Saturday, 19 January 2008

The Welsh Centre

[UPDATE 01-Aug-08: this milonga has now MOVED PERMANENTLY to Conway Hall. UPDATE 13-Jan-09: There is now a new and different milonga on Fridays at the Welsh Centre. I haven't reviewed it yet, unless it's shown in the links on the right hand side.]

There's a milonga at the London Welsh Centre every Friday, dancing from 9pm till 11pm, and I go there quite often to start my weekend and drive work out of my mind, so this is partly based on previous experience. [Note: for June, July, and August this year, this milonga will move to a different location.]

The Class: There is a progressive absolute-beginners' course that restarts every month; there's also a recent beginners' class and a general level class. Today, the general level class was given by Rachel Greenberg & Jorge Pahl (on tour). It was very standard stuff, especially in the method. It happened to be thinly attended because the very popular Pablo Veron was teaching at Negracha the same night, so I got a little individual attention, which was nice. A rather long sequence was demonstrated and broken down. In as far as there were important concepts involved, they weren't mentioned. You had to guess. But it was well larded with technique tips and the alert student could certainly pick up useful information. The most interesting bit involved doing a very short step very slowly and deliberately; this gives you some nice musical possibilities, is not hard to learn, and feels good for the follower. She speaks English quite well, he said very little. They're both much taller than Argentinian teachers usually are, which I'm sure is helpful to students anywhere in Northern Europe, who can sometimes get the impression that there is a height limit to tango. All in all, it was good dancing, workmanlike teaching.

What I thought of the DJing: The DJ was Fernando Moro, who is a regular there. Very traditional. A lot of vocal lines, and an agreeable proportion of milongas and valses. The tangos didn't make me want to dance quite as much as usual, but it's a matter of taste - you might have liked them more. Well-organised sets with a little pause between; there were no cortinas tonight (I like cortinas), but there always have been when I've been there before. Maybe he just wanted to fit more dancing in because of the performance.

Layout and Atmosphere: Good sized floor with round tables around, and enough chairs. Proper comfy chairs and sofas in the foyer and bar as well, which are very welcome if you want to chat to a friend or sit out a set or two nursing your drink and giving your feet a rest. The bar, with its remarkable roof, is upstairs. There is a a proper, curtained stage for the band when there's live music. Friendly to the beginner and recent beginner, with usually a good mix of levels on the dance floor, which is rarely too crowded. The room is not very well ventilated and it does get hot, but the giant floor-fans to keep it down are rather fun, especially if you're wearing (or your partner is wearing) a dress that responds to the breeze.

Hospitality and Refreshments: Very good. No food, but as much water from the water cooler as you need, free. Enough hangers on rails for everybody's coats. You are politely asked not to put anything on the piano or the left hand side of the stage. At the bar upstairs I was charged a reasonable £2.60 by a friendly Welshman for a G&T which tasted like a double and wasn't too padded with ice. The loos are reasonably clean and always working.

Anything or Anyone Interesting that Turned Up or Happened: Jorge and Rachel gave a performance. They're tall and her legs go on for ever. There were lots of interesting things going on musically and technically, but I was left with an impression of intense busyness and her making a thing of adjusting her dress, which just made me think "buy some tit tape." Maybe I was just a bit distracted. They danced to Gallo Ciego and I forget what else. [Edit: I like this performance on YouTube - they are very elegant]. [Second edit: someone has posted one of their dances at the Welsh Centre.]

Dances: It was a bit thin, for the reason above. My good ones were good and the rest harmless. It tends to attract some really good dancers who like a relaxing evening.

Admission: Normally £7 class only or dancing only, £9 both. Tonight (guest teachers, performance) £10.

Getting There and Getting Home: From King's Cross underground station take the exit for Euston Road (south side), and the left-hand side of that exit, which is T shaped - i.e., not the one signed for the library. Follow your nose in the same direction; you almost immediately take the right hand fork of the main road you are walking along. This is Gray's Inn Road. Keep walking along the same side long after you are certain you must be wrong and lost in a not-very-nice part of London, and just after you pass the office furniture place you will see a large Welsh flag above the door. The walk takes me about 10 minutes if I don't hurry. The music has to stop at 11, so all the Tubes are still running and you can simply reverse the process to get home. Or you can take a bus - the nearest stop is outside the Dental Hospital.

Website: Does the job. Gives you where it is, when it's open, how much it is, and the class schedule, and doesn't do anything eye-screwing or silly.

Summary: It's always a nice relaxing evening with decent dancing in comfortable surroundings. As you can tell from the above, I wasn't at my most alert today. The only problems with it are the early closing time and the not-very-nice external location. Quite a few people go to Negracha afterwards, and if you do you can get a discount there.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for another useful review of a London milonga .. keep them coming. Maybe someone will do reviews of teaching and teachers too .. I mean classes and schools aside from the obligatory pre-milona classes.

msHedgehog said...

I'll think about that. I'm happy with my regular class but it wouldn't hurt me to take a few extra ones and describe what they were like.