Saturday, 13 December 2008

Zero Hour @ The Dome

[UPDATE March 2011: The space has been drastically renovated and is much nicer, rewrite in pipeline].

It's the holiday season again, the Victoria Line is back to normal, and I can manage the odd extra weekday milonga. That makes it time for an update on "The Dome". There are classes and a milonga every Wednesday organised by Zero Hour. As far as I know the milonga goes till midnight, but it may be open later at certain times of year.

The Class:
I skipped the class, it's a Wednesday and I needed some food and a nap. There are usually beginners' and intermediate classes running - check the monthly programme on the website for times and teachers.

Layout and Atmosphere: Much improved since I was last there (when it was fine). As you go in, there is the bar along the wall to your left, and a stage to your right, with a screen showing dancing, and draped platforms in front of it where you can sit down. There's a large raised platform with tables on the far side, and a little, low one with some seating in front of the DJ booth. As far as I noticed, all tables were open to all and not reserved. There are red tablecloths and little lights. The lighting is gentle but not too low; I could find all my stuff, even black stuff, when I wanted it. The whole place has been refurbished and repainted, but the really crucial change is that they've removed the half-height wall between the dance floor and the bar, leaving just the pillars with ledges for your drink. The tables are still there, but they can now be approached from both sides. People no longer congregate or get stuck behind the wall, and it's much easier to get up and sit down and circulate and chat and find the partners you want.

Hospitality: Good. I got a decent sized glass of orange juice for 50p. Water is available from the bar. The bar staff were friendly. They were also shivering with cold - for some reason it's freezing behind the bar. But I didn't feel cold, even before I started dancing. I wanted to hand them woolly hats. The loos are clean, supplied, and working, and even have good lighting and large mirrors on the outsides of the doors in the ladies' at the far corner (not the one off the stairs before you go in, which is fine, but cramped). I don't think there is anywhere to hang stuff except on the back of a chair. Actually there may be - I peered through the door of the 'cloakroom' - but it seemed to be being used for a practica or a lesson so I didn't open the door. Most people leave their kitbags on the platforms in front of the stage, so as long as you have a kitbag it's fine.

Anyone or anything interesting that turned up or happened: They sell NeoTango shoes at the desk. I tried some on, but they're the wrong shape for me. They're about £80, the same price as Darcos.

What I thought of the DJing: Quite varied. Tandas, more or less, but I didn't feel they were of a fixed length, they tended to blend for me, and no cortinas. Quite a few milongas early in the evening, which I liked, and some unusual turkish-sounding things later on. I think there's a good chance you'll like at least some of it. I had to leave at 23:15 and I wouldn't be surprised if they got more adventurous by midnight. It is not always the same DJ, check the website if you have a strong preference.

Getting in: £6.

Getting there and getting home: From Tufnell Park tube, cross at the crossing and walk down the left hand wall of the corner pub; you will see the white-lit sign for the Dome. Just walk up the stairs. If you stay till midnight you may not be able to Tube it all the way, but there are buses in varous directions from the intersection outside: the website shows the location correctly.

The website: Simple, does the job. Look at 'milonga' and 'monthly programme'. The milonga is usually referred to as "The Dome" but the website uses its intended name so is at

How it went: Extremely well. I had very nice dances including one with a recent beginner whose progress made me feel pleased, and one with someone new who I've wanted to dance with for a while (sadly wasted on some music that didn't work out, but we'll have other chances), and others with regular partners each of whom is always a pleasure. I also had very few bumps, and although I didn't pay much attention to dancefloor behaviour I went away with the impression that it was generally good. I wish I could have stayed later, and I wish I could come here more often, as it's well-attended, and lots of my favourite dancers like it, and I can see why. But it's in an awkward location, and if I leave at 23:10 I won't get to bed till one, and I just don't think I can do that regularly on a weekday. Shame.

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