Wednesday, 11 June 2008

El Once @ Crypt

*** UPDATE 2013 - NOW CLOSED ***

There are two milongas at the Crypt, Farringdon, on alternate Saturdays. I've already covered DanceTango's one. This week's was El Once - Paul Lange and Michiko Okazaki and friends. The milonga has been going for fifteen years, at this venue for eight. [Update 14th August: check schedule here; Update Apr 2009: They've dropped the wacky virtual performances described below.]

The class: I was too late for the class but have taken these and their regular Monday classes many times. Paul's Zen Master approach doesn't suit everyone, but leaders who are curious and want to get good often find it illuminating, and alert, self-directed followers can get a lot out of it too. He's very keen on developing things organically and exploring the possibilities of basic elements. Michiko reels him in now and then. When he's danced with me in class I've had the impression that (a) the signal is going from his mind to my feet with absolutely no effort from me, and (b) more time is available than there is with anyone else. Double-time ochos in milonga actually worked and were right on the beat. He used to drive racing cars, which possibly has something to do with that. If a racing car were a living thing, I think she would experience the difference between drivers who've got it, and drivers who haven't, in much the same way.

Layout and atmosphere: For a description of the space see the post about Dancetango. The floor is large but has a bit of a slope, and if you like really thin-soled shoes you may find the two metal tramlines for the room dividers more annoying than I do. Paul and Michiko lay out the tables a bit differently, with the tea bar under the projector instead of behind the amp, they do not use a smoke-farter, and the lighting is less strongly coloured.

I like their idea (which was new to me this week) of using the projector to display record sleeves - they're interesting but not distracting or intrusive, and they're perfect for atmosphere. Much more appropriate than the usual landscapes, and more interesting than snapshots of people. I've never met anyone who could hear Paul's announcements of what's playing, so it would be lovely if they corresponded with the music. But they don't, yet. They look great, though. The crowd of regulars is probably older on average than the DanceTango crowd, but it varies and there's quite a lot of overlap. I think there are some really good young dancers who come for the music. It is friendly to the beginner, and there are one or two regulars who occasionally bring their under-16 children, who are welcome. There's quite a bit of overlap with the regulars of the Welsh Centre or Conway Hall, although I have the impression this is not as true as it used to be. It could be just that attendance has gone up in both.

A unique, regular feature of this milonga is the virtual performances. It's common for a screen somewhere to show a performance, usually silent and having nothing to do with what's playing, but here it's not possible to have a small screen. The projector is high up on one side of the room, and the opposite side is a huge blank wall. You can't make a small picture. So what they have been doing for the last few months is stopping the dancing for a few minutes and showing a DVD-quality virtual performance by whoever they think is interesting. Some people like this and some people hate it, but every time, so far, I've learned something, even if only What Not To Wear. I remember in particular a Nuevo-style one a few months ago, to something by Piazzolla, which was remarkably beautiful and musical. This week the second performance was Mariano 'Chicho' Frumboli and Céline Ruiz (example video) and I forget what the other one was except that she was wearing a truly bizarre pair of arseless trousers. I'd be happy with just one vid, but for now there are always two.

DJing: Paul surely has the largest record collection on the scene, the most varied, and the most interesting, and it's not just tango by any means. He's also an actual musician. I doubt there's anyone else in London who would, or could, respond to an overcrowded, somewhat disorderly floor by playing a set of absolutely brilliant Hugo Diaz tangos (that link is not one of them, but is all I can find of the artist on Lots of people went and got a cuppa, I lucked in with someone who can dance to it, and I had a ball. The music at this milonga has never, ever bored me, nor is there ever any rubbish. He may play Nat King Cole, crypto-flamenco or really wierd things, but you won't be bored. Usually there's a salsa set at some point around elevenish; sometimes something to jive to, or the odd one where you have a choice, just to give you something to think about.

Hospitality: Very good. Plentiful water, free, in jugs, with added lemons. Wine (included) Biscuits (included), various herbal teas, ordinary tea, instant coffee, and home made cakes much nicer than you will get elsewhere, all under 50p.

Anyone or anything interesting that turned up or happened: Duo Napoli Casares appeared unexpectedly with two guitars, sat on two chairs, and sang and played two beautiful twenties tangos for us, without amplification. People shushed and some danced, including me, and it was lovely. I can't find a website for them but I think they are at Corrientes on Friday for the festival.

The website: Style June 1998, with itchy bits. Close your eyes when it loads to avoid flying text. It will take you ages to find anything, so I have done it for you: here are the bit about Paul and Michiko, the bit about the milonga, the milonga schedule, and the Monday classes. Otherwise, look for the CDs and DVDs for sale, especially when they're trying to make space in the record collection.

Getting in: £8.50, includes wine and biscuits.

Getting there and getting home: See previous post.

How it went: I was so absorbed that I had to leave in a terrible hurry, abandoning a gorgeous dance mid-tanda - how I hope he forgives me - and taking someone else's cardie home with me! I think I know whose it is but I still have to arrange to return it. If you are the Japanese lady whose Marks & Spencer's cardigan I confused with my identically-textured Dorothy Perkins navy blue one, three buttons, on the next chair, please do drop me a line (address top right). Paul tells me you have mine, so we can swap any evening you happen to be in town.


Anonymous said...

A "Zen Master approach"... intriguing. Could you elucidate further?

msHedgehog said...

I mean that you're often expected to puzzle out for yourself where he's going with it and what the actual point is. For example, the content of the class may be directed at some particular skill which is very important for dancing on a crowded floor, or gives you a lot of new musical possibilities, but this isn't usually explained. If you are used to thinking only in terms of learning new sequences you may wonder why you are there and what on earth is going on and why you are spending so much time doing things that you thought, often wrongly, that you already understood. If you allow yourself to think in a preconceived way or to be mentally passive, you can easily go off on the wrong track or just end up bored and baffled. But if you do not, you can get a lot out of things out of this approach that you might not get, or might not get so efficiently, elsewhere.

Psyche said...

"the two metal tramlines for the room dividers"

I used to hate those. Very dangerous for those of us who like our stilettos! I was always amazed by my favourite leader's ability to lead me over them rather than onto them with seemingly no extra effort or thought on his part. Bless him. I never once stepped on a tramline dancing with him.

"a truly bizarre pair of arseless trousers"

That does not sound good...