Monday, February 27, 2006

Tired, hungover....

La Tasca didn't happen for me: a combination of hangover and post-migraine dopiness meant that I went to bed at half eight and slept for ten hours. I gather there weren't many dancers there.

Sunday night's TV highlight was a Steven Poliakoff drama starring Bill Nighy, so that was two very good reasons to go to the Wharf. Glad I went: plenty of good people in the class (eg Rachel, Lisa, Anne) and a cracking stylish sequence that was just the right length. The body roll early on caused a bit of eye-rolling from a few of the women but everyone seemed happy by the end. And dancing with Lucy later I remembered how to lead the move from Andy's advanced workshop that I'd forgotten (isn't it odd how that happens?)

In London for work on Monday. If I'd had any sense I would have gone to Super Mario and Susana Montero's class in Charing Cross Road, but I'd already signed up for a meal with the people I'd spent the day with. I assumed that I'd sleep better after that than a night's dancing. Bad move: a quiet Italian meal led to a seriously late night, and I'm not going to Bristol tonight because I need to catch up on some sleep. So that's two nights' salsa I've missed out on. You'd think I'd have worked out by now that given the choice between dancing and an alternative way of spending an evening, dancing is almost always the best option...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Birthdays and beginners

Birthday dances - where the lucky victim gets to dance with everyone of the opposite sex - used to be really good in Cardiff, with people queuing up for their turn in the spotlight. I can remember when you were lucky to get more than half a minute before someone else muscled in. But there were two on Monday - John's and Rhian's - and hardly any takers: I danced with Rhian twice because it didn't seem fair to leave her stuck with one bloke for too long.

Having completely arsed up a birthday dance in front of a large audience a couple of years ago I can understand people who don't join in because of lack of confidence. But there were plenty of experienced dancers there on Monday who could have joined in but didn't. Let's hope there's a bit more enthusiasm next time (particularly when it's my birthday - fortunately this year it doesn't fall on a salsa night).

Otherwise, there was a touch of the skating rink about Monday, though not quite as bad as the Wharf a few months ago. I danced bachata with Debbie and was pleased to find that it finally seems to be getting more natural - no more 'dog against a lamp-post', to use Abby's inimitable phrase.

Real bonus was Deborah turning up, remarkably having not danced for five months becaus of pressure of work. If I'd taken that long off it would be like starting from scratch, but she's still a lovely smooth and graceful dancer. (I've just realised I wrote almost exactly the same thing about her the last time she turned up). I ended up teaching one of her colleagues the basics - she picked them up remarkably quickly and definitely has potential.

Being nice to beginners pays off: several women who I danced with when they were inexperienced a few months ago are developing into really good dancers now. And they're more likely to dance with me now than with the prat who pounces on attractive newcomers, stops to explain some rubbish move to them, and then abandons them halfway through a dance if they can't follow him. Someone I regularly dance with told me that one of her friends was put off salsa completely by this character.

I'm out of action tonight, unfortunately, so I won't have a chance to check out Que Pasa: the lunchtime swim that was supposed to liven me up for a night's dancing sparked off a migraine. And that's after I deliberately got an early night last night rather than going to Fiesta Havana.

Andy's amended the class times at Que Pasa, so it's a cut-price beginners class 8-8.30 and then improvers and intermediates in parallel 8.30-10. That makes sense to me as the previous plan - improvers II being able to join in the Intermediate class - can't have done much for keeping up the level. From what I've heard I'm not sure how long Que Pasa will be sustainable as a venue: apparently the only wooden dancefloor left is the section in front of the bar, where sensible dancers used to escape to when the main dance floor got too manic.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Tasca again

Absolutely knackered last week - the 5.30am start to get to Aber on Thursday wiped me out for days. I gather Que Pasa is, as expected, a bit of a problem with the main dancefloor gone, so by all accounts I didn't miss much.

I'd just about recovered for La Tasca last night. I got there early in the hope of dancing with Laura on an empty dancefloor, but she wasn't there - no Rachel, Lisa or Sarah either : (

Even though a lot of my favourites weren't there - and it was very crowded - it was a good fun. Actually I think it's good for my dancing too: obviously I can't do the flash stuff when trying to avoid hazards including a blob of tapas, a tray of ice, Tasca staff carryng trays of drink, a pool of water, and various suicidal muggles, but it keeps me on my toes and also means that I concentrate on gentle, controlled dancing in limited space. And you can pretty much guarantee that there'll be a few really good people there to dance with.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Two nights running

Sunday afternoon was a bit more strenuous than I expected - I broke a gear cable climbing out of Llancarfan halfway round my two hour circuit and had to ride home with just two high gears, and there's no flat route back to Penarth.

So I was a bit knackered in the Wharf. There was a distinct shortage of women, and there would have been even fewer if the class hadn't included some people who were really only improvers. It was a nice sequence but I didn't really get it, as Rachel discovered when I tried to inflict it on her the following night.

Lisa turning up for the free dancing was a pleasant surprise (as ever, looking stylish without letting the styling get in the way, though she was claiming to be out of practice).

I even made it out to O'Neills last night. John's music has definitely taken a turn for the better. Nice to dance with Kathrin again (I wondered if she'd stopped coming as I hadn't seen her for a few months). Rachel turned up pretty late, so I stayed a fair bit later than I'd planned and limped home very sweaty and tired with a sore toe and neck (double spins probably weren't a good idea a week after that Audi ran into me).

I'm not the only one who's a bit concerned about the Toad's refurbishment as Que Pasa. Andy's had to revise the class schedule as there are only two dance floors now (see the link to 'Cardiff salsa nights and classes' on the right for details.)

I've also added a new link on the right to details of Nathalie's classes.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Pica Pica

In answer to you question, Lisa, no I didn't get to Pica Pica. It's frustrating when you can see your planned night out gradually disappearing - in this case an unscheduled change of trains at Chester meant hanging around at Crewe for three quarters of an hour and getting back to Cardiff an hour later than planned, completely knackered. Of course, if the woman in the Audi hadn't put my car out of action I could have been back in Cardiff by eight...I could really have done with a night's dancing, as well.

I had a sneak look in through the door of Que Pasa (the refurbished Toad) today. The bar is supposed to be reopening tonight. I couldn't see much but the main dance floor seems to have been replaced by carpet and a raised platform - I hope there's more wood at the other end, otherwise running three classes in tandem could be a bit of a problem. I won't make the opening next Thursday anyway - got to be in Aberystwyth that night.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


I see from yesterday's Echo headline that Cardiff's 'cabbies' are threatening to strike because they don't like the top of St Mary Street being closed at weekends. I'd have a bit more sympathy if I hadn't (on two separate occasions) been crossing the road there on my way to salsa - with the green man in my favour - and had to leap out of the way of taxis doing illegal U-turns. It's about time they realised that traffic laws apply to them as well. (That also means the laws against jumping red lights, doing 60 in a 40 limit, carving up cyclists and threatening to run them off the road...)

The road closure makes St Mary Street a lot safer and calmer on a Saturday night, so I'm all for it.

Not quite according to plan...

No Toad last week, of course. Which had one advantage - I finally got around to seeing The Constant Gardener. Chapter was sold out and it's not surprising. It's one of the best film adaptations I've seen, and of a very good book too (John Le Carre's best for years). As you might expect if you've seen Mereilles' previous film City of God it's got stunning cinematography, dramatic editing, audacious time shifts and some terrific performances (including Rachel Weisz, who's distractingly gorgeous). Bill Nighy's a bit irritating as usual but you can't have everything. Go and see it when it comes back to Chapter in April.

End of digression.

I should have gone to La Tasca on Saturday. That didn't happen: I had another event to go to first, I knew that several people I'd want to dance with weren't going, and the prospect of a couple of pints (er, and a couple of glasses of cava, and a glass of red wine) and being within walking distance of home won out.

Plan number 2: go to the Wharf. That did happen, and I even got there in time for the class. A stylish but tricky move – beyond a lot of people in the class – followed by a "New York setup", a nifty and unusual way of starting a turn. Andy apologised for not getting round to teaching the rest of the sequence: personally I think if you're teaching a move that tricky there was more than enough to cover in 45 minutes. Good to see Liz and Teresa there: I had a cracking first dance with Teresa but gradually deteriorated as I overheated.

The dance floor was surprising crowded early on. At one point I was sitting minding my own business when a slightly drunk young bloke came over, introduced himself, shook my hand and then asked "Will you teach the missus how to salsa?" Which I attempted to do, though I did explain that you can't really learn it that quickly. Apparently they'd just called in for a drink; she hadn't encountered salsa before, but she used to do modern dance and really wanted to give it a go. I think they'll be back.

Next step: the refurbished O'Neills. "I'll just get a half hour powernap before going out..." An hour and a half later - too late - I woke up. Apparently it was pretty good, though I really felt better this morning for the extra sleep.

Another foiled plan: go to Bar Cuba tonight. Now that might have happened, except for the Audi that ran into the back of me on the way home. I'm desperately hoping that my stiff neck doesn't develop into whiplash: I think I'd better stay in and calm it down with some Ibuprofen.

But if I manage to get back from North Wales in time and my neck is functioning, there's some dancing to entice me out on Thursday: Irene - former Welsh salsa champion - is running a one-off styling and shines class in Pica Pica on Westgate Street. Three quid, class starts at half eight (improvers and intermediate) and there's dancing afterwards.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

More smoke

Having enthused about the lack of smoke in the Claverton Rooms, I thought it might be useful for visitors if I rated Cardiff salsa venues by their smokiness:

Low to moderate: The Wharf (smoking not allowed in the dancing area, but it can still get a bit smoky because of punters in the rest of the pub).

Moderate: O'Neills.

High: Cuba, the Toad, La Tasca (I enjoy dancing there despite the smoke but I wouldn't want to eat a meal in that atmosphere).