Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Rojo y Negro @ Latvian House

The Rojo y Negro milonga is on Thursday evenings at Latvian House, near Queensway.

I can't usually do weekdays but made an exception. It's easy to get to and doesn't go on too late; and I also had reason to think the music, and consequently the dancing style, would be different from what I usually prefer. And it's good to get out of my comfort zone sometimes.

The Class: There is a pre-milonga class but I skipped it, it's a weekday.

Layout and Atmosphere: The building is occupied by the Latvian Tourist Board and social club. The room itself is quite beautiful, with eggshell blue walls and a pink ceiling, white plaster squiggle-work, dark pink curtains and a great gilt mirror above the fireplace, increasing the light. Chairs around the walls. There are ledges, and the floor, to put your drink on. As you go in, there is a table with a pretty smile behind it, collecting the money and displaying CDs. At the far end are the floor-to-ceiling windows there usually are in buildings like this. The one on the right is a door and leads to a roomy balcony where you can stand, chat, cool off, and watch the empty street. The floor is very good, and big enough for at least a dozen couples. The atmosphere was friendly and welcoming. Bianca will resort to dancing with you herself if no-one else does.

The only problem was, it was practically empty. Not counting Bianca and her young man, there were only four couples, three of them all obviously very recent beginners, plus four odd singles - a man I hadn't seen before who left quite promptly, two women, and me. The other couple were more experienced, but danced continuously and only with each other. There were never more than two couples dancing at any one time.

Hospitality: Inconvenient, but good. For the bar, leave the room and walk all the way down the stairs to the ground floor; turn and find the next set of stairs, and follow the Latvian music down till you reach the bar. I was served an orange juice from a box, a large glass of water with lemon, and a friendly smile, for a total of 80p. There is a cloakroom on the landing, where you can hang up your things, and change your shoes. The ladies is through the cloakroom, and is much nicer than average. However, MIND THE STEP when you come out of the cloakroom. It's dark, and the step is surprising, and hard to see. I misjudged it twice, and if I had been taller or older or moving faster or wearing less-forgiving shoes I could very easily have pitched head-first down the full flight of stairs and been seriously hurt. Please be careful.

What I thought of the DJing: Almost all was what I think of as 'nuevo'. There were no milongas or valses, but I don't think this was on principle. There would have been no point, considering the dancers who were there. I thought it was decent quality music - no moron-beats, and nothing too why-bother, with some interesting variations sung in a language I didn't recognise. It doesn't really speak to me personally. But if it's your thing, and you have a friend who likes it too, there is plenty of room to dance to it. And CDs on sale.

Getting in: A very cheap £5. The front door is a bit of a puzzle, though. Luckily, while I was peering at the bells and deciding between "Guest House," "Library," and "Latvian Tourist Board," a woman with a broom opened it unasked. She knew I was there for the dancing and uttered the word "upstairs!". Assuming you solve the door problem, just walk up and you will start to hear the music.

Getting there and getting home: It's five minutes' walk from Queensway Tube. Walk left along the tree-lined main road and turn left into Queensborough Terrace. It is the building immediately after the An-Nur Hotel, and I think the pin on the website's map is too far up the road. It finishes at midnight, so you can get the train home. See also 'getting in'.

The website: Does the job, but discursively. Make sure you read all the bits. The Milonga page sometimes stays the same when the News page is telling you it's closed.

How it went: It's a lovely place and I had a perfectly pleasant evening, but the low attendance was a problem. [Update 04/05/2009: Bianca emails to say that attendance is now much better, which is good news and well-deserved.] It wouldn't have been such a problem if people had actually been dancing socially, but most seemed not to be circulating at all. I would willingly have danced with at least some of the beginners, but I don't think they understood what social dancing was, and none looked in my direction. However, I had two dances, both with women; one with Bianca and one with someone else. It did occur to me that it would have enhanced my enjoyment and that of other people if I'd had the option of being able to lead.

I succeeded in the plan to go slightly out of my comfort zone; the style of the dances I got was certainly more dramatic than my preference. It was good to dance to this style of music with leaders who like it and in a place where there's plenty of room. I find this style exhausting, but satisfying in a checking-up-on-myself kind of way.

Otherwise, I passed a pleasant couple of hours making mental notes and standing outside on the balcony enjoying the warm dark evening and chatting to people, all of them strangers, all of them pleasant, chatty and relaxed.


maya said...

I know the place from the time when it was run by Miguel Gonzalez as Caminito. You can still see the webpage on http://www.geocities.com/caminito_london/
Bianca was Miguel's partner 10 years ago.He was one of the first teachers we had in London. Thanks for the review, I did not know the current set up.

Mavis, a tiny lady who recently discovered she loves to dance. said...

I went to the class in November...it was ok. There were more people in the class then in the milonga though, as you say its too empty. Don´t think I´ll be returning that quickly.

ghost said...

I went there once for the Thursday night and again for a workshop. Really lovely floor for dancing on.

The doorbells are interesting, however if you go downstairs you can enter through the bar.

I particularly liked the atmosphere. It felt like a place to dance :o)

Rojoynegro said...

Milonga Poema at the Latvian House is the most popular Thursday tango event on in London at the moment, with exciting programme of events, including workshops and performances by some of the most famous couples and tango bands. See the website (http://www.rojoynegroclub.com/events/special_events.html) for details on the forthcoming events! This month special guest is a fantastic milonguero, Pibe Avellaneda, and on 12th December there is a Christmas party with film projection, Juan Maria Solare (piano) and Paula and Mariano (workshops and performance)!

Anonymous said...

I haven't actually tried social dancing yet, since I'm only the beginner in tango, but I wasn't quite happy with Bianca's lessons.

The actual review on how it went with me could be found in the link below:


msHedgehog said...

@unordinarycustomer, good luck with your further research. Feel free to email if you want suggestions.

Depressive Dancer said...

I went to a beginner class there last night. I've never been more disgusted with a teacher. She was highly critical of clearly nervous dancers attending their first lesson. She seems to have forgotten that dancing should be fun.

Absolutely appalled. Wont be going back!

Anonymous said...

She has no idea how to teach.. I don't like it at all.I don't recommend to anybody.

Anonymous said...

The great thing about Rojo y Negro is that as a result of Bianca’s harsh(ish) style and poor(ish) reviews the thin skinned stay away and so the classes are very small – four to ten rather than upto a few dozen so a lot of feedback. There is also great hearty banter in the class about her style amongst those who have got to appreciate it.

But yes Bianca is inclined to make a move two or three times and say do it. Just smile ask her (or Sacha) to do it in slow motion. She won’t bite – I don’t think.

If you don’t want any meaningful feedback go to a handful of other classes where the teachers are kind and smile and say “so much better” all the time. Cheaper watching youtube for that sort of thing.