Thursday, 18 February 2010

Milonga Review: Tango @ 33

Location: Tango @ 33, (Feb 2010) Pushkin House, 5a Bloomsbury Square, Holborn, WC1A 2TA
Dates and times: Sundays Milonga (generally 8.30-12.30am), Classes (TBC but seems to be 5.30-7 beginners and improver classes, 7-8.30pm intermediates – see website for more details)
Cost: £12(class and milonga), £10 (milonga only)
Average drinks price: Ample jugs/bottles of tap water, a few bottles of wine (you need to be quick) soft drinks, juice (all free)
Food: A few free nibbles (biscuits, crisps) and on special occasions cake (!)

Website: Tango @ 33

Following the unexpected closure of 33 Portland Place, Tango @ 33 has been trying to find a new location. After a brief flirtation with Porchester Hall, it has now moved (semi-permanently) to Pushkin House in Bloomsbury (Feb 2010). The milonga covers 4 floors although there are only 2 suitable for dancing (the others contain the reception/cloakroom and a room for drinks/nibbles). The dance floors are a little bit small for the Tango @ 33 crowd but this may just have been because of the numbers on what was Opening Night. The organisers have deliberately tried to find a location with a similar atmosphere to Portland Place so expect chandeliers, a curving staircase and slightly shabby furniture. They have also kept the Tango de Salon room.

Classes: Regular beginners class (with Naomi), occasional Improvers class (with Alex and Silvia), regular Intermediate class (generally with guest teachers, or if not with Alex and Silvia, 2 of the 3 organisers, in which case there normally isn’t an Improvers class). Note: times are currently being finalised so see website.

How easy is it to get dances?: There are no chairs around the dance floor (and its too small to put some in) so non-dancers tend to hang around the doorways or along the inner walls. The close proximity means you can catch someone eye quite easily even though the lights are dimmed. If you need a seat however, you are rather limited to the kitchenette or top floor so you rather cut yourself out of the chance of a spontaneous dance. The distance between the dance floors also means that it can be a bit of a trek from one to another if you are hunting for friends or potential partners. You can also get a bit trapped on the staircase by dancers you wanted to avoid.

The Powder Room: Two unisex toilets with separate sinks are located on the ground floor. Clean-ish but you’d prefer to put your shoes on upstairs (either on the stairs or in the kitchenette). Space to change in there although you probably wouldn’t, plus you shouldn’t as it hogs the limited toilets.

Who goes there?: A young-middling crowd, students of the current guest teacher, quite a few Italians, tangueros from the Light Milonga (Tuesdays @ Liverpool Street). Generally the core is more salon style dancers and in fact, extrovert nuevo dancers are likely to get the evil eye and even get reprimanded if they are in the Tango de Salon room.

Timings: The intermediate class was very busy and too big for the room but once the basement and top floors opened, the crowd eased out and it was busy but flowing. It picked up again about 9.30 but then started to ease about 11.30 as people raced to get home before the Cinderella hour.

Quirks: Tango de salon room – Tango @ 33 have made a big thing of this room where salon-style dance rules are enforced. The rules are displayed on a cardboard sign and an announcement is made at the beginning of the milonga explaining its principles. The organisers have even been known to temporarily stop the dancing here and explain the rules, so generally this tends to be a bump-free area.
Entry – you need to ring the bell to get access and I was greeted by (presumably) one of the Pushkin House attendants which rather added to the grandeur of the evening. This silent gentleman remained in the lobby for most of the evening and looked increasingly bemused by the amount of people traipsing in. I wonder if he will be a regular fixture?

Rivals: Tangology @ the Langley.

Finding your way outside: Just 5 mins from Holborn tube station (Central line). There are also lots of buses on Kingsway (1 min) which go (south) towards Waterloo, Trafalgar Square or (north) Euston.
From Holborn tube station: Take the exit directly in front of the escalators, cross over the road at the traffic lights and pass Sainsburys. Take the first right Southampton Place, pass Nandos and at the top of the road, use the traffic lights to your left to cross over the road. Pushkin House is directly in front of you. You need to ring the bell to get access.

Finding your way inside: Once admitted, there is a front desk and cloakroom (unmanned) directly in front of you. Go up the stairs for the first dance floor (the Intermediate class was held here). There is a small kitchenette off this with sofas and sinks for water. One floor above are another 2 carpetted rooms with tango music where you can chat and find the drinks and nibbles. The second dance floor, the Tango de Salon room is in the basement so go down the stairs pass reception. The 2 toilets are also here.

[New update: This venue was replaced in April 2010. The new venue is No5 Cavendish Square. See here for a delightful review by Ms H]

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Experiences with Comme Il Fauts

Experience 1:

I have only one pair of CIFs which I love! They are quite battered now as I wear them for every practica and milongas but every scuff I accept as a sign that I have worn them well and danced in them fully.

Last week however, I received a newsletter saying a new shipment had arrived. I glanced at them more out of curiosity and then my eye was caught by the MOST MARVELLOUS pair. I ummed, I ahhed and then went to bed. All of the next day, I was in a dilemma with the 2 voices in my head battling:

- ‘Look at the price, ridiculous!’

- ‘But they are lovely!’

- ‘And the cost for shipping them’

- ‘But they are so Me!’

On and on it went until finally, at 10pm in the evening I decided to have another look at them. But where are they now? Only in the huge SOLD section! I was gutted and felt bereft. Oh course, now I’m convinced they were the most perfect pair ever and they are now on someone else’s feet! I’d post a picture of them but I daren’t in case, a London tanguera has bought them and will have to know that I salivate every time she passes by with her shoes!

Experience 2:

CIFs inspire high emotions. I wrote the piece above when I was in a flippant mood, piqued to the post by another buyer somewhere but at other times, I feel quite differently about CIFs. When I first started tango, I was reluctant to buy a proper pair of tango shoes, as I felt that I needed to prove my worth, to show that I was here dancing tango because I loved it and not just because I could buy some pretty shoes. When I got a bit better, I realised that the shoes I liked most (and which others held in high esteem) were Commies and so I decided that is what I had to have – but the expense! Could I really justify paying that much for a pair of shoes, especially when I could use that money to purchase myself a good month of classes and milongas? I waited and saved and then when I was finally 1 (tango) year old, I made my big purchase. I felt so grown up and have been delighted with them ever since.

Here comes the ‘But’ though. Sure, CIFs feel good and make my feet look pretty but really do they make me a better tanguera?*

I was a bit peeved (to put it politely) when a few weeks ago, I met a woman at a milonga who was wearing a gorgeous pair of Commies. We chatted a little and then she asked how many pairs of tango shoes, more specifically CIFS, did I own? When I told her just the one pair, she laughed and said that I obviously wasn’t a tango obsessive and that she owned 15 pairs! After she sashayed away, I thought that for all her CIFs, it hadn’t made her a star on the dance floor. She danced well but no better than half a dozen other tangueras (who I know don’t own nearly as many pairs as her). CIFs are beautiful but unfortunately, they can’t necessarily make you a beautiful dancer. For that, you need hard work, commitment and something undefinable. All of which you are more likely to find in a good teacher than in your shoe closet!

*I should state here though, that undeniably they have made me dance a little bit better but that’s mainly because the shoes I had before were not proper dance shoes – just street shoes that looked the part.

Monday, 1 February 2010

A long night

A milonga on the opposite side of town. Some lovely dances, I lost track of time and missed the last tube on my line.

Estimated journey time if I had not missed the tube: 45 mins.

Actual time to get home: 2 hours, 10 minutes (2 separate tube journeys. 3 night buses, 1 ten-minute walk).

The things we do for tango!