22nd
Nov
2013

Posted in Kafevend Blog

Like the tradition of the afternoon tea, the tea dance is an event that still fills a niche in modern British society. These days the majority of tea dances seem to fall into three main categories: firstly charity events, secondly local social events for retirees and thirdly upmarket events held at established and exclusive hotels, generally attended by well to do retirees. There are few teenagers or twenty somethings eager to be seen at the next local tea dance; they'll be off down the pub as a prelude to a night's clubbing. How times change!

During the nineteenth century tea dances were a useful means for young men and women to meet under the watchful gaze of parents and governesses, an event for the aristocratic and more wealthy families of a community that would have been held in large family homes. Tea dances filled the afternoon or early evening time slot and an array of tea, coffee, cake, sandwiches and the like would have been served alongside. It was basically a version of afternoon tea for the younger and more energetic set.

By the turn of the twentieth century tea dances were a popular event at hotels. Live music was the norm, often in the form of a palm court orchestra, so called because many hotels held their tea dances in a large conservatory or atrium decorated by palm trees. The tradition of the tea dance held  sway up to and even during World War 2, but faded away afterwards. As the generations roll on, one has to wonder if there will be anyone left who will know how to waltz or tango. Will the tea dance finally be consigned to the past? The strong following for the BBC's 'Strictly Come Dancing' suggests there might be hope yet!

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