Review: 4th London Fire & Flame Tango Ball 2010 - "Ignite your passion"

Location: Carisbrooke Hall, 69 - 79 Seymour Street, London W2. Nearest Tube: Marble Arch.

Date & Time: 30th January, 8.30pm - 1am

Dress Code: Chic & Elegant, no trainers or jeans

The Tango Panda Rating System

Had surpassed all expectations, one of the highlights of the Annual London Tango Diary.
Had all the right combinations of elements for a good event. Not sorry to have invested time and effort on my part.
Definitely worth ditching the bamboo for.
Vital elements expected were present. Whatever that was lacking could be forgiven.
Just OK, bare essentials met but if it were not for the company, I'd rather watch bamboo grow.
All fur no knickers, should not have believed the hype and stayed at home and had some fun with a stick of bamboo.
0 Bamboo It's just too awful to mention so I've decided to stuff my face with bamboo instead.


This is the Panda's first foray to the annual Fire & Flame Ball organized by Brigitte Ozarovksy of Paris Tango. I'm not sure what her connection is, with the now-defunct 'Tango at 33 Portland Place' (whose new home is now at Porchester Place), but she always seems to be involved with the place and she does seem to get around a lot as I see her at nearly every single milonga or event going.

Panda's Musings

I missed out on last year's event as I was foraging in a different grove. After having heard quite a bit about it from numerous people about the success of last year's Ball, I was intrigued. Some would even go so far as to say it was one of the highlights of the London Tango Social Diary (if there isn't one, maybe I should start one here). So to my mind it already had quite a lot to live up to. It has been going for quite a while too so if there are any kinks in the fur, they should have been brushed out by now.

The dent to one's silk embroidered purse

Tickets were at £23 for the Ball alone, if you pre-booked on the website but if you elect to pay by Paypal, you would have to add another £1.50 on top of that. Brigitte will accept cheques posted to her personal address, but I had thought about the sacrifice of panda palatable pulp that may have been used in the manufacture of an envelope, stamp and cheque. Tickets at the door are a whopping £28!

There was a separate pricing system for the workshops and classes being run in conjunction with the Ball. I did not attend any these so I have nothing to say about them.

Getting there

I had arranged to meet with a friend at the Tube station so that we could walk to the Hall together. Getting to the Hall was not too difficult. However, a map on the leaflet would have been greatly appreciated for first timers or those who were unfamiliar with this part of London.

The nearest tube is Marble Arch but this section of Seymour Street lies off the Edgware Road. Personally, I would have preferred landmark instructions like, "From Marble Arch tube , take the Oxford Street exit and turn right at the top of the stairs. Carry on straight towards Edgware Road and take a right. Continue towards traffic lights, cross road to Cafe Uno, this is Seymour Street and the Hall is just behind it." (But this is just me, I am the same with shoe shops, but that's a different story)

The venue

Carisbrooke Hall forms part of the Victory Services Club and so can be expected to be of some acceptable standard. I was not wrong. The building looked well kept and impressive. The door was opened for us by the security guard and the F&F Box Office/Reception was well positioned.

Registration with them was quite easy as we have a pre-booked ticket and our names were easily located alphabetically on the list. We were greeted and welcomed in a most friendly manner by the lady at the desk who no doubt recognized us from our 33P days (London Tango is a small world). She also directed us to where the cloakroom and ladies rooms were.

So far no Fire or Flames, I was beginning to wonder about the choice of name.

There were no stated cloakroom charges, I assumed the that the gentleman who looked after our coats expected a minimum of £1. (There was a pound coin left conspicuously on the tray with a Thank You sign next to it. Yes, we can take a hint!). After a quick use of the facilities to refresh the artificial colouring on my features, smooth my head fur and change my shoes, we proceeded through the double doors to the Ball.

A welcome distraction

The Ball itself was on two levels. After coming through the double doors, there were stairs leading down to the basement where the dance floor and stage was situated. To the left of the stairs was a semi circular balcony area where a few table and chairs were set up and where Coleccion la Recoleta had set up temporary home for the evening, selling Comme il Fauts (the Rolls Royce of tango shoes).

Why we came

The dance floor begins almost immediately at the bottom of the stairs. The Bar was located in a separate section tucked far back below the balcony above. The main seating area was located within the space created by the balcony above. I found this area to be very dark, the only light source came from dimmed overhead lighting and from the tealights on the tables (aha, some fire and flame, at last).

Many of the tables were set very deeply into the back of this alcove, it made it very difficult to see or to recognize people, which meant getting asked for a dance or seeking a partner became a rather challenging exercise. There were some tables in open spaces located on the far side of the room against the wall, but these were largely reserved for special guests.

Besides the tealights, each table was prettily draped with a tablecloth and sprinkled with star confetti and other sparkly stuff. The organizer was very good with the little finishing touches and spared little expense on the marketing from the quality of the leaflets to the little specially printed signs to mark the reserved tables.

What you get on the night

Well, there was a live band 'Tango Siempre' playing, whom I personally found to be rather good. They didn't make my fur stand on end by doing crazy stylistic versions of popular classical Tango songs. They stuck instead to a style that I could only describe as a pleasing tribute to the original orchestral version and was suitable for social dancing.

There was a DJ, Marek Szotkowski who filled in the gaps, who was not offensive in his choice of music and I do not recall having heard any Nuevo tracks being played at all. This may have a lot to do with the choice of Guest Teachers featured, who were Adrian and Amanda Costa. Adrian and Amanda are known on the circuit as pure Tango de Salon teachers and hold true to their style. (Yes, the rumours about the Tango Police at 33P are true. Adrian Costa was rumoured to have tapped somebody on the shoulder to move them off the floor for 'ungainly' Tango behaviour in the Salon room, ie. Bad floorcraft, misbehaving legs and feet etc, sorry I digress).

Adrian and Amanda graced us with a 4 song performance, 2 Tango ,1 Vals and 1 Milonga. A bit long but people did come to see them and they were / are always very watcheable.

The Fire and Flamers on the dancefloor

A majority of people made an effort in their attire for the evening, which is such a civilized and pleasant thing to see. A man always holds his partner better when dressed in a suit, or at least he looks better at doing it. As for the ladies, I salute you, many of you were inspirational.

As for floorcraft that night, it's the usual standard you will experience in any London milonga. A few overtakers, some zig zaggers, some over zealous leading that resulted in untamed leg velocities. It did get better as the evening drew on, it may be that many people have started to leave so there was more space or could it be that I no longer cared anymore by that time .(Hmmmm...)

The critique

As already mentioned, because of the location of the tables underneath the balcony, the layout and darkness of the room made it virtually impossible to spot your friends and potential dance partners. I could not even do my little exercise of walking up and down to the Bar or Loo to get noticed.

So I made use of the cortina whenever I could to go around and hello to people. I can never understand why people had to hold a conversation in the middle of the dance floor or even on the edge knowing full well there were people trying to cut through. You had to cut across the pista to get to the Bar, risking mortal injury and bumping into people.

The bar tariff was not cheap, one double G&T was £7 . I don't know if this is normal and the measures were less than generous. I don't blame the organizers for this, they most probably had nothing to do with it.

The tickets were a little pricey for this economic climate but I can see the justification for it with the quality of the band they had chosen. I didn't get to dance very much but I don't have to in order to have a good time anyway.

The all in all

Carisbrooke Hall has one of the best-quality dancefloors I have experienced to date. The band was great, and the organizer's did a very good job overall from the marketing to the execution. Any shortcomings were largely unavoidable due to their choice of location.


I would give this year's Fire and Flame Ball a rating.

(I still don't know why they call it that, I wanted to see fire eaters at the door to welcome guests or even those fan powered funky lamps that look like open flame torches would have been spectacular!)

If I had to give one piece of advice to next year's attendees, if it's held at the same hall, come with your own posse or arrange to meet your friends there and be on the look out for them, that way you have a stable of ready partners. And you can always bring your own bottled water.

~ Tango Panda, 3rd February 2010

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