Saturday, 14 June 2008

Corrientes - Tango Extravaganza festival night

[Update 29/10/2009: there's a significantly updated review here.]

Corrientes is usually on a Saturday, and I'd never been. I have uses for Sunday, and it takes too long to get home. But this week it was open on Friday for the opening night of Tango Extravaganza, and there were two bands and a performance, so I went. As I probably won't go again soon, this will stand as my what-to-expect post, and I'll point out the differences from the Saturdays as best I can. Please add information in the Comments if you normally go there.

I wasn't at my best - I was feeling low - so keep that in mind. I'll try to separate it from the useful information.

Layout and atmosphere: It's inside a large, modern, well-equipped school. You go in past all the usual notices about reporting to reception and buzzing to be let in. It looks like a school, it smells like a school. If school was a fun experience for you, this will put you in the right frame of mind; if not, it won't. I'm not saying nothing can be done about this, but it would probably be too much work.

The room seems to be a large drama studio. The floor is enormous and of excellent quality; there's also a very large low stage, almost the same size again, with the same highly polished light wood flooring. It's so huge that I had few bumps despite some dreadful floorcraft (which might not be typical at all - comments, please). The stage was opened up for dancing on this night, and is also handy for sitting on the edge of. Generally, I got the impression that this was the venue where the Latin haircuts go, and women who dress in US-style tango gear. The lighting is quite high but gentle, and small tables are arranged around the edges of the room, with chairs along the walls. As at Negracha, there's no division between floor, refreshments, and seating, so it's up to you to preserve your feet, your drink, and your things. The band had one corner of the main floor, with the amp on the stage.

It doesn't exactly have an atmosphere, as such, it's just a place where you can go and dance, and maybe chat if your friends are there as well. I might have enjoyed this much more on another night. The layout doesn't make it easy to find people, though. There's nowhere away from the floor that you can sit to be sure of a rest; the only options are to remove your shoes or dig in your handbag, and sometimes even those didn't work. It deepened my impression that Corrientes is for the hard core, but again, it may not be typical (comments please).

Hospitality: OK. No free water, but bottled water at £1 and wine in good sized, if undried, glasses at £2.50. Served with a smile from a table in the corner. The loos are what you'd expect from a school building, numerous but not especially well equipped or clean. Nowhere to hang your stuff, you just have to leave it on or under chairs, so a kitbag is recommended.

Anyone or anything interesting that turned up or happened: there were two live bands and a performance. Joe Powers played a very good harmonica and sang, but thought it made sense to introduce the band between numbers - not between tandas, but between numbers. Duo Napoli Casares played guitars and sang - I liked their sound, and their announcements were short and relevant. It's very nice to dance to live music. The performance was by Bruno Tombari & Mariángeles Caamaño. I remember sharpness, twinkliness and a sense of fun. It included some interesting moments of moving their feet out of sync with each other - hers first, and then his - which it would be instructive to try to lead and follow. I liked this more in tango than in milonga.

Getting in: £13, but this was a special night. It's open late, though, so this might be normal, Negracha is £12 after all. Corrientes is open late and some people go here after the Crypt. I don't think this is feasible unless you're driving.

Getting there and getting home: It is two minutes walk from Chalk Farm tube. Left out of the exit, left again, cross the road and enter the building made of giant orange and green rectangles. However, it doesn't get good until after the tube closes, so consult TFL for night bus routes.

The website: The Corrientes website tells you about the organisers and gives decent directions, but doesn't tell you when it's on or how much it is to get in. It uses frames. Corrientes is usually open on two Saturdays a month, but you probably have to monitor Tango-UK or join Facebook (group) to see which ones. Tango Extravaganza has its own website - Flash required, remarks in previous post.

How it went: Not having been there before, and this being a festival, I danced with a lot more strangers than is usual for me these days. It may not always be this way, but the giant floor appears to be much liked by people who do giant steps, frequent back sacadas, and a lot of throwing the lady around and wrestling with her legs in those strange upside-down ganchos, whatever they're called, putting her in fear of being tripped and hurled to the ground. Some of it was well-executed, and on another night I would have felt pleased to have delivered it all, which I mostly did. On this night, I couldn't see the point. I wasn't at my best, I felt too underpowered to negate mowing arms, the fighting crypto-ballroom drama just made me feel tired, and I'm not fond of having my knickers knocked sideways by total strangers' impertinent, clueless knees. But my evening gradually improved after midnight, and the leader I had to abandon last week forgave me. Having had a nice dance near the end, I rested my feet till it was time for a lift home. The floor is lovely and I would go again if I were feeling strong, if I had Monday off to catch up on sleep, and if I knew I would see a few friends. And, to be on the safe side, I think I'd wear a pencil skirt.


Anonymous said...

Hi Ms Hedgehog
The usual Corrientes is very different to your experience. In particular, the "upper floor" is not open except for a small sliver of it, convenient to put bags and sit. The main floor is still massive but sees very subdued, mainly salon style tango. So all the acrobatics you witnessed are not from Corrientes-regulars. I find it a place that impresses insecure people as the floor is lit but not the seating area, so when you dance, you're effectively on display. As for sitting down, it usually has tables aroudn with chairs around the tables, and an additional row of chairs alongside the wall, so it's quite easy to move around to see who's there.
Hope to see you coming back one Saturday!

msHedgehog said...

It would be a noticeable improvement if there were more than one row of chairs. From what you say, it sounds as though there are usually more. For mainly salon-style tango it might be worth taking the night buses at least occasionally. I'd try it if I could get a lift.