Sunday, 20 September 2009

Tangology @ Sway

[Update 24th Nov 2009: The LAST milonga at Sway is tomorrow, 25th November 09. If it's not that day - don't go there expecting a milonga!]

There's a new milonga on Wednesdays by Tangology (Eleonora Simoes), at Sway bar. For the moment at least, it's free to get in. It also happens on Sundays, I haven't been yet on a Sunday so I don't know what the differences are except that it isn't free on Sunday. This is based on two Wednesday visits.

The Class: There isn't one on the Wednesday.

Layout and Atmosphere: The dancing is in the main bar right through the glass doors in front of you. It's a good sized squarish room with dark floor and furniture, white ceiling and details that you could reasonably describe as Art Deco - I think that applies at least to the doorhandles and concealed lighting. The bar is along the right hand side and the far side, divided from the dance floor by tall tables. When it's time for the milonga to start, they clear tables off the dance floor and stack chairs out of the way. There are also some semicircular sofas along the front and the left hand side, good for groups of friends, and very comfortable, but a little awkward for getting dances. On the other hand, they're a nice place to rest. There's enough seating for everyone who wants to sit down. Bar chairs on the edge of the floor are a hazard, but they are still tweaking the layout, and this was largely solved by my second visit.

For a lot of the time the lighting was good, but it kept being suddenly turned down really low, causing bumps, and then coming up again after a while. Maybe this will get fixed. The floor is fine, it didn't give me any problems. The sound system did, but it was adjusted and improved to an acceptable level during my second visit.

The atmosphere is nice - I danced with a visitor from San Fransisco who was finding it easy to fit in. It might be trickier for a beginner, although I like the fact that there are quite a few places you can sit to watch and be largely out of play if you want to. An odd aspect is that because it's a public bar and entry is free and it remains open, there are always a few astonished spectators. And for some reason, I'm the person they ask "what's going on?". On my first visit it was two well-built and well-informed gentlemen who turned out to be Glaswegian ballroom dancers. They carried on observing with interest right to the end. On the second it was two confused but fascinated youngsters who'd mistaken either the place or the day and had been expecting the Law Society Drinks.

It's hot and there's no aircon. The broad steps mean you can cool off outside the door without being exactly in the street. Bar staff in hotpants may be a compensation if your tastes lie that way.

Hospitality: Good, given the price and venue. On my first visit, my G&T (a double) was a surprisingly reasonable £3.60 and a pint of orange juice was £2.80. On my second, a single G&T was £4.50, but that might be because I'd arrived very early through absence of mind and the cheaper prices start after 8:30. Service was prompt and professional. Food is also available, menus here. Given that entrance is currently free, I did not think to ask for a glass of water, I'll update later on that. The loos downstairs were what you'd expect from a professional bar; nothing luxurious but clean and dry, hot and cold water, and properly supplied and working. The only problem I had was that because it's a public bar I'm not 100% happy about leaving my things on or under a sometimes-unattended table while I'm dancing. I don't worry about this at all when everyone's there just to dance. They're probably pretty safe, they have been so far, but it makes me stressed. A cloakroom would be nice - I'm not sure if there is one downstairs, I don't think so.

Anyone or anything interesting: No special event, just social dancing.

What I thought of the DJing: DJ's vary, and get announced on the Tangology mailing list. It was > 90% traditional on both nights. On my first visit it was innocuous, with quite a bit of vals and very little milonga, but it was hard to assess because of the sound problems. On my second, with a different DJ (Mehmet), I felt it was stronger. There were no cortinas on either night. On my first visit and for the first two hours of my second, they had really serious problems with the sound system; I couldn't hear the music any better than I can hear it on my ipod on the Victoria Line, and that's not really good enough to dance to (being a bit of a tightwad about technology, I haven't upgraded my earphones). After that, it got fixed or adjusted, and was pretty much fine. DJ's will probably want to prepare for a weak sound system and make sure things are digitised at the right level.

Getting in: Entry is free. It's a public bar, so it's obviously courteous to order something.

Getting there and getting home: The nearest tube is Holborn, on the Central and Piccadilly lines, with buses in all directions from nearby. It ends at midnight, which is fine for getting the tube as long as you don't dawdle. From Holborn Tube take the exit in front of you, walk left down Kingsway and cross it at the next lights. You are now facing Great Queen Street; Sway is on the left hand side just after the big hotel.

The website: Tangology. Looks nice, tells you where it is and when and how much it is to get in. The venue has its own, SwayBar.

How it went: The location is so central and easy to reach that it makes a weekday milonga feasible for me, which makes me happy. On both my visits the line of dance was observed well for quite a while, then it got a bit complicated, then it thinned out towards the end. I danced mainly, but not exclusively, with people I knew. My impression from the people who came (discounting those who were there because the Dome was closed) is that people will tend to dance salon-style, consistently close embrace here [Update: I'm probably wrong about this]. Which is nice if it turns out to be true, because we need places where you can go and be sure of finding partners who want and can do that. The floor is relatively small but for most of the time there weren't many bumps. A moderately experienced dancer visiting from out of town wouldn't have any problems. Cortinas, a cloakroom, consistent lighting, and it would be perfect.


Anonymous said...

never understood how people can dance with work the next day - am i missing something?

msHedgehog said...

You've got a point; I don't think it works until you've done it enough for it to seem relatively ordinary and relaxing. It didn't for me. I can just about get away with it nowadays, as long as I don't try it too often and I make sure I get enough sleep on the nights before and after.

And a lot of people don't work office hours, or don't work full time, or do work full time office hours but live near their work and don't have to commute, which makes a huge difference. There's that too.

My main problem is always how to get to sleep afterwards. But I don't get as overexcited as I used to, so I can get away with it better.

It's very risky for me to do, say, Sunday and Wednesday in the same week, though. I have to space out the school nights.

Anonymous said...

I never had a problem with it and I did it for 5 nights a week for 3 years. Granted, I worked 9-5 in an office and managed to get home reasonably early and could take some time to eat and get ready to go out. (my normal bedtime is late anyway) I can't now as I work on my feet 8 hrs. a day. The spirit is willing, but I am now so shattered. And I just work a minute from my house! I save it for the weekends when I can. I think I need a new job!

Game Cat said...

Londontango - didn't you just start this job not too long ago? ;-)

Anon - I work 8-7 (often ending later) and sometimes on weekends. I'm nocturnal so staying up isn't a problem. Mornings are murder. I try to survive by only going for the last couple of hours of the milonga, keep my Thur a.m. schedule clear of meetings and have a double shot of espresso in the morning.

Oh yes, I also sleep for 10-12 hrs straight on Fri and Sat nights.

If anybody out there has a better suggestion, I'm all ears.

ghost said...

"If anybody out there has a better suggestion, I'm all ears."
You're the leader, make the woman do all the work!

There is a serious aspect to the above though. Tango can be all gentle walks and weight transfers. There's no need for it to be an exhausting evening. Just take it more gently.

In general I think the "dance every night of the wekk" thing is just a phase some people go through. A friend who works 4 jobs used to dance Ceroc 7 nights a week at one point! She's since slowed down a bit.

Regarding being "Up *bounce*bounce*bounce*" after a night's dancing, find something that let's you put that energy somwhere else. I paint, Ken writes poetry and so forth.

msHedgehog said...

Some people are just better at switching off than others. It's certainly possible to get better at it, but that's not a high enough priority for me to be worth the trouble.

Physically there's nothing to it. I think it would be less of a problem if it really was physically tiring.

Anonymous said...

@ Game Cat,
I started end of April. Working in an office is completetly different to working on a shop floor. You get to sit down for starters!! I didn't have to try and sell anything either. In many ways, my previous job was less challenging (but still very interesting). My current job is physically demanding and I have increased my working hours, which is good for my bank account but taxing my body. I wouldn't have a problem with dancing, my problem is finding the energy to get into the car and drive for half an hour or 45 min to the venue. If I could share a lift now and then, it wouldn't be an issue and I used to do that, but my friend moved. :( I now save my dancing for the weekends or my days off. (am going to Ceroc tonight!) Also, I have cut back my dancing in the last year or so because of boredom and lack of appropriate leaders. Apparently this happens with women who have been dancing for a few years consistantly. Usually at this point, some of them go to BA. I am waiting to sell my house first!
@ Anon
Some people are better in the morning than others. Although I am not a morning person, I can get up and go to work, though I would be a bit tired, and then perk up later in the day. The extra shot in my Latte helped. I didn't dance on Mondays or Thursdays. I was also motivated to learn how to dance and it is easy to do something if you really want to. I am obviously not that motivated anymore. For a woman, the dancing is not that taxing as Ms H suggested, and movement will perk you up. The late hours can play havoc with one's beauty sleep though! I would make up for it like Game Cat, sleep on the weekends!

Social Dancer said...

What annoys me at the Sway and a few other central London dance floors is the second rate tango teachers who use these places to drum up business by dancing large show moves and with total disregard for all the rest of us who want to simply have an evening of social dancing.

They think they are on strictly come dancing and that every one else must therefore stand aside so that they could be watched!

When are these supposedly teachers going to learn to respect other couples? Is this common in Argentina or is this an Argentine teachers' method only used in London?

Anonymous said...

@social dancer ... reminds me of Kung Fu Tanda: