Saturday, 12 March 2011


This is a weekly, evening milonga on Sundays just at the north end of Hammersmith Bridge. Nikki is an energetic organiser and currently has three milongas going - the Crypt on alternate Saturdays, the diddy  one in Vino Latino's wine bar on Tuesdays, and this one every Sunday from 20:00 to 23:30.

The Class: Beginner and intermediate classes are given between 6pm and 8pm by Beto Ortiz and Asta Moro. They tend to stick to the basics and I've enjoyed dancing with some of their students. On some Sundays, when they are organising their own tea dance out in Aldenham, Nikki gives the classes instead; occasionally she has other guest teachers.

Layout and Atmosphere: it's a really nice room. Basically it's a church hall/concert hall/school hall sort of space. The floor is the right shape and good quality, and there's plenty of chairs with big, restaurant-style tables along the two long sides. The furniture is bulky and a bit crowded together, making it tricky to get into and out of the seats. You come in at the end where there's a stage (on which is the DJ box), and at the far end of the rectangular floor is a mezzanine with a staffed bar underneath. The lighting is quite good, and the space is pretty, with ornate upper walls. It doesn't get elaborated for the tango, except by projecting coloured light from the mezzanine. I suggest going up the stairs to the mezzanine to hang up your coat and change your shoes - there's much more room than there is on the rail downstairs, where your coat can end up blocking the door to the Ladies, and from up there you get an interesting view of the floor. I think your stuff would be perfectly safe. One time there was an elderly man sitting up there and looking lugubriously towards the stage, paying no attention to the dancers or anything else.

Hospitality: Good. There's a reasonably priced bar. Water is provided with a smile. My single G&T with ice and lemon was £4.40. No food. The loos are rickety - very cheaply maintained and cramped, with water tending to splash on the floor - and once you've managed to work the lock, you may have to yank on the top or bottom of the door to get out again. But it's clean, working, and properly supplied by the building's staff. You'll always get a smile and a friendly greeting from Asta or Nikki or an assistant on the desk when you come in.

Anyone or anything interesting that turned up or happened: Just social dancing, yay!

What I thought of the DJing: The first time I went, Beto Ortiz DJ'd and did, I think, a perfectly reasonable job delivering the basics, just as he does at his own milonga. I was happy to dance any tanda. The second time, Nikki DJ'd in between being on the door. She plays tandas and cortinas in the traditional format, but it can't have her full attention. Sometimes other DJ's are employed; you can check on the website. The week of writing [sorry, drafting - Chris Jordan is DJing the week of publication], Asta will be DJing.

Getting in: £8, or £10 if you take the class.

Getting there and getting home: It really is a short walk from Hammersmith Tube - IF you know the way. If you don't know the way, it's scary. This is just about the most pedestrian-hostile bit of scenery I've yet encountered in London, even worse than the what-were-they-thinking tunnels around the Waterloo IMAX. So here's what you need to do. When you come up the escalators, you're in a baffling shopping centre. Bear right - how far you have to go depends which escalator you came up. You want the exit from the shopping centre that has a statue of some nudes standing on a box. At this point, turn left. As you go around, you will see a large church on the other side of the road. You want to be going down the road that the church is on, and for now it's easier to stay on the side where the church is, i.e. the left hand side. Use the crossings to get there and keep the church on your left. After a while, you'll see the tall lights of Hammersmith Bridge in front of you, and on the other side of the road you'll see a pub with Oxford in the name. There's a crossing right in front of it. Cross, continue briefly in the same direction you were going, i.e. towards the bridge, turn right and you're on Rutland Grove, you'll see a sign for the tango. From what I gather, it's also pretty difficult for drivers - there are directions on the website.

The website: Tells you where, when, how much, who's giving the class and who's DJing. No fancy annoying javascript or flash or noises or anything. 

How it went: Very well. I had a very nice evening on each visit in a comfortable, pretty space with a nice atmosphere. On the first visit I felt the flow was rather good, at any rate much better than average for London. There were plenty of people I wanted to dance with, and it was civilised and not at all bumpy; nobody even kicked the teenage professional couple dancing like an arse with six legs. On the second visit I still had a pleasant evening with minimal bumps, and so did the friend I had brought, but with less dancing and less flow. Although it's a long way for me, it's accessible, there are tandas and cortinas and traditional music, and it's a nice place.


Tangocommuter said...

You might find it easier to look out for the signage at the underground exits. The signs seem to have been designed to be as inconspicuous as possible, but they are there, overhead. Follow the arrows to the Apollo, and when Tesco is on your left and Costa on your right, you go up the ramp towards street level, down again to cross under the road, and then back to street level by the first stairs on the right, which lead you out in front of the Apollo (used to be known as the Hammersmith Palais). It's an easy walk from there.

msHedgehog said...

@TC that's what I tried the first time - and got even more terrifyingly lost under that horrible underpass than I did the second time! Maybe it is okay, and it looks like you should be able to go that way, but my whiskers said STOP, GO BACK before I found out for sure. The route I described feels a lot less scary.

At least on the second occasion I had someone with me - which made me feel both better and worse about getting lost.

ghost said...

"Maybe it is okay, and it looks like you should be able to go that way, but my whiskers said STOP, GO BACK before I found out for sure."

Good decision. There's been studies done in America and from what you're describing it's a mugger's wet dream.

From what you've said, I'd either get a taxi (and made sure I had one arranged to take me home) or skip the whole thing entirely and go elsewhere.

Tangocommuter said...

First time I went I nearly got flattened by the traffic, so you did better than me! But it was summertime, broad daylight, so it's never seemed that threatening.

Glad to walk it through with you if you're thinking of going that way again soon...

Chris said...

Avoidance of that underpass is particularly recommended when it's raining and the bottom is six inches under water ... unless you have a guy to carry you over :)

msHedgehog said...

@ghost, the way I described is actually fine, with very good visibility and actually a fair amount of foot traffic. The hard part is just figuring out which way to go from the Tube.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ms. Hedgehog, thank you SO MUCH for describing the walking route in such detail. I have gotten lost so many times where on the map it all looked so perfectly clear and was completely incomprehensible in reality. -Anna from NY

msHedgehog said...

@Anna from NY, I hope I got it right! I wonder if you visited and tried it or are just endorsing the principle? That's why I do it, though, finding the way there is often the scariest part of the evening when you're new to a place.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, I have gone there (and few other places in London) and followed your walking directions to the letter and it worked out perfectly for me! My next goal is mastering the night buses use in London, so I don't have to run off to the last tube train leaving milongas when they finally get going. Thank you again for all your reviews and walking instructions.
--Anna from NY

msHedgehog said...

Anna, you've made me SO happy! :)

msHedgehog said...

@Anna, the main problem with night buses is just that they're s..l..o..w. And the second problem is that if you have to change you are stranded outdoors in a place you probably don't know and maybe wouldn't choose to be in, for an unforseeable amount of time, tired, and in your milonga clothes. I'm ok with them when I'm not travelling entirely alone.

msHedgehog said...

In fact, I'm okay with them alone as well if I don't have to change. It's pretty safe.

I do recommend having a music player with you, though, and good earphones: night buses tend to attract ranters trying to get a reaction. Knitting isn't a bad idea either.

Anonymous said...

Not wishing to be picky, but I think TC means that the Apollo used to be the Hammersmith Odeon.

The Hammersmith Palais (de Danse), sadly now closed, is in the opposite direction, along Shepherds Bush Road - so don't go that way !

Dave, Reading