Sweet Tea Dancing
“It’s alright for you girls in your trousers,” I said, between gritted teeth, the wintery wind whipping about my stocking tops.
There were four of us at the bus stop, two lesbians sensibly wrapped up against the weather; two transvestites less warmly dressed. We were waiting for a night bus. Really, it would have been a good idea to leave in time for the last tube, but the Tea Dance had been a lot of fun.
The Sunday Tea Dance is a good place to shake a leg. It would have been best to let it go at that. But in my fourth tea dancing year I went a lot further than leg shaking. I broke a wrist.
It is not a trannie event. The Evening Standard published an article which said something about forty transvestites turning up to the Tea Dance. That gave a very misleading impression. A sub-editor had axed a bit about most of the transvestites being women in male clothing.
Without actually asking them, I feel sure that most of the women in masculine attaire would not care to be labelled as transvestites. ‘Lesbian’ or ‘dyke’ would surely be more popular. And, certainly going beyond transvestitism, the Tea Dance often attracts at least one female to male transsexual.
In spite of some camp statements, the vast majority of the biological males dress in unequivocally male clothing. Amongst those in skirts. i suppose that almost as many would describe themselves as drag queens as would care to be called transvestites.
The maximum number of trannies and drag queens I’ve ever seen at the Tea Dance is seven. More often it’s just been me. On some of the infrequent weeks when I haven’t made it there may have been none of us, although Gina’s generally gone when I’ve missed it.
The Sunday Tea Dance is, rather, a lesbian and gay affair.
In Edwardian times, and subsequently, tea dances took place in the afternoon. There was tea and ballroom dancing.
There’s tea, and sandwiches, at the Sunday Tea Dance, too. The tea is available until seven o’ clock, which used to be when they started serving alcohol. Now, the dancers can drink tea, something stronger or both before seven. The sandwiches are available until they run out.
The dance runs from 5pm till midnight. It starts with ballroom numbers. The men mostly dance with men, the women with women.
Later, there are usually one or more cabaret turns, disco dancing and line dances. The last named are after the fashion of chorus lines, everyone trying to do the same steps. Some don’t always succeed, not that it matters. The spirit of the Tea Dance is to give it a go, no need to worry about being foolish. The typical tea dancer (if there is such a creature) has been through that and doesn’t give a damn. There’s a bit of barn dancing, western numbers….. The dancing is as diverse as the Tea Dance crowd. They even do the Gay Gordons. Well, what else would those Gordons be?
With the moves, Tea Dance folk come and go, but the sprinkling of trannies shows no sign of increasing. Actually, our small number is one of the attractions for me. I like transvestites company well enough, but prefer diversity.
The small number of trannies led to the accidental start of the cabaret number Gina and I do.
One night the DJ put on ‘Sweet Transvestite’ from “The Rocky Horror Show”. It cleared the dance floor, apart from my friend Gina and me. Evidently, we were the only two that night who considered ourselves sweet transvestites.
As a child, I’d been very shy. Now suddenly a transvestite the centre of attention at a gay venue. I discovered that I enjoyed showing off. It was tremendous. I was having fun.
Obviously, with no advanced warning. I hadn’t put on a special costume for the number. As the routine developed, I just wore whatever skirt and top I had on that evening.
For it did develop into a routine. A couple of weeks after our first “Sweet Transvestite”, the DJ played the number again. We’d had time to think about it and produced something less like disco dancing and closer to a performance.
Our cabaret number became a regular feature of the Tea Dance. Gina and I actually discussed what we were doing and went some way towards working together. As we improved, we received more enthusiastic applause. I loved it.
Occasionally, I did the routine on my own when Gina couldn’t make it. I enjoyed having the dance floor, and the audience, to myself. It was on such a night, however, that I broke my wrist.
Gina was working that night. I have the impression that, when Jo put on our number, she was unaware that I was on my own.
I leapt into the number, giving it plenty of oomph dancing for two. Suddenly, not far into the routine, I felt my feet sliding out from under me. I was falling over backwards and unable to recover my balance. Automatically, I extended my hands to break the fall.
There was a wet patch on the dance floor. I can’t say for certain that I stepped on it, at the time I was looking at my audience rather than my feet. The probability is that, as I went up on one toe, I was resting my entire weight on perhaps a square inch of wet floor.
There I was, alone on the dance floor, the eyes of the entire Tea Dance fixed upon me, falling backwards. In so far as I had time to think anything at that instant, it had to do with making a fool of myself rather than with possible injury.
Worse was to follow. As my wrists took my weight (painfully) my head jerked back throwing off my wig. The pain didn’t bother me at that moment. What worried me was losing my wig in front of all those people – trannie vanity!
There was really only one thing to do. Immediately, I leapt back to my feet, pulling my wig back on as I did so. As soon as I was on my feet I was dancing. I continued to give plenty of oomph.
At the end, I received a tremendous round of applause. I wonder how they would have reacted if they’d known that I’d broken my wrist. Of course, there was no way that they could have known that, I didn’t realise it myself.
I knew that I was in pain, and I left early. Never having broke a bone in my life before, I was inclined to think that I had sprained it.
The following morning, it seemed sufficiently serious to take to the hospital. If there is an ideal time to pass through casualty, it isn’t Bank Holiday Monday. Still it had to be done.
Next week, I was back at the Tea Dance with my arm in plaster and a sling. It caused quite a sensation. People told me that they thought I’d fallen deliberately. I must have recovered from the fall very well and extremely quickly.
A puzzling question was – why should I fall deliberately? At least one person supplied the answer ‘to be camp’. I didn’t ask what he meant by that, but I suppose that in making my hard landing I’d exposed my underwear as well as my real hair. That was an aspect I hadn’t previously considered.
After a week off, I was back on the dance floor, performing in plaster. It was a handicap because I use my arms a lot when dancing. Nor was dancing the only thing with which I had trouble. fastening suspenders was tricky, for one thing. Some were more difficult than others – I think the worst was the right hand (or thigh?) rear suspender.
A bit of a struggle to overcome these difficulties was well worthwhile. When I put on my dancing shoes, I put on stockings and suspenders as well. The cool draught about the thighs, so shiversome at the night bus stop, is welcome when it hots up on the dance floor. And when it comes to flashing my undies, who wants to look at the crotch of a pair of tights?
t’s a rare Sunday that doesn’t see me putting on my dancing shoes, and twirling a skirt. It’s a lot of fun. Sunday is the best night of most weeks.