Claudia Jakobsen

Claudia Jakobsen is an Argentinian tango teacher who lives in Amsterdam. I enjoy to see her dance, but I also enjoy her ideas about teaching. As a teacher, her deepest interest is to communicate the basic and necessary information for the clearest and absolute comprehension in the search of each role, as well to help to find each student's personal and inner search for a unique style.
In 2004 I had an interview with her.

You learned and worked with Fabián Salas, Chicho, Gustavo Naveira (the tango Trinity). Why these men, what do you like about their style, techniques, expression?
Claudia: “When I started with Fabian I did not have any idea about style or technique. I just went to his lessons only because I found everything clear and with a lot of sense. There I met Chicho and I we clicked. With the basis and a lot of knowledge and deep understanding, we went further exploring possibilities around this precise and clear method. As a group we had the feeling we could explore more, we discovered more details and definition about the way of teaching.
I like this style because it gives freedom to men and women. Women not only follow, their role is very important and active. For me it’s the best combination between being lead with a big percentage of participation and expression. To express something, besides the movements, is real dancing!”
With Carla Marano you gave shape to a new teaching method of tango technique for women. What are the principles of this method, how does it work, what are the results?
“It is common that all around the world, only women have the interest of going deep into the technique. Man are so busy with steps that they forget this possibility, which in general will bring them to a higher level of dancing and comfortable movements.
With Carla we wanted to create the possibility that women can fix problems or understand better how to react and move around the men when they lead, all in real action. That can only happen when men are there to lead them. In this way we created exercises where men have to lead the ladies. We tried to listen to them at the same time, so women try to apply and correct their way of walking or pivoting, being in balance and many things.
We also explored exercises and material that women and men can use to work with themselves, to help them discover their own body, its possibilities for movements, its limits, how to break them, basically, to feel and enjoy every small, subtle and important movement while they lead or follow.
The results are great. People find themselves dancing secure, decisive and understood. Their bodies became a new world.”
Teaching a person to dance can be done by a method, but teaching somebody to dance Argentine tango demands something more. What is your idea about the essence of Argentine tango? What is important in your approach to teach your students this essence?
“Argentine tango is basically love and care. It is a dialogue between two people. The man leads but he also cares about her understanding. She follows, giving the most beautiful answers. We give in Argentine tango a lot of power to the men who will take care of us, who will try to make us look the most beautiful woman around. And we, the women, will play this game letting them do it.
Tango is a strong social dance and game. To know a lot about its rules and codes and trying to play with them can be a very interesting point of learning and experiencing. I try to teach with the same passion I have for tango. I am honest and straight. I say what I feel and what I believe. I am Argentine. I can only teach Argentine tango in an Argentine way.”
The issues in your lessons are technique, sensitivity, personal style and communication. A dancer can study and copy elegant movements, but expression has to come from the personality of the performer. Do you try to inspire students to explore their personality, to express more?
“On of the most important points to get from the beginning is self confidence. To feel free. I never ask my students to be correct or whatever they think it is for me. I am the one who has to inform them and give them all the material they need. People use to dance in the way they are. If they are shy or funny they will have a big percentage of it in their dancing. If they are impatient or tensed persons, they will also dance with this.
But on the other hand, tango can also be for people a kind of therapy, what turns them in another person. You as a teacher or me have to be sensible, we should be able to discover this. To work with it or work against it, we must try this together with the students.
To be a performer in a professional way it has to do a lot with talent and nature. I do not say anything about technique because not every professional couple has this in the conventional way. But they are anyway so beautiful, how do you explain this? Is it more beautiful to get feelings or see technique? Are both necessary? I have my opinion but it doesn't mean it is the right one or the only one.”
Nowadays most of your time you teach European students, and of course Dutch students. Is there a difference between European and Argentine students in understanding the music, the interaction between leader and follower, the communication between dancers?
“Yes, there is a difference. This difference comes from culture. That is why I teach in the Argentine way with all the explanations people need to understand how our culture brings tango to that level and deepness in the interaction between men and women.
Talking about leaders and followers is something I don’t do. This is an example of an Argentine way of thinking. I do not know if is good or not, this is me.
The biggest problem I find here in Europe it is not related with the music, it has to do much more with the connexion between men and women. It is a difficult point to talk about. I just can say in a simple way that I miss a lot to play or see the play with the difference of the roles in Argentine tango or the game between men and women that tango lives from.”
And what about the teacher? My opinion is that besides teaching skills a teacher should be an inspiring and social person too. After all tango is a social dance. But maybe you disagree with that. How do you stay inspired in everything you do in tango and how do you share your ideas with your students, colleagues?
“Of course I agree with you. I am a social person. That is true. I am easy going and I love humor which keeps me happy and it helps me a lot when I give my lessons. I'm also very honest and straight. With my students and colleagues I share my ideas but we do not think always the same. I just respect what the others think because I want them respecting me as well. That's it.
To be social in tango it is not only to be kind or nice in life. To become a social person in tango means to know about the basic rules which make the salons a beautiful place to dance for everybody. Your dancing is related to the others as well. You dance with your partner and with the rest of the couples who are enjoying the floor. You take care of your partner and the others. We create the atmosphere dancing all together respecting the rules which are just a few and very simple but VERY IMPORTANT. This is my first important point to teach before steps, sequences or movements.”
What strikes me in your CV is your ‘soloness’. Over seven years you had six dance partners, you don’t stick with one dance partner, but you seem to explore the best of every colleague, partner, city. To me you don’t seem to be afraid for new experiences, new approaches. Am I correct or is it just coincidence?
“I had so many partners just because I didn't take any serious compromise with any of them. Chicho was the first one and maybe the strongest partner I had till today, we had a very strong relationship but I had my career as a modern dancer in Buenos Aires too and I made my choice. He knew it. The same with the other dancepartners, until I moved to Holland. I never looked for a fixed partner to work. But I meet people with beautiful new approaches and I enjoyed them as long as it worked. We liked to dance together at that moment and there were people who liked to watch us. I want to say that I never had problems with anyone about the dancing, they just knew I was not going for a 100%.
I enjoy to work with people like me. Full of fantasies, open mind, a bit crazy. I am an artist, besides teaching I love to dance, tango, modern or ballet. I only want to dance tango with someone who gives me 90% of good moments but if sometimes things do not go in this way I know that there is always something to learn, and that is what I did and I do. I never stop studying, for me, my students, colleagues and public.
I did not find again The Partner but I am not looking for him anyway. I know I will meet him somewhere someday. At this moment I love to dance with Germano Scaperrota from Italy who has this special thing, not possible to explain but óh, he has it.”
You have a modern dance background or education. This is a surplus value to learn new dances, also to learn tango. Did all you dance partners had a classical or modern dance background? Did you notice a difference between dance partners with and without such background/education?
“Only one of them had an strong classical background. I did not notice the difference cause I didn’t compare them. They are so different and they dance also different and beautiful but if I have to be honest, I prefer not dancers at all. Ja!!!
My background helps me a lot for teaching because I have an strong body knowledge which allows me to see very well what the students need to learn or change or fix. I do not want to teach ballet while I teach tango, I do not mix, I prefer to take more examples from the modern dance side.”
You work(ed) with women (Carla Marano, Noel Strazza) and with men (your dance partners). Did you notice a difference between working in tango with men and women? What are your ideas about women in tango? Can you tell also more about working with Noel?
“I love to teach with men of course. I can only do it when we think in the same way. But if I do not believe what he says... úmmmm!!!!
With women, I just worked with Carla, a very good friend, we learned with the same teachers, enough reasons to be accord. Also with Jessica Bijvoet and now with Noel, same example.
My espectations of working with Noel are big. We know eachother for years. We are - with Carla - very, very good friends.
I am looking forward to give the workshops with Noel. The energy we have together is something very important that people will feel, besides the interesting and exiting information they will get.”
In Hamburg you performed your first modern dance solo (with a tango approach). Can you tell something more about it?
“Alejandro Sanguinetti asked me to perform something with a tango approach on the last day of the Hamburg Festival 2002. I liked the idea very much and started to work as soon as I got the idea of this solo. It is a very simple story about a woman who comes home after a tango salon. She is very tired and depressive, and between four columns (I created this solo in Universo tango where four columns in the floor gave me the idea) which represent four people, men or women, she recreates many situations she had that night.
This woman is sometimes a woman and sometimes also a man. The one who tried to seduce her just because she is pretty but not a good dancer; the one she likes but he is not interested; and also many other things happen. This person has a mask which helps to this woman or man to be part of this exiting and not easy atmosphere that tango in Argentina use to be. The one you are ánd the one that others expect you to be.”
What music inspires you to dance and perform tango?
“ I love some orchestras like D’Arienzo with the singer Echague, Calo with the singer Beron, Tanturi with Campos, and the music of Troilo, Pugliese, Tuba Tango, Di Sarli, Pedro Laurenz, Piazzolla, Canaro y su Quinteto Pirincho, Tangos de la Guardia Vieja, Color Tango, Los Cosos de al Lao, Sexteto Mayor, El Arranque, Biagi, Domingo Federico and many more.”
Do you like to dance tango on modern music like Gotan Project and Narcotango? What are your ideas about this music in salons?
“Yes, I like it but only when it is possible to dance in a modern way as well. This is the problem, it doesn’t happen very often. For me, modern or new tango it is not rock and roll and it is only possible to find a modern vocabulary when you experienced the old one or the basis.
That is what my teachers who are now known as teachers of ‘Tango Nuevo’ did before (Tango Nuevo, something new for me as well).
I have nothing against it when played in the salon. It needs only a special place into the night, as every music does. To create a nice atmosphere is part of the music too. To mix without logic does not build anything during the night.”
What are your future goals, your ambitions in Holland, Europe, Buenos Aires?
“My ambition is to live from my work. To teach and to dance. To put my sand stone in tango. To help as much as I can to elevate the level of tango in Holland and of course in Europe too, or wherever I can teach or dance.”
Are you happy with the tango life in The Netherlands or are you ‘tango homesick’?
“Yes I am Happy. If we talk about tango, there is no place in the world you can compare with Buenos Aires. There will never be a better place than my city. Tango is Buenos Aires or Buenos Aires is Tango, but it is possible to build everywhere a nice tango scene.
I am sometimes tango homesick, that’s why I go to Buenos Aires in August. It is part of my life to go there, to get the energy that tango in Buenos Aires has and to bring it with me here for my lessons and my dancing.”
http://www.claudiajakobsen.com.ar/
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Claudia Jakobsen
John Lanting
Orkest Tango Dorado
Mabel González
Madonna Ciccone
Katrien Karimoen
Miss Flora Gattina
Arjan & Marianne
Birkit & Muzaffer