Sunday Night's Exposed
Back to SalsaCrazy
BE AWARE - THIS ARTICLE IS OLDER! Some of these places are
still around, others, are not.
Every week, SalsaCrazy will be reviewing another Sunday Night
venue! The preliminary schedule is as follows:
2/27/00 - Mr. E's
3/5/00 - Allegro
3/12/00 - No
Review (Injured, Damn!).
3/19/00 - Jellys
w/Julio Bravo. (Still Injured, but Jellys get its review).
3/26/00 - Going to Mr.
E's to see Borinquen, see you there! No Review.
4/16/00 - Metronome with
4/23/00 - Albertos
E's, 2284 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, 510-848-2009.
Taken from their
Mr. E's may take the
cake for the smoothest venue in Berkeley. Style and pizzazz ooze from the club,
which is owned by Latin percussionist Pete Escovedo. The neon marquee leads you
downstairs to a spacious, low-lit area, the center of which contains a polished
wooden dancefloor. Tables line the dancefloor and a small, slightly raised stage
brings the music right into your lap. There are two bars, one on either side of
the room, with gold record trophies won by the Escovedo family on the walls
behind the smartly-dressed bartenders. The general dress is definitely a step
above casual, but it does not detract from the open social atmosphere. There is
a small lounge to one side of the room with a big screen TV in case the rhythms
coming out the high quality sound system aren't moving your feet. Come to Mr.
E's to catch live acts perform Latin Jazz, big band, soul, R&B, funk,
Brazilian Jazz and Salsa. Percussionist Louie Romero, Shiela E., and of course
Pete Escovedo, are but a few of the high quality musicians who play here. So put
on your shiny shoes, and come dance the night away with Mr. E and the
The Truth about the
Well, apart from the
dramatic prose, the above paragraph is RIGHT ON! This place is classy, and very
nice! I use to be a constant patron of this club on Wednesday nights, as
it was (and many times still is) a great place to be on that night.
However, my Wednesday night attendance dropped off, as the night became more and
more crowded (so crowded that it became difficult to dance) and other Wednesday
night opportunities became available (at the time I went to Sol Y Luna, now I
tend to go to Club Casino). As it stands now, I only make it there once
every few months on a Wednesday.
When I first heard
of the new Sunday night (months ago), it was a surprise. There was NO
advertising! I went, with friends, and we were the only ones there.
We had a private show, to a full band, and it was great. However, after a
few more Sundays went by, I was craving to have a few more people join me in the
club (it was very slow at the time). Well, slowly the word spread that
there was salsa on Sundays and the crowd slowly grew. I decided to return to the
club this past Sunday for Azabache (one of my favorite bands) and see how the
club had progressed (since I hadn't been there in awhile).
As usual, even on a
Wednesday, parking was no problem! I either find street parking within a
block or two of the club, or use the parking lot which is right around the
corner (average $5). Both options provide safe, secure parking!
Apart from the rare "raving lunatic" on the street, this is a pretty
safe area, and there are plenty of people around. Big PLUS! I got to
the club at around 8:15 and the lesson was still going on (taught by Joel and
Sorcy). The first thing I noticed is that the lesson was larger than usual
(for a Sunday). Good sign . . . the club was pulling in new people!
I got a table, and some drinks, and quickly found around eight or so dancers to
hang out with.
The band started
PROMPTLY at 8:45! WOW! Another big PLUS. The band starts early
on Sunday nights. There was only ONE song between the lesson and the band
starting. Of course, the band played great, and the dancing was great,
with many partners to choose from! To be fair, I'm not sure how many other
guy dancers were there . . . and they were missing out (pure and simple).
The dance floor is great, and even though on Wednesdays it can seem a little
small, on Sundays the crowd size is PERFECT, if not too FEW people.
Let me repeat
that! It's not too crowded on Sundays. You get space to dance, great
bands, great sound, great atmosphere, great partners (although possibly not
plentiful enough), clean restrooms, nice bar (and bartender/wait staff) all for
$10! But wait, there's more. You also get a set of Ginsu steak
there IS more! Ladies, you get in FREE, before 8:30 pm. Wow!
A few small things I
might mention are:
They don't seem
to turn on the air conditioning like they do on Wednesdays! It got a
LITTLE hot, but not too bad. They probably would have if I had asked
(would have been a good thing to check, but I didn't).
There may still
be a decided lack of variety with regards to dance partners for the place,
especially really excellent dancers (if that's what you're looking
for). For now, I have to say, bring friends, or check the message
boards and make sure other people are going before taking the trek!
To sum it up, this
place is GREAT on Sundays. I highly recommend it for a nice, classy place
to go! I think I'll tend to go only when I want to see the band, but that's
because I'm lazy and the club is a long drive from my house.
Until then, see you
at Mr. E's, which easily retains its CLUB PICK
Care to comment on
the review? Drop me an email.
If appropriate, your comments can be added for everyone to see!
Ballroom, 5855 Christie Ave., Emeryville, 510-655-2888.
Wow. Ton-o-people! Allegro
Ballroom is HOT. There's a certain rush when you walk into any venue that
just has THAT many people. I used to go to Allegro ballroom every week when they
first started. I remember having a great time, but for some reason, over
time, I just stopped going. I went on to venues that had a live band, or more
of a club feel! In truth, after going back, I can't really recall WHY I
ever stopped going! This place is great, for beginners and advanced
dancers alike, and has a TON of things going for
it. Let's get right to the information people want to know:
Let's first talk
about the simple stuff. It's easy to get
to! Right off the freeway, it's just one stop away from the Bay
Bridge. When you arrive, there is plentiful and safe parking (which is good,
because as you'll see, this place attracts a lot of people!). The Allegro ballroom
is, guess what, a ballroom! All ages are welcome. This is not a
club, and there is no bar, and there are no live bands. The main ballroom is one
huge room with (of course) a beautiful dance floor, with another two large
dance floors that you can use to practice (in separate rooms). There is A
LOT of room to dance! Even with the estimated 250-300 people that were there,
there was PLENTY of room to dance. I am told that on a busy night this
place can attract up to 500 dancers, and after seeing it, I'd believe it.
I might get concerned about space at that point, but really, I've never seen it
when it was too crowded to dance, so I can't comment. There is just SO
much room that I can't imagine it! Even if the main room is filled, there
are two other very nice sized dance studios, both with their own sound
systems. A lot of room!
Usually I wouldn't
comment on the classes in a review, but since I made it to the ballroom in time
to catch the last half of the intermediate class, I'll do it. Gary and
Isabelle (teachers at Allegro) are simply fantastic teachers, who
have refined their personal styles and teaching habits over the years to
perfection. They have something to offer just about any student of dance,
at any level, and these classes really emphasized that. The
intermediate/advanced class was exactly that! I've been dancing for five
years, and I found myself nicely challenged by some of their moves. That
being said, the class is VERY crowded, and at times, it can be difficult to see
exactly what's being demonstrated! There are a lot of people . . . maybe
if the teachers were raised on a platform they would be easier to see?
Regardless, I highly recommend the class for any level of dancer, and found it
both fun and challenging. I especially recommend Allegro for beginning and
intermediate students, both for the plentiful dance partners AND the fact that there are
plenty of people to watch (so you can pick up what the actual dance should/could
It's obvious that
some people leave after the class, and many people come for the party.
Over the course of the night the crowd changes a bit, and people come and go.
The class is a very reasonable $10 (including the party) and the party is only
$6. Water is FREE and plentiful, as is coffee, tea, and . . . food? Yes,
there was actually platters of vegetables and dip, as well as various meats etc
. . . I'm not much into eating and dancing, but I thought this was a great
touch! I'll also briefly mention the large, clean bathrooms (remember
after all, this isn't a club).
Being a ballroom, it
is definitely far more casual than most clubs. I consider this a big plus,
because I love being able to wear sweats and tennis shoes occasionally.
This is the place to do it! However, that being said, the people there ran the
entire gamut of dressy to casual. There were people, like me, in sweats,
and other people in suits, and other people somewhere in between. In terms
of dress, beyond looking good, don't stress about it. ;)
Well, I made it a point to ask just about everyone I could to dance. I
never got turned down, and danced with some people who were on their first
lesson ever, and some who were professional dancers/teachers. There is a
lot of variety at the Allegro! If you're someone who finds it hard to ask
partners to dance (especially in a club setting), the ballroom feel really helps
alleviate that. Unlike in a club, It's obvious that people are there to DANCE
and that can make for a very fun evening with less stress. Generally,
most of the dancers were at the beginning to intermediate level (and there were
a lot of them), however, there were quite a few advanced dancers there (plenty
to go around). This may not always be the case, and I'll just have to keep
going back and checking it out. ;)
There were masses of
new people there! I would commend the
teachers and the managers for making a venue that attracts SO MANY new people to
salsa dancing. This is obviously a great boon to the salsa community to
constantly be attracting huge new groups of people, and I can't remember going
to another place that had such a large class going on (not even Kimballs). In
addition, the ratio of men to women seemed about even. Now that's a
rarity, as usually one group seems to make out better than the other, but the
crowd seemed pretty evenly distributed.
So, what about this
ballroom thing? Will ballrooms appeal to everybody? Certainly not! There is no
alcohol, and there is far less of a "club" feel when you are
dancing. Does it matter to me? No. Will it matter to you?
Maybe. Ballrooms typically don't attract a club crowd (although Allegro
seems to be an exception) and generally lack a club feel (i.e. tables, drinks,
live band, ambiance etc . . .), but they have many benefits (cost, casual, large
One last thing . . .
Mirrors! Now, this is obviously a personal preference, but I love mirrors.
This obviously sets a ballroom apart from say a club (when was the last time you
saw a club with mirrors on the walls, and it wasn't a ... club). I love mirrors,
maybe too much as they can prove distracting during a dance. But if you're
practicing, or just want to take a look at what YOU look like dancing, mirrors
are the way to do it. At Allegro, I love the fact that there are mirrors
everywhere (talk about vanity . . .).
considered, Allegro ballroom is a fantastic place to dance and a fantastic place to practice.
So, does this mean I've given up on smaller clubs, with live bands? No, not at
all! I still love Mr. E's, and other clubs yet to be reviewed for their
Sunday night parties. I'll still end up following my favorite bands, more
or less, wherever they go, and I still strongly support going to multiple
venues. However, after visiting Allegro I just had so much fun dancing
with so many people that it's hard not to love the place. It offers
so damn much - let's review:
Because of the huge
dance floor(s) filled with fantastic dancers at all levels, the DJ playing a
nice variety of music (very open to requests), the plentiful water and other
beverages, clean and large bathrooms, high ceilings, ballroom ambiance, nice air conditioning (with huge fan), not to mention the easy access
from the freeway, easy parking, and reasonable cost, Allegro Ballroom is being
added as a SalsaCrazy pick of the week for Sunday nights! After all this,
possibly the best thing I can say about it is that it satisfied my
"salsa-fix" which isn't that easy to do these days. Great dance,
after great dance, left me feeling exhilarated, and happy that I had stopped
by. Oh, and the DJ played a wide variety mix that included some
Cuban tunes (Bamboleo et al . . .) which I always enjoy.
I also wanted to
BRIEFLY respond to a few of the emails that were flying back and forth about
this club! Yes, there are beginners here who do not have any concept of personal
space (yet), but you are going to find that at any dance venue. It was
actually far better here, then say at Mr. E's on a Wednesday night.
However, that being said, if you're just starting to dance and reading this
review, head on over to the Dance Etiquette section and
take a look.
Until next time, I
will definitely be seeing you all at Allegro. This place rocks, and once
again, I can say the Bay Area is lucky to have such a fantastic venue to dance
Do you agree? Do you
have another opinion? As always, I'm interested in your comments
and feedback! All appropriate comments will be printed with the Review.
for Crazy people - The review of Jellys (Pier 50) is coming up, but I love to go
to Jellys first (before Allegro) on days where they have a band I want to see.
Jellys is a small venue, that can get very crowded! It generally attracts a lot
of good dancers (there is no lesson). I typically might go there first to
get my "live band" fill, and then come to Allegro to enjoy the large
dance floors, high ceilings, huge fans etc . . . It's a great
contrast! By the time you make it to Allegro you appreciate all that room
all the more . . .
Next up? Looks
like Jelly's Dance Cafe (Pier 50) and the Metronome Ballroom (Mazacote), both in one night!
Here it is! Due to
my foot injury, I couldn't make it to the Metronome, but if YOU did, please send
in your comments. Metronome has been postponed until April 16th when
they will have the killer band Azabache.
(Club Havana), Pier 50, San Francisco, 415-495-3099. Right next to
the new Ballpark.
live band, barbecue, $7.
First off, I've been
going to Jellys for years! Ever since I was good enough to go, this has been my
kick-back, relaxed hangout. Apart from The Ramp, Jellys is one of the few
really casual places to dance in San Francisco. There's no lesson at
Jellys and it's generally expected that all the people that are there will know
how to dance. Is that really the case? Hell no! In truth you find people
at all levels dancing here (it's a nice place to hang out), but it IS a small
place, there are no lessons, and (truth be told) you'd better really know your
stuff (i.e. be able to dance in a tight, crowded location) if you're not going
to get other people upset.
The best thing about
Jellys is the ambiance, or aura (for lack of a better word). It's not that the
place is the nicest salsa club (it's not), or classiest (it's not), or has the largest floor (no again). Yet it does have
the SINGLE most important ingredient of any salsa club, and that is: the heart.
There is just some energy (vitality) in the place, so when you're there, the
energy infuses you and you leave having had a great time. I really do love
Jellys, so without further ado, let's get to the stuff people want to know:
EASY. Even with Cirque Du Soleil performing next door, you can still park
right in front of the club or within easy walking distance (20-30 feet).
Don't park next to the gate (of the circus) or your car will be towed, but you
won't have any difficult finding parking on the street. Sometimes people have
said they feel unsafe in the area, and I can relate somewhat. It can be
sketchy at times (especially when they allowed these massive drink-fests to take
place in the parking lot), but they've really cleaned up their act (that doesn't
happen anymore). The security guard usually waits outside (or directly
inside the door) of the club, so I would say it's pretty damn
Jellys ALWAYS has a
live band! Every week, it's live music. I generally go to see the
band, but I sometimes go even when I don't know whose playing. The stage is
reasonably sized, and slightly raised, and the sound system is pretty
good. The food! Oh yeh, the food. Did I mention that Jelly's has
both an indoor and outdoor area? Anyway, Great chicken off the barbecue .
. . black beans, rice, chips and salsa all on a sunny day overlooking the bay,
what more could you want? The food is good and it's nice to just kick back, eat,
listen to the band, have a drink . . .
How are the dancers?
Well, it depends a little on the band, but generally very (very) good.
There are plenty of people here who don't go out dancing anywhere else (at least
I never see them). There is VERY little show on the floor. This is not a
place to show off, or to dance "out". This is a place where
die-hard dancers go to DANCE! Like I said earlier this place has some sort
of heart, and the dancers here really have a passion that is sometimes lacking
in other places. There is also great variety in the dancers here, not only
in level of expertise, but in style. Puerto Rican, Cuban, whatever . .
. people here dance with style and passion (maybe that's why I like it so
It's small! Did I
mention Jellys is small? The dance floor is small, in fact, the entire
building is kind-a small. Yep, it is. The floor is small, and dancers
spill off of it onto the carpet. When it gets too hot though, you can just walk
outside into a nice closed off area behind the building. During the summer
they even had a dance floor they would roll out (linoleum) and a big speaker
they would place outside. There are plenty of tables and chairs out there
as well. In fact, they just got some new furniture (tables and chairs)
probably in preparation for the crowd that the ballpark is going to pull in.
One last thing - The
DJ's! The only thing I would add is that Ivette and Luis are fabulous D.J.s.
They play the latest and greatest salsa music in addition to playing old
favorites. Ivette in particular loves to play music from Puerto Rico and
Colombia that you may not have heard since it just hit New York and Miami.
Because the sound booth is so close to the dance area, you can easily talk with
the D.J.s to get their insights and recommendations on CDs, local bands
and upcoming events. Before I replenish my salsa collection, I always chat
with Ivette and Luis to see what's new and what's hot.
What's in the
future? I don't know. I should call and find out! With the new
Giant's ballpark about to open it could be very hard (if not impossible) to get
to this club when a game is in progress or letting out. I'd hate to walk in
there on Sunday afternoon and find out they've changed it into a sports bar.
Even without the ballpark dilemma, are they going to stay open? The entire China
Basin area is changing (as is most of San Francisco). Are they going to continue
salsa? I certainly hope so! Jellys is a landmark institution and has always been
there to provide some great Sunday afternoon dancing (and eating).
Let's see . . . It's
cheap ($7), it's easy to get to, and you can get a healthy meal. Grab a
margarita, sit outside on their brand new furniture, and listen to some
excellent salsa sounds. Need anything else? Go catch the circus afterwards.
On Sunday afternoons this is THE place to be! Do
you agree? As always, you're free to write in and comment!
SalsaCrazy Tip: As
stated above, Jellys has always been a great prelude to a night of dancing at
Allegro, Mr. E's, Caribbean Gardens, or any of the other fine dance places we've
reviewed (or will review).
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