Tea dances in London

Time Out gets its frock out and dons its pearls as we hits London‘s thriving tea dance scene – but can we keep up with the elderly?

  • Tea dances in London

    Lindy hopping to Metallica: not as easy as this lot make it look (© L Sauma)

  • ‘I did a quick vox pop at our last tea dance,’ says Art of the Dog’s Vic, ‘and someone was born in 1932! Having that sort of age mix is superb.’

    It’s not without its dangers, though. ‘The etiquette can seem a bit funny, like making sure you dance in the same direction as everyone else, but crashing into an 80-year-old is only going to end up in a broken hip.’

    Since her first tea dance at the gorgeous Old Finsbury Town Hall last October, Vic – ‘just Vic’ – has been actively recruiting locals who remember the current trend for tea dances the first time around. Happily, they’ve been coming in droves.

    ‘I love Vera,’ she says, ‘she always comes in a pair of sparkly shoes, and there’s one guy who’s known in the Duke of Denmark pub as Dancing Dave. Yes, he really can dance.’

    For the benefit of young things used to, say, Viva Cake (which also relaunches this Saturday) a tea dance is more than just and excuse to wear long pearls before having a few too many drinks and a go at the jive.

    Afternoon tea dances like Vic’s are far more serene, romantic affairs and are chock full of elderly folk whizzing around the floor. Leave your looks of pity at the door and expect to be wiped off the dancefloor by participants 50 years your elder.

    ‘The older people know what they’re doing at a tea dance,’ says Vic. ‘It’s their thing.’

    The Waldorf has reintroduced Tango Tea Dance – a throwback to 1910 when the tango swept London and afternoon tea dances were an essential part of any society gal’s calender. When the Opera House was a dance hall during the War, its tea dances were legendary. It revives them once a month, and – unbelievably – they’re only a tenner.

    City workers won’t be left out for, for they can – ahem – swing by Spitalfields Markets on the last Friday of every month for the Covent Garden Dance Orchestra’s free afternoon tea dance.

    Now then, who will take a turn?

    Tea dance etiquette

    Leave your stilettos at home Spiky heels wreak havoc on dancefloors. Don’t overindulge There are usually allocated portions of cake.Dance in the same direction as everyone else.Don’t get drunk It’s a tea dance, not a beer dance.Always dance with a partner Even of the same gender.

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