Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Jive at the 100 Club

I decided to have a change, learning to jive at the 100 club. There's a class, then dancing, with live music, every Monday. I wanted to try some jive and this was recommended by a friend, who went with me.

The Class: The class is advertised as Lindy Hop, but my friend reckoned it was technically jive. I'm not sure what the distinction is, maybe someone will comment and tell me. After some warmup exercises, it divided into two simultaneous classes in the same room, a beginners' class and an intermediate. I hadn't jived before so I took the beginners' class. It was straightforward and enjoyable, starting with a warmup, then some footwork, and some technical basics about how to make the connection. We did open and close manouvres and a simple spin, enough to get you quite a long way. There were some women over, but we changed partners constantly. I thought the content was well chosen and and the class was well managed and fun.

What it lacked was a clear, explicit statement of the basic idea of lead and follow. It did come up, but true beginners had to be alert to grasp what they should do with the information. On the other hand, it really doesn't matter as much as it does in tango, and it's also possible I missed it because my friend and I were a few minutes late and missed the start of the warmup.

Layout and atmosphere: It's a rather long, thin room, with the bar at the near end, the stage and DJ booth facing each other along two sides, and some seating at the far end. The walls are deep red and covered in framed pictures of acts; the DJ wore a hawaiian shirt and sideburns. There's also a blue plaque commemorating someone who made "happy music" there for thirty-five years. Seating is at either end on a reasonable number of plastic chairs, and a few tables. The floor is uneven, with irregularities and even small holes. Most people wear flattish dance shoes or character shoes; I had salsa shoes with a flared heel, which were fine. Don't wear your stilettos. The atmosphere was friendly and cheerful, ages from 20s to 60s represented. Quite a lot of people dress creatively for their favourite music.

Hospitality: Good. Free water from the bar, along with reasonably-priced non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks. No food, but I think there may be a café upstairs and there are lots of places to eat nearby. I didn't see anywhere much to put your stuff, but I think there may have been a cloakroom behind the desk where you come in. My bag did fine under a chair. There is air conditioning, which works, but it still gets very hot in there. Doesn't matter as much as it does for tango, though. The loos were out of paper, but have one unusual feature: graffiti seems to be tolerated, and I read much about the activities, anatomies, finances and obsessions of the patrons of the 100 Club. It's like the walls of Pompeii in there. Also, there's a Dyson Airblade to dry your hands.

Anyone or anything interesting that turned up or happened: There's live music every Monday. Laura B and the Moonlighters were indisposed, and they were replaced by the Sentinels of Rhythm, who were good. Check the website for who's on when.

What I thought of the DJ'ing: Practically all of it, and the live music, made me feel happy and want to dance. Only one or two tracks, late on, were exceptions, and that was only because they were more challenging. There were dancers there who made the most of them. They played not only things you could jive or lindy-hop to, but also some blues-like stuff which my friend decided was really a rumba. Which is fine, since I'm used to him, and rumba seems very easy to follow.

Getting in: £10, varies. There is always live music on Mondays.

Getting there and getting home: it's five or six minutes walk from Oxford Circus. Walk towards Tottenham Court Road. The club is on the same side as Topshop, just after the Plaza shopping centre, and it's just a door. Google Maps has a picture of the entrance. It ends at midnight, so chances are you can still get a train home. If not, there are buses in all directions from around Oxford Circus.

The website: The 100 club's website is a professional-looking job — it's a famous venue — but not actually very good, and tends to send you in circles looking for the information you want, which sometimes isn't there. Directions are hidden under "contact us". The London Swing Dance Society, who give the classes, have more the kind of website we're used to - messy, but what you need is there somewhere. That link leads to the listing for Mondays.

How it went: I managed OK in the class, and then I danced with my friend, who leads well in a variety of dances. I don't respond well to instruction from strangers on the dancefloor, but I know him well enough that he could set me right when I was puzzled. After a few tracks and the crucial information that, if in doubt, I'm rocking back on six, it started to gel and I felt I could contribute. I'm pretty sure any tango dancer watching me would have been able to tell that I danced tango, because tango technique and ornaments quickly began to appear, but otherwise the music and a clear lead take care of the differences. I didn't dance with anyone else, in the end, but I had a really good evening and would be happy to go there again.


Anonymous said...

have you lost interest in tango?

Anonymous said...

Its a really atmospheric venue, but boy could they do with some stronger air conditioning.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the differences:
- Lindy Hop is a swing dance, it's got triple-steps, syncopation and footwork
- Ballroom Jive is fast, rock-and-roll tempo, lots of flicks and kicks
- Modern Jive / Ceroc is a simplified version of both, slower than ballroom jive.

From here, it looks like the class on Mondays is definitely Lindy.

Simon Selmon's a great teacher, well-respected. I've seen him dance Tango (well, milonga) despite knowing nothing about the dance, and he still looked good.

msHedgehog said...

From watching him dance I'd think he could deliver a perfectly decent milonga. I thought so at the time.