Within seconds the marble floor begins to fill with couples gliding to the music. A young man in a cropped black tux swings a silver-haired woman through a jaunty Two Step. An old couple swivel past. A group of fresh-faced first timers keep time to the loping tempo. The conversation drifts, the light fades - the atmosphere is sublime. Dancing at tea time is civilised, seductive and divine.
And back with a bang - a recovered vision of lost elegance for the middle-aged and a new experience for nostaglic youngsters who never wanted to shake their bodies to techno, rap and ragga.
Two upcoming London charity events are cashing in on this most gentle of trends. The first is organised by legendary hostess Suzanne Bartsch. Bartsch, known in New York for raising money for Aids organisations by throwing lavish Love Balls, will be presenting a tea dance at the Astoria Theatre on Sunday. Expect a heady mixture of Harlem vogueing and Broadway cabaret. The second bash, held at The Waldorf on Saturday 11 June, is in aid of the Fight For Sight campaign. And the band played on. . .
The Albany Theatre Douglas Way SE8 (081 691 3277)
The Albany tea dances are held on the third Wednesday of every month. Entrance is pounds 1 and includes tea and cakes. Doors open at 2.00pm and the band, The Dave Kent Trio starts up at 2.30pm. The Albany is one of the most recent venues in London to introduce tea dancing and already it has caught on. 'Most people dress up a bit, a nice frock and a change of shoes,' says one regular. A younger crowd do attend, younger meaning 40 plus.
The Bell 257 Pentonville Rd, N1 (071 837 5617) Tea dance 5.00pm-midnight/classes 1.00pm
Tea dancing at the Bell is a cult affair in gay circles. Jo Purvis, who has been organising these afternoons for years, makes sure the right atmosphere is struck by a varied selection of music. The afternoon starts at 1.00pm for those wanting dance classes with instructor Ralph. Tea and sandwiches are free before the afternoon kicks off with waltzes, quicksteps and ballroom. The music changes pace over the afternoon and by midnight you're talking disco and lambada.
The Porchester Centre Queensway, Bayswater, W2 (071 792 2919) Tea dances are held once a month on Wednesdays 1.30pm-4.30pm
A genteel older crowd converge once a month at this large wood pannelled hall. Red carpets, chandeliers and glitter are a romantic backdrop to an afternoon of gentle gliding around the well beaten floorboards. Admission is pounds 2.25 a head. Classes with an instructor before hand cost 75p. The next dates are 29th June/27th July/24th August.
The Rivoli Ballroom 350 Brockley Rd, Crofton Park Station, SE4 (081 692 5130) Tea dances held Mon-Fri 1.45pm-4.45pm
Set in a grand old Edwardian ballroom with red padded walls, the tea dances at the Rivoli are another quick step back in time. The crowd is older, relaxed and groomed to within an inch of their lives. Cakes and biscuits are set out in a buffet. Tea and coffee flows all afternoon (40p). Dancing is looked after by Derek and his record collection: a mixture of ballroom, Latin, and other sequence tunes. Admission pounds 2.50 (Mon/Thurs) pounds 2.00 (Tues/Fri).
The Palm Court Tea Dance, The Waldorf, The Aldwych WC2 (071 836 2400) Saturdays and Sundays 3.30pm-6.00pm Tea is pounds 19.50. Book in advance
Tea at the Waldorf consists of exquisite salmon sandwich fingers, bridge rolls filled with fluffy fillings, crumpets, teacakes, fine Waldorf's own blend tea in big porcelain pots and gooey patisserie cakes - all served by immaculately dressed staff. the band swings out at around 4.30pm.
Quilts of Love Tea Dance
The Astoria Theatre, 157 Charing Cross Rd W1 (071-434 0403) Sunday 5th June
Doors open 7.00pm. Tickets are pounds 10 at the door or pounds 9 in advance: (071 240 2245)
A glittering event for the gay in-crowd. Hostess Susanne Bartsch furnishes music and entertainment.
Fight For Sight Tea Dance
The Waldorf Hotel, The Aldwych W1 (see above for details)
Saturday 11 June. From 3.30pm-6.30pm Tickets pounds 25
Maureen Lipman launches a nationwide 'Tea-Fest' aiming to raise half a million pounds for the Institute for Opthalmology. All this and a five-piece orchestra too.
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