Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Shame you decided to opt for an early night, Lisa. I had sore feet two days later: that's how much fun the Claverton Rooms was. And I was wearing comfy Bloch dance sneakers. God knows how you women manage in high heels and no cushioning.

I'd almost decided not to go to Bath again because of the distance: a hundred mile round trip is a lot for an evening's dancing. But then Rachel said she was happy to drive so I gratefully accepted. Lizzie and Tall Malcolm made a carfull.

Classes? Well, the threatened ballroom didn't materialise: the first classes were beginners' chachacha, merengue and bachata. I did John's bachata class and learnt a couple of new moves (so I now know four...) For the second class I decided to do Jools' class even though it was improvers, as I remembered being impressed by her teaching in the Steam Rock a long time ago. She was good, too, and I did learn one technique that I'd either never learnt or had forgotten.

Free dancing was crowded (it was sold out, and they made two and a half grand for the Tsunami appeal). As usual, the music and sound quality was great. I didn't know that many women there - quite a few of the usual Bristol and Bath suspects weren't around, and for a change, I didn't spend all evening dancing with the Cardiff girls . It's always good when it's going well and you can dance with people who haven't experienced all your moves dozens of times before. Went down quite well with most of them, though I definitely started losing the plot as 1am came and went.

I had one near-disaster dancing with an enthusiastic, attractive, but tall and strong young woman - I spun her in for a dip at the end of a song and instead of leaning back into my left arm she turned round and leant into my right necessitating a quick change of plan to avoid her ending up on the floor...

Very late getting back. Last time I went was with a carful of sensible people, and even then it was three by the time I got home. This time it was 4 am, so I spent a large part of Sunday asleep. I usually feel like I've got a hangover after a night's dancing because of the smoke, but the Claverton Rooms is blessedly smoke-free. It's worth the trip just for that: it's extraordinary how much better I felt the following day compared with La Tasca, even after the added sleep deprivation.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Strictly ballroom

Yesterday got off to a lively start: my iPod woke me up at 6.45 with Salsipuedes by Lisandra Meza from the Rough Guide to Cumbia. (This morning it shuffled to the funereal 'Lonesome Valley' from Oh Brother Where Art Thou, which pretty much matched how I felt about having to get up with post-salsa sleep deprivation). I managed to catch an earlier train than I expected up to Coventry so I had a glorious view from the train of the early-morning sunlight sparkling off the Severn: even the nuclear power station at Oldbury looked like a medieval castle silhouetted against the sun.

After a quick powernap and a few squares of Green and Black's expresso chocolate to wake me up, I got to the Toad where Kate invited me to slot into the improvers' class where she was teaching rueda - or at least, as close to rueda as you can manage when packed in like sardines. Later on she did it for real with a smaller group: I've joined in with rueda in several different places including Bristol, Bath, Glasgow and Belfast, but I've had by far the most fun when Kate's leading it. Rather than doing a lot of obscure and elaborate moves she focuses on getting dynamism and energy into the wheel, with plenty of 'dame dos' and 'por abajo' to get you changing speed and direction. I must have another go at getting a group together so we can get her to teach us.

My favourite dancers were a bit thin on the ground last night: Lisa's away (though I danced with her mum), no sign of Sue, and worst of all I haven't danced with Sarah for about a fortnight. There was one consolation, though (apart from Lucy helping me to remember a flashy move I'd forgotten): I got to dance with Gail for the first time in ages. She is just so exciting and engaging to dance with. I managed to inadvertently insult Lisa the other day (oops) over on SalsaCardiff with a crack about ballroom dancers, but like her Gail used to be one and I think it's one reason why she's such a stylish and expressive dancer. (Intriguingly, "ballroom" is listed as one of the classes at the Claverton Rooms tomorrow night.)

The Toad is shut for a couple of weeks now. Mikey P is having another crack at starting a Wednesday Latin night in Aqua, by the market. I hope it succeeds, but it's yet another night with a really late start, like Cuba: free dancing isn't until 10.30. It would be really good to have a salsa night with good music where you could go out and dance starting at a reasonable time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


It's worth getting to La Tasca early. First dance: Laura, Mi Cariñito, and an empty dance floor, which is a great start to any evening. We even got a round of applause from a table of non-dancing diners (undeserved in my case): second time that's happened to me there while dancing with her. Later on when it filled up I had another dance with her: she definitely gets the prize for being easiest to dance with in a confined space.

There were some other really good dancers there: I really enjoyed dancing with you, Lisa - shame it was the last chance for a few weeks. I didn't stay much beyond one, though: I wasn't dancing at my best and the level of smoke - and dodging the drunks - was getting to me. I'm really looking forward to the smoke-free Claverton Rooms on Saturday (get your tickets quick if you haven't already - there's quite a few going from Cardiff).

First time that I've managed to get to the Wharf after a late night in La Tasca: good music as ever, useful class, first dance with Sue this year, but I was dancing like a gonk. I need more practice!

I'm looking forward to Andy's next advanced workshop, which he's apparently planning for the end of February.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Lo 'que pasa' es...

(What's happening is)...that the Toad is finally being refurbished and relaunched as part of the 'Que Pasa' chain. It'll be closed on February 2nd and 9th, re-opening on the 16th. I think we're going to need to make some trips to Bristol on a Wednesday those weeks. I'm up in North Wales on the 8th/9th (I wouldn't have been in any fit state to make the Toad on that Thursday anyway after a day working in Welsh and a hundred and fifty mile drive).

Good to get back there last night - first time since before Christmas for me, and for several other people. Very crowded, though. I was knackered but livened up after a first dance with Lizzie. Quite a few other nice dancers there: unfortunately the woman who really brings out the best in my dancing couldn't get there as she was ill. Hope she's back in action Saturday.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Cuba (and Bar Cuba)

Bar Cuba is now a Latin-only night on Tuesday, with Andy DJing and playing what he usually plays on Saturdays. Which is encouraging. I should have gone last night and danced with Lisa instead of sitting in front of the telly.

I watched Buena Vista Social Club on More4 instead (well, I fell asleep during the last half hour, but I watched most of it.). A gentle film with some real characters - I particularly liked the bit where Ibrahim Ferrer was describing the offerings he made to what he called his 'Lazarus' - the Babalu orisha figure in his house. Wim Wenders makes Cuba look like a magical place, with some lovely use of steadicam. I'm not inclined to buy the album, though: what I would like to do is to track down some of the original versions they made in their youth. I'm glad I watched the film after reading Cuba and its music: from the first drums to the mambo, so I had a sense of the importance of the musicians featured and mentioned.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Frombelows

I was up in London last week for a stupidly busy week of work. Fortunately nobody from Cardiff was there to see me wearing a DJ on Wednesday evening for the first time ever (makes me look 10 years older - not to be repeated in a hurry).

I was hoping to get out from some dancing on Thursday night. Unfortunately My Place - where Super Mario teaches, just down the road from where I was working - hasn't started back again after Christmas. I went a couple of years ago (he was away so it was 'just' Susanna teaching) and had a good time.

I was on my feet most of the time last week and having trouble with my dodgy toe so I wasn't really inspired to travel further afield. Got back at 9.15 Saturday night in no fit state to join the gang in La Tasca : (

I did, however, pick up Los de Abajo's 'Los de Abajo vs. The Lunatics' while I was up there. It's a cracking CD. Only one pure salsa track: they are very eclectic with styles including cumbia, a bit of chachacha, some tango and a lot of Mexican ska. They're a political band - Los de Abajo means 'those from below', and the first track is 'La Resistencia' with a voiceover by 'Zapatista Insurgent Commander Esther' - but a lot of the CD is great fun, with Spanish lyrics that are occasionally hilarious. There's also the storming 'El Manicomio Esta En Los Manos de Los Locos': a Spanish version of a well-known Fun Boy Three hit from the 80s. (Whoever is first to correctly tell me the original English title wins a dance with me on Saturday night. Second prize is two dances....) I wish I'd been able to get to see them in Fiddlers where they played a couple of months ago.

Also, Phil Heath (see the Salseros link on the right) is running a Tsunami benefit gig on Saturday 28th in the Claverton Rooms. Apparently it sold out last year so you probably need to buy tickets in advance. I'm planning to go.

A quick reminder that O'Neills is closed until the end of January for refurbishment. Shame, as I could really have done with some dancing last night.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Big Fun

Didn't there used to be a band of that name?

One of my New Year's resolutions was to spent less time on this blog, but my public won't let me ; ) Someone told me last night that she visited every day or two and asked why I hadn't posted for so long. Glad to know someone reads it! While I've been away I've managed to start an argument over on Salsajive.

Stevie from Salsamania is looking to start running a night in Cardiff on Thursday, Friday or Saturday (see this thread on SalsaCardiff). I'd suggest Fridays myself, though nobody seems to have cracked running a sustainable salsa night on a Friday in Cardiff despite several attempts. Obviously avoiding Thursday is pretty essential, but it also would be a shame if it affected La Tasca on Saturdays.

I went there last night with Sarah, Lisa and Rachel. Town was really quiet which meant La Tasca was perfect: loads of good dancers, very few drunks (and great music as Andy didn't have to play reggaeton for the muggles). I had a great time and stayed far too late. A bit ropey to start with - trying to be too clever - but once I relaxed and got into it I was dancing a lot better. I tend to have more fun dancing in La Tasca than I do anywhere else: it feels more like a party, people are less self-conscious and more focused on just enjoying their dancing, and the fact that it isn't just salsa dancers there makes it seem more real. Not only that, but usually pretty much all the dancers there are people you'd actually want to dance with, whether you're male or female (or at least they were last night).


Whoever decides to run a salsa night sometime in the middle of the Christmas/New Year period would have punters hammering on the door. It's a bit shocking how dependent I am on it, particularly at this time of year: by the 29th I was bored, lethargic and irritable. Ordinary exercise helps a bit, so I did 20 miles cycling (in the torrential rain) on Friday, but it was the prospect of some salsa on Tuesday night that really lifted my mood. There were only four of us when we got there, but as that was two males and two females it was fine. I was crap after nearly a fortnight off but I felt so much better afterwards.