History of Victorian Tea Dance
Tea with dance? Tasty and delightful! After a delightful afternoon tea with the Victorian Society of Colorado, I wanted to know more about Tea dances. Tea Dances trace their roots to the Victorian era.
The Victorian tea time stared in 1840 with Lady Ann the duchess of Belford. She would grow faint midday between breakfast and dinner. Lady Ann began having a spot of tea and a biscuit in the afternoon. Before long she was inviting friends to join her, including Queen Victoria, and the Victorian tea time was born.
Tea dances trace their roots back to the French occupation of Morocco. In France they were called The Dasant and in German the Tanztee, translated dancing teas. An 1853 American publication made fun of the name The Dasant asking “Does tea dance? Can it dance?
By 1844 these dancing teas were popular in fashionable homes. Summer or autumn tea dances would be held between 4-7pm. Tea dances would commence with tea and refreshments like scones and Devonshire cream. Guests would move to the drawing room where furniture had been removed for carpet dances. Some households would stretch a polished sheet over the carpet, or roll up the rug to provide a better dance surface. A program of dances would be publicly displayed.
What are carpet dances you ask? They were the circle dances of the day. In 1815 English country dances were ousted by the Waltz, followed by other partnership
dances that turned in a circle. From 1844-1890 carpet dances included the Waltz, Galop, Two Step, and Polka. New dances like the Mazuka, Polonaise, Redowa and Shottiche were added later.
By 1890 a new dance craze was percolating. Tango was entering the dance scene. Dancing Times writes “The original tango may have been a voluptuous and indecorous dance. That does not prevent the present edition of it being decorous, refined and graceful…” The same journal states, “The ‘Tango’ is graceful, decorous and worthy of a place in any ballroom.”
End of Tea Dance
Tango teas dominated hotel tea rooms in the early 1900’s. Joining the tango at tea were other popular dances. Young people added dances like the Foxtrot, Charleston, Latin dance and Jive to the tea dance experience. Tea dances came to an end by 1939 when the glass ceiling of the Waldorf hotel was shattered during the war .
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