Review: The TLC Ball (Winchester)

23rd February 2009

Ball Date: Saturday 21st February 2009

Location: The Guild Hall, Winchester


The TLC (Tracie's Latin Club) Ball has been going for a few years now - I've been meaning to go for the past two years but kept forgetting about it. This time, I made the effort and went down for it.

The TLC Ball is one of those few fusion events - it has Salsa, Tango, and Swing halls, all in one venue and all in one night. With over 400 people attending, it's a large-scale event.

Getting there

The TLC Ball is held in Winchester, which is fairly easy to get to - just off the M3. It's about ah hour's drive from the junction of the M3 and the M25 - so about two hours in total for me, coming from North London.

The Venue

Winchester Guild hall is in the heart of Winchester, not surprisingly. It's a lovely town hall, with three sub halls used for the ball.

There are two bars, a cloakroom, and good facilities.

A photographer had set up shop just inside the door, if you wanted to be captured in all your glory, a nice touch.

First impressions

The doors opened at 8:30 - there was a queue, but it moved quickly.

The dress code is "dress to impress" and it's lovely to see everyone making an effort - generally DJs and lovely dresses are the rule. My clip on dickie got on my nerves after about 10 minutes, so I dumped it, but I retained the waistcoat look.

The largest hall was for salsa, the next largest was for Tango, and the smallest area was for Swing / Jive. I'd expected the Swing section to be larger - I guess this reflects the emphasis on dancing for the TLC.

Dancing started, I got a quick salsa in then went to the Tango room for a tanda.

The demonstration

At 9:30, we had a demonstration from a lovely professional dance couple, Amy and Robert. They came second in the International Professional Rising Stars Championships this year, and they've apparently also been on the Polish Dance With The Stars show.

They did a selection, displaying salsa, samba, Chacha, Paso, Rumba and Jive. They were a lovely couple, it's amazing what a different performance you get from professionals. The outfits were fabulous, they were clearly marvellous dancers, and the sheer charisma and athleticism is undeniable.

That said, I though the routines werem't really polished as much as they could be - they tailed off a bit whilst the music was still going, it'd have been nice for them to synchronise the music and the routine a bit more.

Still great routines, though.

The salsa room

The main salsa hall was perpetually packed. Standard of dancing seemed quite reasonable - but I've been so out of the salsa scene recently it's difficult for me to judge these things. There were probably a good half-dozen expert male salsa dancers, I'd say, and most of the women I danced with were of a good standard.

It got very crowded, and very hot - salsa dancing of course is more energetic, so it's bound to be hotter, but maybe a few fans might have improved things. Let's face it, waistcoats aren't Tshirts...

The music was by DJ Julian "The Duke" - good to see he's still around. Like all salsa music, 80% of it was bland-but-danceable, 10% was awful, and 10% was stompingly good. That's just how salsa is. Of course, unfortunately, there's no way of telling when the good stuff is coming...

I probably had about 15-20 dances in the salsa room in the evening; probably I spent about an hour in total dancing there.

The tango

The Tango room was a good-size, even with the addition of the bar there.

The music was by Django Tango, resplendent in a lovely red suit. The music was mostly traditional, with the occasional vals and milonga tandas, and a few neo-tango tracks. I'd hoped for more neo-tango, but you can't please everyone.

The people seemed very friendly and approachable, but then I'm used to Negrachas... The standard was probably a bit lower than with the salsa, or in some central London venues, but that's fine, I'm only a beginner myself.

The room was good in terms of numbers - not too busy, with space to dance as small or large as you want. No real floorcraft disasters - but then, the reasonable space always makes these things easier...

I had some lovely dances, it was a very comfortable experience, and I could certainly have spent all night in there. As it was, I probably spent 2-3 hours dancing in there. But then, the 3-dance thing in tango generally meant I probably danced with about the same number as people as in the salsa "dance-and-forget" room.

The swing room

The swing room was a small area, with the second bar. DJ Andy was there on the decks - the music was lovely but I can't really dance Swing, so I only popped my head round the corner a couple of times. It got quite busy, so presumably there's a good Swing crowd in the area.

Summing up

It's difficult to do a salsa then - immediately after - a tango. I did this a couple of times, with a couple of ladies, and it was a struggle. The floorcraft is probably the trickiest bit, going from a stationary to a progressive dance is a mental challenge...

However, it's gratifying to find that a lot of the dancers there can indeed do both disciplines - there was a lot of mingling between the salsa and tango rooms, which I've not seen previously in other cross-over / fusion events.

I'd have liked some more Jive-y tunes in the Swing room, but that's probably just me being greedy.

I'd absolutely return there next year; it's a great opportunity to get dolled-up and dance to some of my favourite styles. I'd forgotten how much fun salsa is, for example. And how tiring!

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- David Bailey, 23rd February 2009

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