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Sunday Night's Exposed

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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 (Band, Azabache).

3/5/00 - Allegro Ballroom (DJ).

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.

4/2/00 - 

4/9/00 - 

4/16/00 - Metronome with Azabache.

4/23/00 - Albertos (DJ).



Mr. E's, 2284 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, 510-848-2009.


Taken from their Website: 


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 family.--Mike Seely


The Truth about the Club:


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 knives! 


Well, actually, 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 status!


Care to comment on the review?  Drop me an email.  If appropriate, your comments can be added for everyone to see!



Allegro 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 look like).


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. ;)


The dancers!  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 floor).  


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 . . .).  


All things 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 salsa.


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.


SalsaCrazy's tips 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! 3/18 -


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.


Jelly's (Club Havana), Pier 50, San Francisco, 415-495-3099.  Right next to the new Ballpark.

4pm, 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:


Parking is 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 safe.   


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 much?).


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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