The Tea-total Tea Dance in Barbados
What do you normally associate with Barbados? Ganga?, Rastas?, beaches?, lush highlands? Rich colonial ex-pats? Sugar Cane fields? A huge divide between rich and poor? Undercover policemen trying to sell you drugs and arresting you if you are stupid enough to buy? buses blasting out reggae/scar/prog music? Yes all those things can be found on this island and more – but a tea dance?
The twin towers had just fallen, travel was cheap (understandably), we threw caution into the wind and booked a package to Barbados – The island was empty of tourists and the locals were relaxed and in party mode. However, although small bars were rocking the larger venues were deserted. One night we decided to abandon the empty disco and head into town. We heard music and investigated. It was a tea dance and the town elders were waltzing the night away to reggae music! We paid our entrance fee and headed upstairs. As it turned out we were the only two young people there everyone else was 50 plus and also the only white people in the room. We were warmly welcomed by the dancers who proceeded to try to teach us a few rudimentary steps. Waltzing to a reggae beat is no mean achievement – its faster for starters but we started to get the hang of it and were soon spinning around the room with the best of them . Try it – it’s awesome and definitely takes the boring out of formal.
After an hour of attempting not to tread on toes, or collide with other couples, the live act struck up. The singer, a spry grey haired gentleman, was given a standing ovation before he started to belting out 50’s reggae songs – the waltzing resumed. About this time I noticed that the room had started to fill up with the local younger generation. One of them shouted in my ear. “DO you know who that is?” he asked waving his arms around with a look of adoration on his face. We shrugged – not a clue. In a revered tone he informed us that the man on the stage was one of the original rebels – a political reggae singer song writer who apparently was in at the beginning of the movement. Now that was impressive – although what he was doing at a tea total, spliff free, tea dance was a little harder to understand. He had obviously mellowed in his old age.
The night was a success. We had a great time, met some wonderful people, laughed a lot, saw one of the greats. All without a drop of alcohol passing our lips and the bonus was that we were hangover free the next day. Superb!