Sunday, 22 April 2012

Carablanca's big night out

Recently, for one evening, as a trial, Carablanca milonga in London decided to dispense with a pre-milonga class and use the time instead for dancing. In a bold move the organisers also decided to get an extension, so the milonga started at 8 and finished at 2am. Moreover, they brought in a really good DJ, Bernhard Gehberger. It seems to have been a big success. Plenty of people were on the floor from start to finish, and it was remarkable that almost all the dancing was close or close-ish embrace. It wasn't as disciplined and restrained as a BsAs milonga, but then Londoners haven't had years of practice at dancing on crowded floors. (All it takes is practice! It's not something you can learn in classes!) Although it's a fair-sized hall, the organisers have limited the amount of space available for dance, so everyone is developing the skills needed for tango at a traditional milonga.

I gather that when the Welsh Centre milonga, Carablanca's previous incarnation, started out they had just one CD, a Troilo CD that those who remember those days know by heart, and that it was known as a place for kicking and being kicked. (I hope I'm not maligning it: this was years ago, anyway.) From that to six hours of excellent music, and reasonably good dance too: times have changed for the better I think! It parallels some comments made recently by Irene and Man Yung about Toronto tango: perhaps Toronto has gone through the same transformation as London within a similar timescale. (It's a hilarious post if you haven't already seen it.)

& the good news is that there's more of this coming up. I hear that there are several evenings without a pre-milonga class arranged for the next few months, a full four hours of dance each night, and that an extension until 2am for a further evening has been applied for. Combined with bookings of first-rate DJs, there are some really good evenings to look forward to. Keep an eye on the website.


Tango en el Cielo said...

TC Your informant has wrongly maligned the milonga at the Welsh Centre (Carablanca club's predecessor, called Tango the Argentino Way)! I forget which year it moved to the Welsh Centre (around 1995 I think), but the club had already run for several years before that in the URC hall, Wakefield St. In those early years I remember a range of music being played including di Sarli, Canaro, d'Arienzo and Pugliese. The club had a collection of CDs in a box, but DJs often brought their own collections too.
But I agree with you that the recent move at Carablanca to bring experienced DJs from other countries for an extended milonga, instead of a class and demo, is a great idea and hope there will be more evenings like that.

Anonymous said...

Yippee! More please ...

Chris said...

TC wrote: "as a trial, Carablanca milonga in London decided to dispense with a pre-milonga class and use the time instead for dancing."

Actually not. The scheduled milonga start was only 30mins earlier than normal.

And it's not a trial. Carablanca has done the same almost every year since 2008 when it ceased doing any pure (i.e. class-free) milongas.

And, TC, re your report that the standard of dancing at this milonga has improved since the Welsh Centre days, I think you'll find very little agreement amongst opinions based on actual experience. Yes, there is less complaint about being kicked these days, but that's mainly because most current regulars know no better. Dancers who do know better new have have a choice of alternative milongas that do not hire teachers of anti-social dancing.

Tangocommuter said...

Thanks for the comments.

Chris: I'm sure you're aware that classes at Carablanca always overrun, so a milonga starting at eight is at least 45 minutes longer. & I understood from one of the organisers that this particular format, no class and an extension, was a first.

As for the quality of dance, my comments are from observations based on actual experience. On the other hand, you don't record your actual experience of that night, or of your recent experiences of dancing there. It would be good to hear some 'actual experience'.

Finally, your mention of 'alternative milongas' is hopelessly vague. Why not name them? (We are talking London here.)

Tangocommuter said...

Jantango wrote:

It's good to hear that the milongas are improving. A class isn't required. It's only a way for organizers to make more money and get people in to the milonga in BsAs.

(My comment after many attempts to post. Google is impossible. I've tried on other occasions and it doesn't work for me.)

"All it takes is practice! It's not something you can learn in classes!"
How true. Like the difference between learning to drive in an empty parking lot and then managing on a busy highway.
But traffic isn't always "disciplined and restrained" in Buenos Aires. There are reckless drivers, and many who are so busy talking they don't notice others around them. Last night we passed up a loud talker between dances. He was more interested in talking than dancing. It was difficult to hear the music. The milongas in BsAs are far from perfect. And they continue to get worse.


Chris said...

TC wrote: "I'm sure you're aware that classes at Carablanca always overrun, so a milonga starting at eight is at least 45 minutes longer."

That's somewhat unfair, TC. Going by these recorded times, on the last ten occasions I was there, only five overruns were that long. And one was due not to class, but to the teacher holding a photo session - without permission.

"& I understood from one of the organisers that this particular format, no class and an extension, was a first."

Well, the milonga's programme archive does clearly show otherwise.

Anyway, I agree with you TC that it's great to see a six-hour milonga.

Cinderella said...

Janis wrote: "The milongas in BsAs are far from perfect. And they continue to get worse."
I'm glad to get such an honest opinion, Janis. And, lving there, you should know. I've heard the same from recent visitors. People like me, who haven't been there yet, sometimes get the impression that our opinion about tango is not taken seriously, not wanted even. However, I'm starting to have a feeling that there are places of really good dancing outside BsAs. Perhaps London will also become one one day. Good Luck!

Tangocommuter said...

As ever, many thanks for your comments, Cinderella.

I must say that Jantango's views are Jantango's. I have nothing like her experience of the city but I must say I've never heard her pessimism from anyone else there. Pedro is my contact with the golden age; his tango goes back more than 55 years, and he goes out dancing, meets up with people of his age and the younger generation, and enjoys his nights out. He's a fluent talker who'll talk about anything and everything – but I've never heard from him a word of complaint about the milongas as they are. & there are, and have been, many like him. I've met many of the younger generation whose tango goes back 20 and more years to the revival in the 1980s, people who've danced with and alongside the older generation, who've absorbed the tango culture from them night after night for many years, and they too seem to find nothing but pleasure in the milongas as they are today. I'm sure everyone can find something to complain about, but it's a thriving and good-natured world in general, and there's a lot of enjoyment in it. These are all people who grew up in the city, who've lived all their lives there.

Personally I value the experience of those who've lived with tango so long and completely, and I'm glad to have had contact with them, however limited. I think their experience counts. I think it's terribly sad we have so little direct contact with that world in the UK. Some of the older generation still visit Europe regularly, year after year, as do the younger generation, encouraging and nurturing social tango, but our contact with them is indirect, through other social dancers and teachers of social dance who've been influenced by them. That's to be welcomed, of course, but I wish we'd had direct and consistent contact with them in the UK.

Tangocommuter said...

Chris, did you send me the wrong link? The event you linked to shows dancing from 8 to 11, not from 8 until 2.

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Tangocommuter,

Thanks for mentioning our post! Improving floorcraft in any community is an uphill battle - you may have a spell of relative calmness for a few weeks, and then the crazies come back!

On the whole though, things are a lot better in Toronto than when we started eight/nine years ago. Glad that it's that way in London too, hope that having some nice tranquil places to dance in won't make you miss Buenos Aires too much!

Irene and Man Yung

Chris said...

No mistake TC - that's a past example of "this particular format, no class and an extension" that you report being told was recently a first, and clicking the "Archive" link shows more.

Tangocommuter said...

I was just repeating what the organisers told me. If you want to argue about it, go to them, not me.