Scanning the room, your eyes become locked with a potential partner in a visual embrace that seems to extinguish the outside world. Once intertwined, forceful and deliberate movements make up an exotic language that has no words.
Stop those naughty thoughts; I’m talking about dance.
Surely you’ve heard the adage about what it takes to tango. Yet for the uninitiated, following the precise footsteps of this exotic dance can be a singular exercise in futility. Luckily, two of the best tango dancers in the world call Boulder home.
The tango originated in Argentina sometime in the second half of the 1800s. Known for sudden, precise movements and aesthetic beauty, the tango has become the de facto national dance of the country. It was there in 1995 that Gustavo Naveira, from a family of dancers, and Giselle Anne, who started out dancing ballet, first partnered together.
“Our first dance was in public,” Giselle says. “We had never danced a single step together before that. The first time we danced, we saw immediately that we were understanding each other very well.”
Today, Gustavo and Giselle represent the best of what the genre has to offer. They have traveled the world showing off their synergy as dancing partners. Yet despite larger hotbeds of dance such as Buenos Aires or New York, Boulder is where the duo decided to make a home. And they want to spread their tango fluency to others.
“The tango is nearly a language,” says Gustavo Naveira.
The system of dance that is tango consists of a structure of moves where the male leads and the female follows. Unlike the waltz or polka, two other dances that feature a face-to-face embrace, cultural adaptation to tango in South America led to experimentation and creativity within the dance. Gustavo notes that “once you learn how to operate within that structure, there is no end to the combinations” you can create. He and Giselle explain the intricacies of their craft with the same flowing duality that shows on the dance floor.
“It’s a very strong and solid system that can be used to create new moves and to improvise while you’re dancing,” Gustavo says.
“To improvise, we really need to understand each other and to follow the music in the same way to be like one person. From the side of the woman, it’s a lot to do,” Giselle says.
As for the female following the male’s lead, Giselle warns not to get lost in feminist ideals. It’s just dance. Any appearance of subservience on the part of the female in tango is just that.
“Some people may think because the woman is following that she’s not really dancing. But really you need to dance together. It’s a base where we are together, but at the same time we are improvising together and into the dance at that moment,” Giselle says.
“When you see it, it looks natural,” Gustavo says of the gliding movements and sensual embrace inherent in the dance.
After making inroads into the local community, Gustavo and Giselle have taught some of the best dancers from all over the country. For the past three years, they have organized the Boulder Tango Festival, a two-week celebration of the dance. Replete with seminars, workshops and performances, the festival offers something for experienced dancers and the culturally curious yet double left-footed onlookers alike.
“They keep it really interesting and fun so you don’t space out and get bored and wish you were somewhere else,” says Marlena Rich, a veteran of the local tango scene who helps to organize the festival. “They are more articulate at teaching tango in English than any American that I’ve ever worked with. They clearly understand a way to transmit the language of moving your body.”
The couple is giving a look into the world of tango for local residents to experience. During the Boulder Tango Festival, held at the Avalon Ballroom, Gustavo and Giselle will be offering a free beginner’s class at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6.
Put on some decent clothes, try on those dancing shoes and bring a bottle of wine to go along with complementary hors d’oeuvres. After the beginner’s class, stick around for the milonga, a tango dance party with enough energy and moves to keep moving all night.
“You can dance tango in a very simple way, and not have any tango background. There are very simple steps that you can do and enjoy,” Rich says. “In between dancing we get to chat and get to know one another, so it’s a sense of connectivity.”
Gustavo finds that embracing the language of tango can provide benefits long after the music stops.
“I think it’s something very good for your spirit to be able to dance with other people. It’s a very good solution for a lot of modern life problems,” Gustavo says.