To read the full interview for TangoDanza.de, in english, click HERE
Tango Study from the View of the Woman's Role
Giselle Anne & Diana Cruz
A(other) look into the Structure,Technique and Rhythm of the Dance,
the Lead and the Follow, from the follower's perspective.
These classes are NOT
Women's Technique Classes (although there will naturally be technique involved);
Leading Technique for Ladies Classes (although one of us will be leading and the other following, so that tango can take place 😉)
Leading Focused Classes (although there will be leading happening. Women and Men who lead are welcome!!);
Embellishment/Decorations Classes (although these are built in the technicality of the dance)
Women Only Classes (despite of the fact that we, two women, are teaching it 💃💃)
Beginners Classes for Women who want to learn to lead.
The classes are Tango Structure, Technique and Rhythm, viewed/analyzed/studied from the perspective of role of the Woman/"Follower". The "leader" AND the "follower", both understanding what is going on in the underlying grammar of the language that BOTH roles speak!!
Come and check it out!
NOTE: Classes are designed for dancers of BOTH roles, single and/or couples
About the New Class Series (Feb 2021): We will treat this new Series as a continuation from the previous. Inevitably we will revisit the fundamentals, going over the basic concepts, BUT with new exercises and sequences. Also, we will analyze figures that we have not included in the previous Series. Hence, if you previously attended our Series, this is a great opportunity to reinforce the knowledge achieved before, to clarify your doubts, if any, to look at the information and exercise them from new angles AND to learn new concepts. Additionally, we will add a section at the end of each class for “extra credits”, designed and directed to challenge further those of you who are ready to take in more! IF you are new to our class Series, the classes are conveniently designed for new comers as well!
Photos by: Marie-Domique Verdier - mdvphotos.com
German Magazine for Tango Argentino
No. 1 2021 - Jan Feb March
The Woman's View
Giselle Anne and her lessons from the perspective of the follower's role
by Maike Christen
english translation by Diana Cruz and Giselle Anne
Giselle Anne is a brilliant analyst of the tango dance and a broad-minded woman: In her latest project with Diana Cruz, she shows how we can consistently analyze and convey tango dance for both roles from the side of the follower. The result is an exciting lesson that turns the view of the dance upside down.
The tango world was still in order at that time. At least almost. In a tranquil setting, nestled against a mountain range, in the summer of 2019, the town will get a little out of hand: In a bright, unadorned hall with a mirror front, two women in suits are standing amid a crowd: one in white, one in black, both with the jackets open, flashing belly buttons, high heeled shoes. "Mamita," whispers one and whistles through his teeth. Such sexy things. Even the clothes make a statement. What follows in this lesson is a firework of explanations of the Tango Dance -from the woman's point of view, from the point of view of the follower, as Giselle Anne & Diana Cruz say.
Women and men try out what the two propose - sometimes in one role, sometimes in the other: What are the basics of the giro? What is a back ocho? And what is a boleo? But this time it's not about what the leader has to do. The focus is on the other side: how can we structurally analyze the steps and figures that the follower dances? Which information does the follower need for her dance? Which not? Where does she put her steps in relation to the leader? And why?
Gustavo Naveira and Donato Juarez remain on the sidelines, a little overwhelmed by the unusual situation in which they are not the center of attention. Donato has at least one task: he puts on the music for the lesson while Gustavo struggles to find an attitude.
The Grammar of Tango
"Tango Study from the view of the Woman's Role" is the title of the series of classes by Giselle Anne and Diana Cruz. And it seems so new, so unusual, that this title needs a longer explanation in the advertisement: it says that it is not a women's technique class, nor is it a class where women learn how to lead or learn ornaments, nor is it an exclusively women's class.
What is it then?
Giselle laughs, "The title again says: We explain the tango from the follower's perspective," she explains, "What does the follower need to follow? What information do I need to get from the leader? And from the leader's side, what information do I need to give the follower? And which is not necessary?" And she continues:"Often, the follower expects a "lead" that the leader is not responsible for, because it is predetermined by the structure of Tango - or because it is something the follower needs to know herself.
In short, it is about the underlying grammar of the Argentine tango, which is equally important for both roles.The basis for this is the Código de Marcha. This 'code of walking' describes first of all how the follower moves around the axis of the leader: front cross - open step - backcross - open step - front cross. This sequence of steps is usually called 'molinete'. She cannot choose the sequence of steps, and neither can the leader - he can only actively interact and/or interrupt this code.
It is precisely this sequence of steps that is retained if, for example, the leader walks constantly along the open side of the embrace; in which case she sets her front cross locked and her hips remain aligned frontally to the leader - as in the so-called 'base'.
According to Giselle Anne, the eternal controversy in the tango community as to whether the woman's locked front cross is led or not does not arise: the locked front cross is part of the code, part of the grammar, and the follower carries it out without additional information from the leader.
"Throughout the Tango dance, this 'code of walking' is continuously present," explains Giselle, "this is what is special about tango -no other dance has this code as base." Each step of the follower is part of a turn (front - open - back - open - front - open - etc.) around the leader as the center, whether actually turned or walked in a line, either to the right or left around him. Of course, in tango one can also simply walk 'in a line', in front of each other and with a constant sequence of open steps; however, according to Giselle Anne, this is not exactly the most typical basic step of Tango.
Making the dance more fluid and precise
"So, there is a basis that doesn't need to be led and from which we can dance," says Giselle Anne. This frees incredibly! And it has an effect on many levels: It makes the dance more fluid, more precise, faster, and more coordinated.
"But of course," Giselle continues, "for anyone who doesn't understand the structure of tango, every single step has to be led. And of course you can dance anything you like. No one should think that we are 'against' leading! We only limit it to what is necessary," she says, and it is obvious how important it is to her that everything is understood correctly. "In tango, new things will continue to appear again and again, new figures will be invented -and all of this is led, and all of this is leadable," she explains, "but the big difference is that when we understand the structure, it becomes clear to us that many things no longer need to be led. And we work from this basis".
If the leader knows what the rules are for the role of the follower, if he knows where she is in the code, then he can continue to operate within the situation and either let her continue the code or interrupt it - whereupon the code resumes again. On the other hand, the follower does not have to think about where the journey is going with each step, but can relax and concentrate on the performance of her steps, which enhance the movement and the dance of both of them. To be able to explore tango dance from the perspective of the follower and thus to teach both roles - that is new. And it allows a fresh look at that which appears to be familiar.
Tango is not a mystery
"By knowing this structure, we as followers will expect less from the leader. I am not saying that we dance alone, but then we know what the parameters are that we are following. The tango is not a mystery, everything is delimited -even if at the same time the new creations and the combinations of steps are infinite. But there is a basic structure. When we know this, when we understand it, everything becomes easier and requires less effort."
Giselle thinks. Clarifies. Argues. Explains. Repeats. Passionate and effervescent, as if she hadn't already expressed her point of view hundreds of times. With the fresh enthusiasm of a discoverer, she keeps her listeners coming back for more.
"The problem is that it is not understood what the function of the follower in the dance is. Since I don't have to lead, 'I don't have to do anything', it seems. In fact, if I understand the dance, understand its structure, I have to do a lot, many things that the leader does not lead and that contribute to the functioning and the success of the dance. It is a mistake to think that the follower does nothing but a little embellishment to shine with - the embellishment is the least of the problems."-.
The Pope and the Empress
This lesson from the perspective of the follower also throws a spotlight on the work of one of the most important teacher couples in the history of Argentine Tango: Gustavo Naveira & Giselle Anne. He, the tango pope, in the searching for the tango structure from the very beginning. She, the show dancer who has toured with legendary productions such as Tango Argentina and Tango Pasion. "That's how everyone sees it", interjects Giselle. "He, the analyst, me the show dancer. But since we started working together, we have analyzed everything together." Today, the tango pope is faced with a tango empress, clever and witty, broad-minded and sharp-witted.
Giselle Anne and Gustavo Naveira have been a team since 1996. A quarter of a century in which the two of them have repeatedly taught the structure of Argentine tango (and, as a key element of it, the Código de Marcha) in countless workshops and their famous 'Seminarios' all over the world. In concepts that they developed together - and with analyses that they worked out together - especially in their packed weekly seminars, in which they viewed, combined and exchanged thematically all elements, figures and movements.
At that time it was a novelty to deal so deeply, so tangibly and intensively with a single topic and to bring light to it from all sides. Like in 2004, when the two of them spent a week in the magnificent hall of the Club Español in Buenos Aires, examining all the possibilities of changes of direction, explaining them, packaging them in sequences and everyone in the room asked themselves: Why has no one ever made it so clear to us before?
We haven't invented anything; we've just discovered it
"We are only now really understanding how everything is connected," says Giselle Anne. "The understanding of the structure has evolved over these years. We didn't invent it, we just discovered it. We tried to understand what happens when dancing tango and how it works."
In these 25 years of discovering together, the two have always developed new energy. "We are just starting," says Gustavo Naveira each time with complete conviction and again the following year.
In the bright hall from the beginning of our story, in a faceless low-rise building on the edge of the Rocky Mountains, in the small college town of Boulder, Giselle and Gustavo stand in the midst of their students and discuss a figure they have just shown. "In my opinion ... ", Giselle says, puts her arms to her hips, laughs and explains her point of view. "Aha," Gustavo mumbles thoughtfully, crosses his arms, tilts his head, touches his chin and comes up with a counter-argument after her explanation. Sometimes one grants the other the advantage of his point of view, another time it's the other way round and a third time they both show their respective versions of a step and explain the reasons for it..
Always playful and always full of humor.
But why are these classes not consistently taught half the time from the follower's point of view?
"In the classes with Gustavo we focus on the mechanism in the couple. And there is a big, a very big need to talk about the role of the leader," Giselle explains, "because the leader has to understand the step." She adds: "It's a widespread misconception to assume that the follower simply follows. But in fact, even if the follower doesn't understand the step," and Giselle laughs again, "even then the step will - more or less - work. In class, you run out of time, so I can only partially explain the structure from the follower's point of view. Furthermore, it seems that the teacher-follower is expected to speak mainly of the small embellishment or of the best performance of the movement. But these are minor details compared to the structure. Actually, the follower has to learn a lot more to improve the dance. This is something very substantial that has to be discussed in-depth and independently"
The Tango Vision of Two Masters
The idea of opening up a space for tango from a woman's point of view arose from this necessity - and in conversations with Diana Cruz, who had started dancing tango with her former partner Nick Jones. Since Giselle and Gustavo first came to Boulder in 2007 and Diana attended one of their 'seminars', she has absorbed their system. "When it comes to tango and its structure, Diana shares our vision," says Giselle, "that's why we understand each other so well."
Without the tango vision of Giselle Anne and Gustavo Naveira, Tango Study from the View of the Woman's Role would be unthinkable. The Código de Marcha forms the basis for their vision of tango - from which they explain all the other elements.
Naveira-Anne pass on their insights in their Programa Progresivo, a unique teaching concept that accompanies tango dancers from the very beginning, gradually decoding and explaining the dance to them. The two developed this program when they finally settled in Boulder in 2009 after years of traveling the globe. Since opening their Boulder Tango Studio in 2013, they have been teaching their Program there, witnessing the development and progress of their students. In the Progressive Program, too, the focus is on women's movement. From the very first lesson, the leader is encouraged to perceive what the follower is doing. Because actually, as Giselle and Gustavo keep repeating, the tango is - to put it bluntly - mainly about the question: Where is the woman? In which position of the code is she? And: In which direction does she continue around the leader, left or right?
The Tango in the Diaspora
In this small town in the middle of the USA on the edge of the prairie, where people are close to nature and jog sportingly through the high mountains, here in the diaspora - and this always seems peculiar - beats a great heart of the tango. From there, the “Progressive Program” is spreading far and wide through their teacher training, which is also one of Naveira-Anne's projects: it is already being taught in New York, Taiwan and Hamburg.
And - even more curious - in these strange times of a Pandemic, this distant little town is coming very close to us. "You just have to understand the technicality" says Giselle, and this time she means computer technology and not the tango technic. "I've stopped trying to do my classes the way I used to do, my in presence classes," she says cheerfully. "I have developed a new technique class, an hour without a break, where I show the movements and explaining at the same time, and the participants all join this new way of training straight away - it goes very well!".
Giselle and Diana also had to give Tango Study from the View of the Woman's' Role via Zoom this year. "And yes, says Giselle, it makes a huge difference. In last year's classes, there were constant changes of partners, lots of exercises, always with a different partner. Now the focus in our classes is more on theory, on understanding the structure, and not so much on the practical side, on doing and feeling."
Where do we go from here? "At first, we thought the online course would last two, three months. Then we thought it would all be over by the end of the year. And now? Well, a few things are possible again in the 'in-person" classes, but in Tango, how could we do it, following a social distancing protocol? In Tango we have to embrace!"
This is a time to start new projects, she thinks. And she is looking forward to resume what have been postponed: the workshops in Europe, hopefully in the summer of 2021, including Berlin where she's been invited to teach with Gustavo Naveira and with Diana Cruz.
Maike Christen often enjoys writing about her second hometown, Buenos Aires. She has been an enthusiastic follower of Giselle Anne and Gustavo Naveira ever since she attended their seminar there in 2004.