Our tenth year of going to the Queen Mary Art Deco Festival Tea Dance! Join the fun!
A tea dance, or thé dansant (French: literally dancing tea) is a summer or autumn afternoon or early-evening dance from four to seven, sometimes preceded in the English countryside by a garden party. The function evolved from the concept of the afternoon tea, and J. Pettigrew traces its origin to the French colonization of Morocco.
Books on Victorian Era etiquette such as Party-giving on Every Scale (London, n.d. ), included detailed instructions for hosting such gatherings. By 1880 it was noted “Afternoon dances are seldom given in London, but are a popular form of entertainment in the suburbs, in garrison-towns, watering-places, etc.” Tea dances were given by Royal Navy officers aboard ships at various naval stations, the expenses shared by the captain and officers, as they were shared by colonels and officers at barrack dances in mess rooms ashore.
The usual refreshments in 1880 were tea and coffee, ices, champagne-cup and claret-cup, fruit, sandwiches, cake and biscuits. Even after the introduction of the phonograph the expected feature was a live orchestra – often referred to as a palm court 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.