Saturday, 17 November 2007


[Update 10th Nov 08: New, updated review here.] I went to Negracha tonight, so here's what it's like if you're thinking about it.

The Class: I skipped the class. It's Friday and the class is too early. The guest teacher was Pablo Veron and people who took it said it was very basic stuff. (Personally, I am right behind people whose names people know, giving classes on very basic stuff. It never hurts and a lot of people need to hear it from someone they respect. Not that they listen.)

What I thought of the DJing: I really enjoyed it. Nice sets, cortinas, including some really good old-fashioned stuff but with plenty of variety and memorable moments. Nothing boring or empty or tiresome; all of it made me want to dance. I thought the sets were well put together. According to the website the DJ tonight was "TANGO BOSSO" (what?). The previous time I went there I wasn't so keen, there were a lot of vocals and not a single track I remembered afterwards, a different DJ I presume.

Layout and atmosphere: the floor, tables, and bar encroach on each other severely. Bar staff walk across the dancefloor in the middle of a track. There are also two levels of raised platform where the sound system is with tables, apparently reserved but the plebs are allowed to sit on the edges. The main room is a nice room, rather reminiscent of a high-quality Victorian school hall. On the street side are fine tall windows and the platform; at the other end is the bar, and there are tables and chairs down the sides. The little downstairs "Nuevo" floor is cosy and pleasant but they don't usually have a live human DJ down there. Upstairs is crowded and noisy. I like the cloakroom at the entrance where you can leave stuff and change your shoes.

Hospitality: Dire. No food. No watercooler or jugs. Normal-sized bottles of water are £1.50 and there are sniffy little notices against bringing your own. The other drinks are overpriced even for Holborn. Not only that, but someone has actually gone to the trouble, it appears, of cutting off the cold taps in the loos. Only the hot taps work. For sheer, grasping, hostile, sneering, inhospitable meanness, that's hard to top, and its barefaced offensiveness played a role in me going home at 11:30 instead of staying till 1:00 as I'd planned.

Floorcraft: when crowded, mayhem. The best you could possibly say for it the first time I was there is that it was about 60 to 70% anticlockwise, on average. Tonight it was less crowded, but otherwise much the same. Not a place to wear your best trousers, or tights costing more than £3. Lots and lots of bumps. Good leaders have to divert a lot of energy to partner protection. Followers need to be alert and keep their heels down.

Dancing: I got good dances and I've seen quite a lot of really good dancers here, and also lots of awful ones. I suppose the reasons why the good dancers go are that it's big and popular and everybody talks about it, so there are lots of partners to choose from, and it's open till 3am so you get a much longer session here than you usually would; and the better you are, the more you probably get out of that.

Getting home: Easy, if time-consuming, lots of night buses from Holborn in all directions.

Getting in: £10, or £12 with the class.

Website: Tells you when it's open, where it is, what's on, and how much it will cost. It's not that pretty but it does the job, that's all I ask. The style I'd place about 1997-9; black background, large bright lettering, centred text running down the page.

A bit after 11 I got a dance with MrTaiwan, who I danced for the first time at my usual place last week and I said was properly musical. We had a set of really dramatic tangos, and then Gallo Ciego, which is a piece of music I just love, and then a set of waltzes which were just so much fun. I was delighted that he wanted to go on dancing with me for so long, and I felt that my dancing got steadily better. He told me he was going home on Wednesday - such a shame.

As soon as I sat down again and looked around it occurred to me that this was decision point. If I left now I would be sure of getting the train all the way home, I would wait on a warm platform, and in thirty minutes I would be five minutes walk from my door. If I did not, I would probably have to sit in a virtual queue for another two hours and get kicked another twenty times and thrown around another ten, before getting another dance as enjoyable as MrTaiwan. There were one or two people there who would have fitted the bill and who do dance with me sometimes, but I didn't think I was high in their queues. And if I did not leave now, I would have to stay for at least another hour and a half before the night buses started, then wait for one in weather cold enough for snow, then sit on it for a full hour to get home.

There's a sliding-scale calculation there which it was interesting to watch myself making.

I stepped into the Ladies to cool myself down and think it over, and that was when I took offence at the cold taps not working, so I went.

MrTaiwan, if you're out there, I hope you get lots of great dances back home.


Anonymous said...

I think milongas are a reflection of the person or people creating it. I know a couple who are nice, generous, humorous and wouldn't accept discourteous behaviour - and their milongas are like that. I know someone who is mad, unkempt, selfish, only-after-one-thing and his milongas are all about that.

msHedgehog said...

This one is so big and I think the location is probably so expensive that it's probably a reflection of the venue's management just as much as the management of the milonga itself. And it does have its virtues; there are good reasons why people go there. The location and the opening hours give it a big competitive advantage. But if that could be overcome I think it would be in trouble.

msHedgehog said...

Incidentally, what's the one thing your acquaintance is after? I can't imagine anyone makes much money at this, so it must be sex?

Anonymous said...

I think that the turning taps off in the toilets thing is technically illegal - they made it so (or so I thought) after all those kids started being taken to hospital in the 90s after taking too much E and not being able to afford water from the bar. Or is that a clubbers' myth? The practice certainly seemed to stop rather suddenly at one point in the late 90s. It must at least be against health and safety regulations, surely. N

Anonymous said...

both - money and sex.

Psyche said...

Ach, Negracha drives me crazy. The dancefloor is insane. You can't move without getting trod on. It's a shame, because it's central and it's open late. Which I guess is why it's so crowded.

But oh my god, the taps in the loos! It hadn't occurred to me before I read your post that someone might have done it deliberately. That's just awful. I mean, the loos are bad anyway, there's never paper or soap, and the hot water is scalding, but then I've yet to find a London milonga with good loos.

msHedgehog said...

Perhaps I should include an assessment of the loos in each review. I knew I'd forgotten something.

msHedgehog said...

Ooh, I should have said how much it was to get in. Edited to add it.

msHedgehog said...

Edited again to add the website.

Anonymous said...

Whoever posted the first comment, about milongas reflecting the hosts are right. The best milonga I ever went to, had about 10 at most, was in someone's wooden floored dining room and had taken me 45 mins by train to get there. Was still wonderful, the woman who hosted it was so heart warming and welcoming. Her choice is music was superb. And as well as wine, water and snacks. She made a huge batch of soup. It was such a cosy and beautiful house. I still remember it with fond memories.

It isn't the amount of people that matters at a milonga but the atmosphere, if people are polite, friendly, if the music is good.