History of the Tea Dance

The Genesis of the tea dance/ the Charleston! Broadway musicals and the Tea Dance/ World War II/Tea Dances of London society Tea Dances are becoming more & more popular today with the growing popularity of Afternoon Tea as a social event. The Waldorf Hotel London holds Tango Teas & Suppers their Ballroom, where Tango has been danced since 1910. As well as the Tango they also have a variety of Ballroom & Latin Tea Dances where you can watch demonstrations whilst you enjoy your afternoon tea & sip champagne. Then once you have finished your afternoon tea you can take part in their lessons & practice your dancing.

The function evolved from the concept of the afternoon tea, traces its origin to the French colonization of Morocco. A tea dance, also called a the dansant (French for (dancing tea), is a summer or autumn afternoon or early-evening dance from four to seven p.m., sometimes preceded in the English countryside by a garden party.

Books on Victorian Era etiquette such as Party-giving on Every Scale included detailed instructions for hosting such gatherings. The usual refreshments in 1880 were tea and coffee, ices, chamDagne, fruit, sandwiches, cake and biscuits.

Even after the introduction of the phonograph, the expected feature was a live orchestra —or a small band playing light classical music. The types of dances performed during tea dances included waltzes, tangos and, by the late 1920s, the Charleston.

Tea dances are a common cultural reference in early 20th-century British and American fiction as a staple of genteel society, where people normally attend these receptions while visiting resort towns, especially coastal ones such as Brighton, the Hamptons, Provincetown

The 1925 hit Broadway musical, No. No. Nanette, features a tea dance as the occasion for the plot’s climax: the main characters travel to Atlantic City (the same musical also features the famous song “Tea for Two,” which is sung prior to this scene).

In the United States, since the late 20th century, the term has been broadened to refer to any casual afternoon dance event. Tea Dances were the perfect compliment to go with Afternoon Tea & became increasingly popular for the young set in the beginning of the 20th of century.

Wealthy & aristocratic families entertained their friends by dancing classic dances such as the Waltz, in each other’s homes. This was the perfect way for parents to watch over entertain & chaperon their young ladies, whilst allowing them to associate with suitable young men in the middle of the afternoon.

Meanwhile in the late 19th Century in the backstreet’s of ArgentinaTs capital city Buenos Aires the Argentine Tango was emerging. Soon after dancers & orchestras travelled to Europe bringing their passion for the Argentine Tango with them. Demonstrations of Tango were first held in Paris where it became increasingly popular. In 1910 Argentine Tango arrived in London, initially couples danced between the restaurant tables, as this idea caught on, a space was cleared in the middle of the floor for dancing.

Tea Dances” were becoming more fashionable & were being. held on a daily or weekly basis in London. Soon the ‘Tea Dance’ craze went nationwide as popularity increased. In the 1920s the ‘Charleston’ arrived in London bringing with it cocktails, jazz, clubs & cocktail parties. ‘Tea Dances’ were still thriving & embraced the Charleston & lifestyle it brought with it. In the 1930s tTea Dances were a great place to display & show off the fashions of the day.

‘Tea Dances’ became something of a sensation across Great Britain & lasted until well after the second world war, gradually disappearing. During world war 2 Tea Dances were still popular. They were mainly organised by the churches & the Red Cross, to keep our servicemen’s morale up & to give them some civilised company & entertainment between battle campaigns.

The Waldorf London maintained its Tea Dance’ until 1939, when a German bomb shattered the glass roof of their Palm Court. This brought home to them theseverity of the situation. All ‘Tea Dances’ were cancelled at the Hotel until 1982 when they re-established them & still run them to this day.

The grander hotels & restaurants in London started to hold ‘Tea Dances’, their live orchestra’s would play music to go with the demonstrations the ‘Tango’, whilst their guest watched & enjoyed their Afternoon Tea. Once the demonstrations of the Tango were over the guests would have Tango lessons with the dance teachers then practice their Waltz & Tango until it was time to go home.