Back in Berlin
Gustavo Naveira & Giselle Anne
by Andra Joeckle
After almost 20 years, Gustavo Naveira and Giselle Anne were back in Berlin for the first time. The star couple had actually wanted to travel to the tango metropolis on the Spree two years earlier, but Corona threw a spanner in the works. But now, in July 2022, they were back. Seeing many old acquaintances again must have been touching. The Walzerlinksgestrickt, where the two performed, was so well attended that a side room was opened.
G&G dance noble gray. Muted colors. No virtuoso colorfulness. They dance sedate, mature and calm. Gustavo shows an amiable macho charm, which Giselle knows how to parry and enjoy with exquisite tanguera pride. Their technique is, of course, impeccable, and they are so attuned to each other that Giselle Anne's slight slip on the mirror-smooth parquet is so imperceptibly incorporated into the flow of the dance as if it were not. They savor the changes in dynamics more than before and have once again refined their style, finds Dominik Müller, who has been a friend of Gustavo's for over 30 years and of Giselle Anne's for about 25 years and who looks after the two of them as an organizer. Their cooperation seems balanced and characterized by mutual respect, and so the first 'G' in the catchy abbreviation G&G may mean both 'Gustavo' and 'Giselle'.
About half of the people who came to the workshops were out-of-towners. The two veterans of tango teach so experienced that even experts still learn something when they explain the base. Gustavo sometimes takes a stick out of his pocket, takes it off and measures the distance between his foot and Giselle Anne's foot on the floor. You smile and understand: Millimeters matter, nuances matter, and not just when it comes to distance. It seems as if Gustavo parries with humor the accusation that they dance with too much technique and too little heart.
The two of them are approachable and modest, as people who have made it to a special greatness often are. They have kept their feet on the (dance) ground, their worldwide fame has not gone to their heads. They are matter-of-fact and approachable in an engaging way. No airs and graces disfigure their nature and demeanor.
First, let's talk about your current impressions. How have you been in the past few days?
Gustavo: We met some new people. The city has changed a little bit. The dance level is the same. It is still very high. Our students pay attention to what we teach. They like to learn.
The milonga culture in Berlin has changed just like the one in Buenos Aires. In what way?
Gustavo: Everything is a little crazier. More different dance styles have emerged. Gustavo, they say you revolutionized the tango.
Gustavo: Well, no. We just developed a series of questions in terms of technology, going into great detail. There are people who see this as some kind of revolution. But it's not like that. What we're doing is just refining the analysis and expanding the dance knowledge. In the past, people danced without an academic knowledge of dance, rather a little bit by chance. What we are doing is an intellectual analysis of dance.
You invented the so-called 'Paso Naveira'. What is it all about? Is there also a Paso Giselle Anne?
Giselle: We analyze the structure, but we don't give a name to each step because the combinations vary a lot. What we called 'Paso Naveira' was originally a combination, a mini-sequence that we named so that we could remember it better and talk about it.
Gustavo (joking): We named it that so everyone would ask us about it.
What distinguishes your workshops from those of other teachers? What is your so-called unique selling
Gustavo: We don't know because we don't participate in each other's classes. But I think it's because we go into great detail about the structure.
Giselle: And that corresponds to our teaching method, to proceed in a very organized way, with strict thought coherence.
Gustavo: At least that's what people say.
Gustavo, you once said that it is crucial for the leader to be very aware of what follows.
Gustavo: Yes. To lead the partner well, you have to know all the time what is happening with her, with her weight, her speed, the rhythm, with the steps, with the leading into the cross, with the openings. This is where the quality of the dance begins, with the exact perception of what is happening with the partner.
One advice to the led is that they must want to seduce the leader. What is to be thought of this?
Giselle: This is a very yesterday's idea of the tango.
Gustavo: That's a picturesque, not a reality. This is nonsense.
Giselle: One dances with the other because he dances well, not because he seduces.
Another picturesque idea of tango is that he, the leader, is the exhibitor and she, the led, is the jewel he exhibits.
Gustavo: No, no.
Why is this so wrong?
Giselle: People like to say poetic, but the reality of dance is not.
Gustavo: At its core, it's about communication. Two people talk to each other in a special way. That he exhibits it as a jewel is the same nonsense as the rose in the mouth and so on. The tango is something much more human. It is a serious matter.
Giselle: Leading and following is more balanced. It's not that the woman is only there for the man to make her look pretty and 'dance'. The tango is difficult, and if you haven't acquired a certain technique and reached a certain level, then you start adding to it.
It is said that the man needs ten years to learn tango, the woman only one year.
Gustavo: No, that's not true. They both need ten years. That's the minimum to be able to dance more or less properly.
There is a curious anecdote about the origin of the 'extended step'. A begrudger threw a banana peel in front of your dancing feet. Giselle slipped on it into a longer step, from which you developed a whole family of figures.
Gustavo: This is material for a comedy.
Giselle: It couldn't possibly have really been like that. If the room is big, the steps are big; if the room is
small, the steps are small.
Gustavo: The bigger step is sometimes more elegant, more intense. Usually you have to take a big step faster.
Giselle: And there is a technique for that. Gustavo: And so sometimes it becomes more elegant, more dynamic.
Giselle: At a show you do bigger steps, at a milonga smaller ones because of the many people.
Gustavo: But the banana anecdote is a joke. The tango has a reputation that does not correspond to reality. It has something very important: improvisation. You dance in the moment, you decide in the moment. The experience is very intense because there is a communication between two people that is not through speaking. This creates a depth of relationship between two people that has great value, stays in your memory and that you want to experience again and again. Tango dancing is a real experience, not fiction, not a fairy tale, not a "good night story". These old theatrical ideas about tango have nothing to do with reality.
So the tango is unique, deep human experience?
Gustavo: Exactly, a deep human experience. Another interesting aspect is that they dance to the music of the 40s and 50s. This is real tango music. This is the music that was created when the tango was an elementary concern of the musicians. Then came the era of Piazzolla. He ennobled, enriched the whole tango world. But after Piazzolla, the musical development of tango ended. Everything that came after are copies or quasi-copies of the music of the 40s and 50s. But people dance to that music of yesteryear. That's a clue that the experience is supposed to be real _ because people are dancing to real music, not copies. I say this to explain that the tango remains a real interpersonal experience.
What do you wish for the future?
Gustavo: Because of the pandemic, the tango has lost countless dancers. Many have stopped dancing and have not come back. They have turned to other things. Let's hope that the tango will be danced again as it was before the pandemic.
More info: www.gustavoygiselle.org
Gustavo Naveira came to Buenos Aires at the age of six, where he grew up. At 20, as a student of economics at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, he caught tango fire, thanks to Rodolfo Dinzel, with whom he took lessons.
He has two children with his ex-wife Olga Besio, who are now also gifted tango dancers.
Giselle Anne began dancing ballet at the age of three and discovered tango at 17. In 1995, the two met at the tango festival in Sitges, when they danced together for the first time - right on stage, without having met before. Since then they have been a team, a couple since 1999, until today. For the past 15 years, Giselle and Gustavo have been living in Boulders, Colorado, in the USA, where they run a dance studio. Every year they tour the world.
The date for the next Berlin visit of G&G is already fixed, from July 3 to 9, 2023 - with an extended program. Giselle Anne will hold seminars together with Diana Cruz on three additional days, in particular technique classes on tango from the perspective of the following, but also intended for leaders.
A month before, the two will be guests in Switzerland, from June 7 to 11 in Lugano.
Photos: Sepp de Vries