Monday, 2 November 2009

A novel idea - the Tango de Salon room at 33 Portland Place

While I have been away in the sunshine, I’ve been missing out on some of the recent tango gossip. One of the most interesting developments has been the introduction of the 'Tango de Salon room' at 33 Portland Place (a regular Sunday night milonga – review to follow shortly). Apparently, it was started up a few weeks ago and the first two sessions were overseen by Adrian Costa (visiting and teaching with his partner Amanda). The aim was to create a room where floor-craft rather than any particular moves/styles was the focus. Certain rules were put in place (ie: no overtaking, sticking to your ‘lane’, always moving in the correct direction etc) and apparently enforced (see Ms Hedgehog’s account of the first two weeks).

Having suffered from a particularly nasty case of the ‘bumps’ (think dodgems and battering ram) while out on Friday night, I was keen to see how this room worked and whether it would be accepted or slated by the tango community (rumours had reached me that some dancers were rather offended when their floor-craft was called into question!)

So what was the verdict? Well, in my opinion quite good. There was a short announcement before the milonga started explaining the principles and then there were flyers on the tables detailing the ‘Dos and Don’ts’. Generally, the room was not that busy but that was partly due to the fact that there was a live music for dancing in the other room. I noticed a few people making an active attempt at cajoling other dancers or their partners into sticking to the rules and certainly the line of dance kept flowing much better than in most milongas I’ve been to. I certainly felt able to (sweetly) mention the rules to one partner I was dancing with myself and chastised, he danced the rest of the tanda in synchrony with the rest of the couples. [Later, he told me that he had been unaware of the rules - possibly a way to save face? - although surely not a good excuse, as it implies that he felt good floor-craft was somehow separate from his normal social tango!]

It will be interesting to see if this room can survive or whether the tango community will ignore it. Certainly, last night it was not very busy but the question is why? Was it merely because there was live music upstairs? Is it mainly a question of presence (ever since I have been going to 33P I have perceived that the main room was the upstairs room – due to its atmosphere and close proximity to the drinks)? Or is it just that some dancers actually don’t like the idea of being ‘confined’ or ‘restricted’ to the conventions of ‘tango de salon’. Is this room going to merely be for a certain kind of milonguero?

One of the organisers told me that this room’s survival will depend on the amount of people that use it and enjoy it. They have already received some comments from people saying that they disliked the room and I’ve also heard whispers of ‘pretentious’ and ‘too BA orientated’ from others but apart from this negativity, most people I have spoken to are in approval and welcome this idea.

So, does this kind of room appeal or repel you? And if you approve, then Londoners vote with your feet and meet me in the Tango de Salon room!


  1. It's certainly a lot more relaxing and pleasant to dance in, and although I agree that they haven't given it the best room, they will in time if it grows big enough. I think that if you like the idea, it's a good thing to chat to people about it so they realise that there are people who do like the idea of basic good manners being expected.

    I don't give a damn what they do in BsAs, although that can be used as a convenient excuse; I want people to dance better here. So I'm certainly going as much as I can. I went upstairs for the live music, though.

  2. Wonderful news!! The word must be getting out! I had to miss it last night in the end but can’t wait to have some smooth, ‘bump-free’ tandas next week. By the way, was it your ‘motorway’ postcards I saw on the tables the week before? They were a light touch and nicely backed up the ‘Dos and Don’ts’.

  3. Yes, I gave them all the rest of my stock. The do's and don'ts can be polished a bit, but the light touch is something we need I think, so some more ideas on the same lines would be good.

    It worked really well for the hour between 10 and 11 - at 11 a lot of people have to leave because of the Sunday trains.

  4. Hi Golondrina

    Good to read about the salon at 33. One of the (many) problems of tangocommuting is being at the mercy of train timetables, which can be very erratic at weekends when there's track maintenance going on. I look forwards to dancing at 33 again, and I think it's a great idea. I hope it will continue.

    I think it's fair to say that 'rules' are only evident in BsAs when there are visitors around. The locals know how to dance considerately: sadly, it's visitors who haven't learned this. Not all of us, of course, but visitors who want to show off in front of Argentines create problems. Club proprietors welcome visitors very warmly, but they also have to be firm, otherwise their regular clientele would go elsewhere. & I think it's a pity that we have to have 'rules' posted in London, that we have to be prohibited from being inconsiderate and showing off. We all ought to know better, but I guess dancers are trying to look like their teachers... Too bad considerate dancing isn't emphasised often enough.

    The 'rules' only make sense in a crowded room. If there are only two couples on the floor, it doesn't make any sense to keep to lanes. Floorcraft is only learned on crowded floors, which is where it is relevant. & I think there is a 'style' in Salon: it's close embrace and with the feet kept close to the floor, and it's smooth and elegant, but it can be energetic, and humourous at the same time. There's no one 'tango'.

    & I must say that, personally, frankly, I do give a damn about what they do in Buenos Aires. They wrote all that music, and all those poems, and they devised the dance too. They've been working on it for a century, night in and night out, so they've refined it and come up with answers. Of course it would be senseless to do something for no other reason than that it's done there, but when it comes to tango there's a long tradition there for us to benefit from!

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