Giselle Anguizola — aka “G” — is the embodiment of artist empowerment. As a creator, she’s a force to be reckoned with, but not in the intimidating or controlling way. It’s more like she shows up and you know things are going to happen around you. You’re going to be inspired, see things in new ways, be less afraid, more free.
Believe it or not, she’s been cultivating this in the dance and arts community for two decades now.
If you’ve ever come across those YouTube videos of Mad Dog from 2003, you’ll find G there dancing among Naomi Uyama, Peter Strom, Andy Reid, Nina Gilkenson, Skye Humphries and Jojo Jackson.
She’s gone from introducing the Girl Jam concept to the vernacular jazz world and teaching the follower track at Camp Hollywood for seven years straight to becoming a musician, creating shows for artists. She’s hired more than 100 musicians and dancers in the past five years, partnering with her husband, John Saavedra, who is The Swinging Gypsies’ bandleader. They are always finding new opportunities for the music and dance community to work.
“It got to the point where dancers and musicians who were coming to town would reach out to us to see if we had any gigs coming up,” she says.
Something G takes pride in is consistently providing equal pay for all performers involved and not accepting trade deals — in a sense that one would have to pay their dues because of a social hierarchy. She pays everyone appropriately for their time, energy and service.
“I always want people to feel fully respected for their service as a human being instead of just someone that can do something for the organization,” she explains.
One of her most recent performances in February was at the Ogden Museum, a gorgeous space with a gothic library vibe.
“Swing music was easy to enjoy because, being Latina, I grew up with Salsa and Merengue. The mixtures of instrumentation in big band music called to me. I loved performing and imagining myself in another era. I could be identified outside of my culture. It was American music. It was rebellious.”
Growing up, G played softball for seven years until sophomore year in high school. Alongside, that, she had also taken piano lessons from about age 6. But at age 13, her school music teacher taught basic swing dance as part of a music class and she fell in love.
Her music teacher swing danced socially in Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego.
“Thank God for this music teacher, and for the arts. This one woman changed my life,” G remarks.
Soon after, Giselle saw a flier at a gelato place advertising a workshop taught by Catrine Ljunggren and Josie Say. Lisa Conway hired the pair to come to San Diego and teach a Lindy Hop workshop. They had both taught with Frankie Manning. Giselle learned a Swedish/American style Lindy Hop that most called ‘modern savoy.’ Unlike the California smooth style, this was bouncy and had a groove, incorporating Hip Hop elements. Later on, she discovered a smoother style in a workshop with Peter Loggins and Lisa Ferguson, another event hosted by Lisa Conway and the San Diego Swing Dance Society.
She enjoyed social dancing in Orange County and went to her first competition, ALHC 2000.
“I moved around a lot, and swing dancing was a way for me to connect with people,” G explains.
From the early to mid 2000s, she taught with Andy Reid, Peter Loggins, Skye Humphries, Todd Yannacone, Chester Whitmore, and many others. She continued to travel, compete and teach regularly, until a severe back injury threatened to change the course of her life.
During Palm Springs, a Lindy Hop and West Coast Swing event in 2003/04, she and her partner did a practice run of their routine right before they were supposed to go out on stage. She landed the backflip poorly and doctors told her she would never be able to dance again.
That didn’t stop G, though. She started practicing yoga and healed herself. Once she was feeling better, she saw an opportunity to work with Todd Yannacone.
Todd didn’t care about aerials — which, at the time was all the rage in the scene, along with fast dancing.
“It wasn’t the right vibe for me at the time. I was there to connect with people,” G recalls.
In 2005 G started the first all follow-focused weekend in SoCal called ‘Girl Jam,’ with the help of her friend Jojo Jackson.
At the time, most instructors were hired as a couple, where the leader would be the more prominently recognized instructor in the partnership. Girl Jams challenged that trend and organizers started hiring people as individual dancers.
“It was normal for me to see two women teaching together, because that’s what I saw in the classes I took.”
They put together an all-lady routine called Hot Pockets, which was a response to a guys-only routine called Sausages.
The gentlemen followed the second year with the sequel, Goldmember, and the ladies responded with the routine, Honey Pot.
Girl Jams began popping up everywhere, stretching from California to abroad.
G is somewhat of a nonconformist. She remarked how in the following years it seemed like there were patterns in the community where diversity and inclusion were not at the forefront.
“I just wanted to be out there and show: here’s someone not conforming to everyone’s style. I can dance differently and still be accepted.”
In 2010, G moved to New Orleans.
“I wanted to live every day of my life as an artist and share that with people. New Orleans fulfilled that for me.”
Now G and her husband John have two homes– one in San Diego and one in New Orleans, traveling seasonally for work.
During her first five years in New Orleans, she started training in fast dancing and aerials again with her partner, Chance Bushman.
Later, in 2015 she partnered with Justin Zillman at Camp Hollywood and continued working with many others including Nathan Bugh, Ryan Calloway and Adam Brozowski.
And now after many years of cultivating her own voice as a singer/solo jazz/tap dancer, you can expect to see her at some upcoming dance events — like ILHC, after the pandemic.
“I’ve always enjoyed creating projects that have an avenue for artists to feel respected and valued.”
Let’s have a listen.