Thursday, 21 January 2010

Tango @ the Light

This is a new milonga on Tuesdays at The Light Bar, E1, organised Pablo and Luciano, who I always think of as the Embassy Boys. It only started just before Christmas.

The Class: There's a beginners' class, followed on this occasion by an intermediate class with some guest teachers. I think there's normally just one beginners or 'general-level' class taught by Pablo. I skipped both. The charge for the classes is £10 but entry to the milonga, from 9pm, is free.

Layout and Atmosphere: Walk through the large ground floor bar, which is not-at-all full of Shoreditch housemates and tentatively canoodling suits. Go up the stairs at the far left hand corner, following the breadcrumb trail of small "Tango at the Light" stickers past the loos and up to the first floor bar, which actually turns out to be a sort of mezzanine. The DJ desk is on your left at the entrance, and the rest of that wall is occupied by the bar. It's dark. It's big, it's square, it has a smooth dark wooden floor, there's a disco ball, and some tealights. To your right is the low wall over which is the opening into the downstairs bar; the designers had a good thought when they cut the top of this at a 45-degree angle and padded the top, the right height to lean your elbows on. In summer the big windows around the other two walls would give it a nice light airy feel, I think. There are big squishy brown leather sofas with tables between them, and they've moved some of them around so that you aren't necessarily facing the dance floor with your feet on it - you can sit side-on and nest, or chill, or socialise if you want to. There isn't anywhere obvious to put your stuff, other than all over the sofas mixed up with everyone elses, but you could probably simplify things by leaving your coat in the cloakroom downstairs.

Hospitality: Perfectly fine. The bar does food, the menu including at least plates of chips. The upstairs bar was professionally staffed all evening. A double G&T with ice and lemon was a fairly steep £6.40. It's January and I didn't get thirsty - I forgot to ask for water - sorry, I do that in winter. The loos are clean, dry, with big sinks and everything properly working, painted a glowing dark red. The place is clean, the staff are professional and the seating is comfortable.

Anyone or anything interesting: Just social dancing.

What I thought of the DJing: Pablo DJ's, with occasional interventions. The music was all traditional, with Latin-pop cortinas (Lalalalalalabamba! etecetera etcetera!). It was very straightforward, with rather a lot of valses. I think the tango tandas were fours. There were one or two little muddles but nothing practice wouldn't cure. I left during a set of good milongas, at about 23:15. It goes on till midnight but I didn't stay. The only problem with the music is that it has to be really loud to drown out the leakage of different music from downstairs. And when you dance over to that corner of the room you can clearly hear the downstairs music, so you have to focus to tune it out. I have no idea why the music downstairs needs to be as loud as it is, especially when downstairs is practically empty. Maybe that will evolve.

Getting in: Entrance to the milonga, from 9pm, is free. Obviously it's courteous to buy something at the bar. Update 21st April 2010: it's now a rather minimal £3.

Getting there and getting home: Take the Bishopsgate exit from Liverpool Street station and walk left on the same side until the glittering walls of glass give way to brick and disrepair. It's on the left after the second crossing, an opening at the end of a long brick wall. The map on the website and the flyers is accurate. It only takes about five or six minutes. The walk feels perfectly safe and there are quite a few people around. It ends at midnight and it's on a weekday, so you should be able to take the Tube home even if you stay to the end. There are also lots of buses from Bishopsgate and all around the station.

The website: Updates, directions, pictures etc at Simple, does the job for now and should be very easy to maintain. The map is currently at the bottom of the page.

How it went: I arrived very early and danced some crazy nuevo-ish stuff with partners who hadn't had enough exercise lately. That was followed by a nice little bit of salon as more people arrived. It got steadily more salonified as it filled up - but stayed both unusually young and much more orderly than I had expected it to be, based on my first visit, which was before Christmas. The floor is very large, and the peak was only about a dozen couples. Although there were at least one or two near-absolute beginners and at least one or two people who like to stand still and give a lesson mid dance, and some non-dancers getting in the way at one corner, the atmosphere remained relaxed as far as I noticed, and I had no bumps. People frequently cleared the floor for cortinas. The floor is very roomy. You could safely take big steps and go for a fairly brisk walk if you wanted to.

I had a relaxed evening, I didn't dance with lots of different partners - it hasn't really developed its crowd yet - but I had a nice time. The problems for me were the loudness and the leakage from downstairs; some people would also find it too dark to dance easily or safely, and it was certainly too dark to see across the room well. It's new, and I don't know how it'll turn out. I had the opportunity to dance a couple of different ways, I enjoyed the music, I enjoyed the cheery youthful atmosphere, I didn't get kicked or kick anyone else, it didn't stress me out on a weekday.


Anonymous said...

I went on a Tuesday having heard a lot about this place - all very good. Looked pleasant and airy but had the feel of a barn dance. Maybe because it's so chunky woody and the pub atmosphere creeps up. The dancing was very much young, often uncontrolled tango nuevo. All my partners complained about the lack of flow and direction and not being able to move about because people stood and talked or drank on the floor or simply cared little how to move their partners skilfully. At some point I was dancing discreetly when a sharp heel scraped my shin and up my leg. I cried out as it was very painful. The couple to my surprise was one half a well known self-styled London TANGO teacher who should be named and a woman who had been dancing pretty wildly before whom I'd tried to avoid her. Instead of stopping to ask me if I was alright as I instinctively rubbed my leg and the scratch which started to bleed they danced on without a word and we saw them laughing and the woman imitating me rubbing my bruised leg. My partner was incensed but I asked him to to make a scene. I had an ugly scab for at least two weeks.
I am never going back to Light again. It has all the worst faults of London Tango and non of its virtues.

Anonymous said...

I admit I haven't been this year, but went regularly last year and really liked it. It has a good floor for dancing and its nice to dance somewhere that's a bit more relaxed. At times it gets quite cliquey with groups of friends only dancing with each other, but I think that's probably more a problem with London tango then anything specially related to The Light.

Lesson - When I went Naomi who used to teach at 33 Portland Place was teaching with Pablo. She is a very good teacher but I find him less clear and tbh don't really like his style of dance (he tends to lean forward with a rounded chest & slightly on top of you so there's no open chest to read from). The class had about 10-12 people and was intermediate. I'd say the level of dancer though was not intermediate with some clear beginners in there and unfortunately there didn't seem to be much correction/attention given to individuals.

Music - As MsHedgehog said, Pablo does like his valses (one friend of mine has described the music as sounding like a carnival's merry-go-round on contact rotation) but its ok. However they also sometimes had a girl DJing (I don't know her name) and she was *fantastic*. Played really good tanda's with a good mix of classics and excellent rarer choices.

Floor craft - Sounds like the last Anonymous had a bad time of it (Who was the teacher? We want to know!) but I'd said generally its ok. Obviously it depends on who's there and how busy it is. Its certainly a darn sight better then Negracha.

Overall I'd happily go back if I wasn't busy now on a Tuesday. And I think you can't beat it on price. £3 for 3 hours of dancing is great value for money.

Federica said...

I quite regularly dance at the Light Bar on Tuesdays and find the relaxing atmosphere very enjoyable. The music is great and the place really spacious with a lovely wooden floor. People are friendly and the level of dance is good. The Light attracts a lot of teachers and experienced Milongueros/Milongueras as well as a nice crowd of beginners - overall a fun mix. I also went to their Light Temple on Saturdays which is another lovely venue - a great wooden dance floor and very high ceiling that gives an airy feel. You can order Italian pizzas and they have a bar upstairs. I recommend both Milongas to anyone who's looking for Tango in London.