Saturday, 4 February 2012

The Light Temple

The Light Temple - Saturdays in Shoreditch, 9pm - 2am. Sorry I haven't got around to this one before, it's quite popular, it's just that I can rarely do Saturdays.

The Class: They usually have an beginner or improver-level class with Pablo and Naomi beforehand. Sometimes they have a class with guest teachers.

Layout and Atmosphere: It's dark. There are coloured lights, in a quite large white-walled cuboid space that seems to have been some sort of church, although of an odd shape and orientation. You come in at one side of a large uncurtained stage, and you can sit, or rather nest, on there, with cushions. But you'll be very close to the speakers. The DJ booth is on the other side of that. The opposite side has a gallery, with chairs underneath it, in two pockets, with a closed part between them fronted by small tables and chairs. There are some benches right at the back. There are a few small round tables, and more chairs, along the other two walls. What light there is, varies between blue and red. Cabeceo is feasible if you sit in the right place, know the person fairly well, and have good eyesight, but generally you are more likely to get verbal requests. It has a youngish, excited sort of vibe, and it's not at all difficult for a non-regular to get dances. The floor is good, if slightly sloping towards one corner, and large.

Hospitality: Good. There's a table up in the gallery that serves as a bar. They don't do gin-and-tonic, but a small glass of wine is £4. Water was available at no charge. Sometimes they also have food beforehand, especially in summer. The loos are roomy, well-lit and in good condition - entrance under the gallery.

Anyone or anything interesting that turned up or happened: A couple abandoned the ample space behind me and my partner, cut the corner, and made their way into the very small space between us and the couple in front. After about half a minute, they found that the space so made was insufficient. So he executed a sort of giant soltada without the turn, and gestured in the direction of dance. The couple divided, passed on either side of my friends in front and two other couples, and rejoined each other in the corner beyond, where they remained for some time. I thought that was quite interesting. I don't go there often enough to say for sure how unusual it is.

What I thought of the DJing: Pablo, the regular DJ, plays tandas of 4, with 3s for milonga and vals, and the cortinas are long enough. The DJing is appropriate for the tastes and dance style of most of the regulars. If you like the modern cover versions of things like El Huracán better than the originals, you'll love it; it's not my thing at all. There was a lovely Biagi tanda near the start, and I think a couple of really nice Canaro ones. And a lot of what I classify broadly as Pugliese knockoffs with high sound quality that don't make me want to dance even slightly; but there is a school of thought that really likes this stuff. If you can deduce from my description that that's you, try this venue.

The sound is mainly from two big speakers on the stage, so it is louder when you're close to them, but I had no problems hearing it anywhere, and I think the long curtains hanging from the gallery limit the interference of voice noise.

Getting in: £10 for the class and milonga, £4 for the milonga only. I came in just before the end of the class and I don't actually remember which I was charged. £4 is very cheap for London.

Getting there and getting home: It takes me 12 minutes to walk there from Liverpool Street, or you can hop on a bus for a couple of stops. It's more or less next door to Shoreditch Church. From Liverpool Street, come out of the Bishopsgate exit and walk left. Just follow the road. You'll pass the Light Bar, which is where they have the milonga on Tuesdays, after about six minutes. The place to cross the road is just after you get to the Majestic wine warehouse. Keep following the road till you get to Shoreditch Church, and follow the fence right around. As you do so, you'll make your way through the crowd spilling out from the George and Dragon on the corner, and you'll see a sign on the church fence - follow the arrow down the little street and the entrance is on the left, currently half-concealed by boarded scaffolding, before you get to the residential bit. I'm told parking can be a bit difficult, so you might want to plan for your space if you're driving. But on this evening my friends who were driving had no problems.

Many trains run from Liverpool Street till about 1am, but since this milonga starts rather late, if you like it you will probably want to stay till the end. In that case there are many buses, but keep in mind that a LOT of people try to leave Shoreditch on buses between about half past one and 2am. You may have to wait for an hour or more before one goes past that has space for you. Consider walking back to the bus station at Liverpool Street, which is what I should have done both times this happened to me.

The website: is 100% Flash, but once you get in, it has the information you need. Or use the Facebook Thing for announcements.

How it went: I really like the young cheerful vibe that it has. On all my (few) visits there's been plenty of space, which most of the dancers were keen to make use of. The level of bumps has varied so widely that I can't really say what's normal. It may well depend on the class and the crowd. It is very dark, though. Consider light-coloured or shiny clothing. If you're under the gallery and not in the front row or along the side, you can't really be seen from anywhere else. If you are there, you're very exposed.

If you're inexperienced and you need to get some dances in, then I think it would be fun and fine, especially if you took the class beforehand. You might also be interested in the "L-Plate" milonga specially for beginners in a second room, off the entrance hall. It looked quite nice in there, when I came in - I forgot about it and regretted not investigating further. More experienced dancers have a very good chance of finding agreeable partners if the other aspects suit them.

I'm unlikely to become a regular here because the DJing style doesn't suit me at all, and I'm not crazy about the Shoreditch night bus experience. But I like the youthful feel and the hospitality and the space itself. It's also cheap and accessible. In this case I was there with some friends and stayed to the end, having a very enjoyable evening.

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