from the school of theatre. I started giving classes and 5 - 6 couples became "tango dancers". We started doing performances. To create, teach (and they were not dancers... they were actors), make a show with a script, well.. that experience was incredible.
The second moment was meeting Gustavo. That was the beginning of the change in my dance.
Q: What did you change?
Giselle: The first moment I danced with him, I felt like I had danced with him for my whole life. Still we were different.
He was more a teacher and was crazy to analyze the dance and I was at that moment more into performing. But I was also crazy about the analysis of the Tango. So we could together go deeply into the dance, enjoying much more the improvisation and the choreography. While having the same partner, you can concentrate in more detail in the technique of the dance.
We first met at a festival in Spain. The two of us were teaching alone. The first time we met was at a milonga before the festival. We never met in Argentina. The organizer of the milonga asked us to dance and we had just met two minutes before we did the performance. It was amazing (like we were dancing the whole life together) . Then the festival organizer wanted us to perform together for the festival to a specific song.
A year later, we met again in Spain and then for 2 - 3 years, we would meet in Europe. Then I decided to return to Argentina in 1999. Gustavo and I became partners for the first CITA with Fabian Salas..
Q: Was it difficult to become part of a couple after teaching alone?
Giselle: No, we added our individualities and we built our teaching together. When you have feedback you can create and discover more, if you are in the same way. Alone takes more time...
Q: Do you have any advice for couple who are teaching/dancing together?
Giselle: For me, about the teaching, the most important thing is to be in accordance about the technical issue you are approaching in a class. So, both are saying the same thing to the students. And for the dancing you must be comfortable and like to dance with the other, and then it works.
Q: Has being a mother changed your dance?
Giselle: It certainly changed my life. Our children are our priority. Every time they are first. We adapt our rehearsals, our work etc.... We have continued working but we have less time and I want to continue with both.
Q: But did it change your dance?
Giselle: I didn't see it, but a lot of people told me it did. When my son arrived, they said I changed... was more relaxed. I didn't realize it but I guess I felt more comfortable.
Q: Did Gustavo notice?
Giselle: I don't know. When I asked him Gustavo said: He didn't notice any special thing, because of the children. We are, of course, changing all the time because of a general process.
Q: If you had to choose an element... fire, water, air, earth .. which would you choose to describe your dance?
Giselle: I am a quiet dancer ... so, if I have to choose, I would be for the earth. More grounded, I feel really connected to the earth when I dance. I think also Gustavo is Earth so, I'm comfortable reflecting his dance and creating something together in the same way.
Q: With another leader, would you still be earth?
Giselle: As followers, we always adapt to our leaders but we also keep something of ourselves.
Q: Common problems among dancers?
Giselle: A common problem that I see today is something related to the generational change. There is a clear difference between the actual tango and the old one.
Some people, today, know the dance from before, so, they are trying to keep their knowledge setting "styles" or talking about "traditional" Tango, and they teach in a way they think is good to conserve the sources.
Some others know only the new one. This is the new generation. But they now worry... who is right and who is wrong?
The truth is that the dance has changed. Now we are dancing differently from before. This is the natural evolution. The new generation is dancing already different from me. This is a big change that the Tango went through just from the beginning.
Q: New generation?
Giselle: Yes, the young people are dancing really well. Tango has really improved with the new creational dancers.
Q: Any advice to offer?
Giselle: You should not think that in a certain moment you know everything.. and that you have finished with your learning. Tango has no end.