Monday, 29 November 2010


Bramshaw Village Hall is somewhere a very long way down a winding road into the New Forest (a very old forest, obviously) with wild ponies and deer and whatnot running around outside. Steve and Debbie Morall organise Saturday night milongas on the third Saturday of each month, and Sunday afternoon tea dances on the first Sunday in each month. There are also neo-tango milongas and courses offered at various dates, check the website for details.

The Class: There was a weekend of workshops with Melina and Detlef. Other guests are invited from time to time, and Steve is the regular teacher. Workshops tend to book out very quickly indeed, and they have a system for checking that you actually are at a level that's suitable for the workshops you book. Consult the website for details. I wasn't there for the weekend, only the milonga.

The end of setting up - they turned down the light in the kitchen later
Layout and Atmosphere: It's a large, rectangular room, another really nice traditional village-hall, with a red-velvet-curtained stage at the far end and corner at the near end occupied by a large kitchen hatch for refreshments. There are numerous coathooks by the entrance for your stuff, and some chairs for sorting yourself out, although not really enough hooks for all the people who came on this occasion so it turned into a bit of a pile. Around the other three walls are chairs and tables, directly against the walls. They have little tealights on the tables, and dark red tablecloths for a friendly glow. The floor is excellent, a proper dance floor in good condition with no problems. It's rather dimly lit, so most of your invitations have to be at shortish range, but it's not so dark that you bump into people and feel more like going to sleep.

They often have 'alternative' music playing in another room, on this night the other room was used as a chillout space. At one point Steve made an announcement about it because with all the people, the sound of chat and greeting had got a bit loud.

The temperature was patchy; it was crowded (I was told more so than usual) but it was cold outside and some doors at the stage end were open. It was comfortable for dancing but I'd suggest wearing layers.

As for the atmosphere, it felt great, I had the general feeling that the organisers were happy and wanted me to be.

Hospitality: Very good. There are lots of refreshments on offer in a large kitchen with a big hatch opening onto a corner of the room. Biscuits, crisps, teas, coffee, a tea urn, you can get yourself some water or a cuppa whenever you like. There are coathooks near the entrance for your stuff; they were overwhelmed by numbers in this case, but robust enough that I managed to dig my coat out fairly promptly from under everyone else's. The loos are roomy, well-lit and well-supplied, clean and working, and lots of people change in there after the journey.

Anyone or anything interesting that turned up or happened: Detlef and Melina gave a brief performance. I enjoyed it - their style is purely social and I thought they looked very relaxed.

What I thought of the DJing: The DJ is Steve Morall, a passionate musician and bandoeon player. It was mostly traditional, with tandas and cortinas. I remember one tanda that was definitely, indisputably 'alternative', and perhaps two to four more that were arguably so depending on your definition. I remember enjoying the valses and milongas a lot. It it may have been the electrotango cortinas early in the evening that got me in the "what's this?" frame of mind so that I never felt quite sure where I was with the tango tandas, and at least some of my partners were having the same feeling. Your mileage may vary depending on your taste and who you are with and what you are used to.

Getting in: £7 for the milonga.

Getting there and getting home: There is no public transport. You have to drive, and/or stay at a B&B in the area (and they don't accept bookings for less than two nights, so that only works if you're doing a weekend of workshops or you fancy a New Forest safari). I was staying with a tango friend in Wales, who had more tango friends from further afield staying with her as well; and since there were six of us going altogether, we hired a minibus with a professional driver to take us there and back. At two and a half hours it was a very long drive for a short milonga, but worth it for the company. They recommend Google map link: Bramshaw Village Hall, SO43 7JE.

The website: gives you the details you need; the home page is here. There's more there than just an events list, and you may find Steve's articles interesting to read; he has a lot to say about what he's trying to achieve and how.

How it went: We arrived really early (having allowed more time than was actually needed for the journey) so I was there for the whole thing, and I had a really good time.

As it happened I had brought three excellent potential partners with me in the minibus, together with a lady friend who is a semi-regular there and could point out people she knew; but I also danced with others, one of whom turned out to be a friend of a friend, and saw plenty more that I would have liked to try if there had been time. Perhaps because getting there is such a project, it tends to attract committed and thoughtful dancers, and I had plenty of suitable choices without feeling hassled.

I felt that I could have had a larger number of higher-quality dances than I have had anywhere else in the UK so far - and the reason for this was that the middling level of non-professional dancers was unusually strong. I felt I had greater choice than elsewhere of people who are genuinely good social dancers, that is, at the level where their dance is natural and comfortable and enjoyable and musical and uncomplicated and without any major ingrained flaws, and you can just relax and have fun.

There were people thrashing around a bit, but mostly in the middle and harmlessly; the only real bump I had was with a table which had got out of place below my partner's eyeline, we had to stop and put it back.

The friend I was staying with, who is a semi-regular visitor, reports that she always has a good time there. If a friend is driving I'll certainly go again.


Ryszard said...

it seems that you quite often attends milongas where Detlef and Melina are teaching... After reading Melina's interview, via link on your page, i got surprised by wery patronising comments she is making, eg:'But I must say that very unintelligent people have problems with our method...' etc. If you look close there are quite a few places where she allows herself making such dogmatic statements... and it's not the case of being cought - she edited this interview... BIG HEAD?

msHedgehog said...

Yes, she consistently produces good dancers, and good dancers go where she goes, so it's certainly a draw for me. As they also are personally.

Ryszard said...

what about these patronising and repetitive comments? how that fits to their 'wise teacher' image?

msHedgehog said...

I agree with her comment that there are not many people who can't accept the obvious fact that it makes sense to deal with basics before going on to other things that depend on them.

Puttin those exceptions down to dimness is unusual in English, as we tend not to talk about that. Our usual explanations would be vanity or emotional problems.