Popular in the interwar period, if not before, the tea dance must have been a gentle affair that offered an opportunity to relax with friends and with the possibility of meeting new partners. The recreational space around an outdoor bandstand had afforded a similar opportunity in the Edwardian era. This is discussed in People’s Parks by Hazel Conway and in a review by Susan Hill in the LRB she commented, ” At the same time, forms of design and architecture peculiar to the parks grew up – bandstands, pagodas and winter gardens, floral clocks and tea houses were the popular art of the parks.” There is a website that specialises in images of bandstands at http://www.satiche.org.uk/bandstands/bs-uk.htm
The indoor space of the tea dance was more intimate than the park and it is interesting to note that the spectacle apparently evolved from the French colonisation of Morocco, hence the correct term, thé dansant.. Morocco became a protectorate of France in 1912 after the Agadir crisis. In any event the tea dance had reached England by 1880 and appears to have become popular in the suburbs rather than London, in garrison towns and no doubt was popular amongst with the ascendancy of the Raj as well. Tea dances frequently followed upon afternoon summer garden parties. More details are to be found on http://www.teamuse.com/article_010702.html in an article by Jane Pettigrew.
Tea dances must have become more popular in the Jazz era and dances like the Tango and the Charleston would have added extra fun; the invention of the gramophone although records could easily be scratched might have added variety if a dance band was not available or affordable. It also seems that as well as the event itself, tea dance dresses too have once again become popular.
There is a very entertaining and informative website at http://bjws.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Teawhich has paintings by the Peruvian artist, Albert Lynch 1851-1912 and the English Artist Mabel Frances Laying, 1881-1937. In addition there are some beautiful teapots and details of eighteenth century coffee houses and the splendid Baltimore Tea Gardens. For some recent interpretations try:-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpwbyggIFuo