Tea dancers target world record bid in the Grassmarket

Gary and Susan McDonald of Fly Right Dance Company will guide participants
Gary and Susan McDonald of Fly Right Dance Company will guide participants
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ONCE a popular pastime enjoyed by people from all walks of life, it has since skipped off into obscurity.

But now the tea dance is fighting back, with an ambitious world record attempt set to be held in the Capital this summer.

The Fly Right Dance Company, based in Haddington, is looking to gather at least 310 couples in the Grassmarket to smash the record, which it set in Glasgow’s George Square in 2010.

The attempt – during which dancers must scoff sandwiches and cakes – will be made in July as part of Big Dance 2012, a UK-wide celebration of dance that will coincide with the Olympic Games in London.

Organisers revealed the event would have a 1940s theme, with a live swing band to provide musical accompaniment.

Susan McDonald, co-founder of Fly Right Dance Company, said she was confident the world record would be broken.

She said: “This is about getting people up on their feet. There’s something magical about seeing hundreds of people dancing and enjoying themselves in an outdoor street.

“The Guinness World Record people have quite specific criteria when they adjudicate these things. Tea, cake and a sandwich must be served. The dancers do not need to be dressed up but our event will have a 1940s theme.”

Mrs McDonald said the history of the dance stretched back centuries to a time when tea was a luxury item that only the richest in society could afford.

She said: “It was a case of, if you had it, you flaunted it. As it gradually became more affordable, hotels started serving it during the afternoon and there was music and, inevitably, you had dancing.

“It became something your average person could afford. If you were a woman on your own, you could go to a tea dance unchaperoned. It was the major leisure pastime in the early part of the last century.

“We want to get it back to what it was, which was this inclusive, nice way of passing an afternoon with a cup of tea and a cake – socialising in a civilised manner.”

Mrs McDonald’s husband, Gary, who co-founded Fly Right, said: “We want to revive the original idea of the tea dance, which is that people can dance any style of dance during the event. We want to make it more accessible.

“Our main aim is to make dancing as accessible as possible, and to get as many people as possible doing it. It doesn’t matter if you look good or are brilliant at it.”

He added: “Some people come to us and say they can’t dance, that they’re dreadful at it.

“But when you give them a lesson you discover that lots of them are great dancers, but have been put down throughout their lives.”

Adele Conn, events coordinator for The Big Dance Edinburgh, said: “This event is about getting all of Scotland dancing. It’s good to highlight dance. I would say we hear plenty about arts, culture or sports – dance is not really highlighted enough.”