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What is a Tea Dance?

History of the Tea Dance

Tea Dances were the perfect complement to go with Afternoon Tea. They became increasingly popular for the young 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 & governesses 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 backstreets of Argentina’s 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.

The grander hotels & restaurants in London started to hold ‘Tea Dances’, their live orchestras called a Palm Court 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.

‘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 ‘Tea 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 Hotel in particular maintained its ‘Tea Dance’ until 1939, when a German bomb shattered the glass roof of their Palm Court. This brought home to them the severity 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 Waldorf Hotel London holds a variety of Dances from Traditional Afternoon Tea Dances, Charleston Tea Dance & even Tango Dances, 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, in their stunning Palm Court Ballroom, where Tango has been danced since it scandalised Edwardian society in London in 1910.

Tea Dances can contain any variety of dances from the classic waltz, the cheeky charleston or even stunning latin dances like the Argentine Tango (my personal favourite). Tea Dances go hand in hand with Afternoon Tea which is growing with popularity as a social event.

Afternoon Tea & Tea Dances can be found around the UK & the world, from events at hotels to outdoor events. Why not put on your dancing shoes & checkout your local Tea Dance now or you could even plan your own Tea Dance event!


What is your favourite dance at a Tea Dance?

“What could be pleasanter on a dull wintry afternoon, at 5 o’clock or so, when calls or shopping are over, than to drop into one of the cheery little Thé Dansant Clubs… to take one’s place at a tiny table… to enjoy a most elaborate & delicious tea served within a moment of one’s arrival, whilst listening to an excellent string band playing delicious haunting airs.”
Miss Gladys Beattie Crozier’s
‘The Tango & How to Dance it’

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