watervole: (Default)
 If you share my love of folk traditions, then you'll love this post by Selenak.  Many people are familiar with Russian decorated eggs, and I showed you Czech ones the other day, but the German painted egg tradition is different again.

At  Easter, the wells are decorated with garlands of hand-painted eggs and greenery.  The designs are usually pictorial rather than abstract and cover a wide range of themes.  There's very little repetition and the effect is lovely.
watervole: (Default)
 There was quite a bit of interest in my previous post on Carnival Morris, so I'll try and show the evolution.

Here, one of my favourite pieces of morris insanity is the Saddleworth Rushcart procession:


Now, the Rushcart procession often used to be accompanied by morris dancers dancing as part of the procession.  Why aren't they dancing with it now?  Well, as you can see, they're all pulling the rushcart!



This is an old photo of Whitworth Rushcart procession. You can see the Coconut dancers in the foreground (Coconut dancing is an almost extinct offshoot of North West morris) and the morris men along the side processing down the road with their garlands.

Especially in the North West, which was really into carnivals and processions (home of many marching brass bands as well), the dance style evolved to work well with processions. This means a focus on formation moves (rather than complex footwork), choruses that move you forwards, and  moves that work well with music with a steady rhythm and a steady drum beat.  You're moving at a steady pace, and there may be other bands in addition to your own, so you can't afford to be dependent on music with complex tunes.  A lot of North West dances have a chorus that is either forward/backward when static, or forward/forward when moving in a procession.

It's likely that somewhere around a third of traditional NW sides danced in clogs.  It used to be believed that this was because a lot of mill workers wore clogs (which is true), but people often wore their best clothes for dancing.  My personal belief is because of the sound.  Listen to an NW side dancing on cobble stones or tarmac or any hard surface.  They provide their own percussion, and it keeps the dancers in sync. You can tell instantly if anyone is off the beat.

See this video and scroll to 3 mins, to see Customs and Exiles.  You'll see exactly what I mean about clogs being useful in a processional environment.



See Mendip Morris Men below for an example of  a North West morris processional dance.  (In all honesty, they're not terribly good, but it does show you the general idea.)  They're using 'slings' in their hands.  North West morris usually used slings or short decorated sticks or  garlands. The slings may well have had their origin in knotted handkerchiefs.  Nowadays, anything that swings well can be used.  Often short lengths of decorated rope, or sometimes old mill spindles with rope coming out the end.  (You hold the spindles in your hands)

Having said they aren't that good, notice how the footwork suddenly becomes much better as they get closer to the audience.  There's no point in exhausting yourself in a long procession in the bits where there's hardly anyone watching.  



Here are Earlsdon morris, an excellent men's side from Coventry.  They're dancing a modern North West dance that is pretty much in the general style of the tradition.  The focus is on formation and crisp polka steps. The short decorated sticks are the norm for North West morris.


So, how's our bastardised offspring looking against the tradition?


I can recognised the stepping. If you allow for the fact that the girls are dancing on their toes, rather than in the flat-footed style demanded by clogs, the main steps are virtually identical. The girls also dance with a higher knee-raise, but I've seen younger NW sides aiming for a much higher knee raise as well.  There are similarities in a lot of the arm movements too - though you've obviously got to look at dances with sticks rather than with slings.  There is the potential for processions as well, the dance on and off were very well done.

The biggest difference seems to lie in the curiously static nature of the figures.  In traditional morris, the moves between figures are much faster and more fluid.  In Carnival Morris, the emphasis is far more on the stepping and it takes a long time to move from one figure to another. It's possible that this may relate to the high degree of teamwork and precision in Carnival morris.  There's probably a trade-off between speed and precision.

The girls are also able to dance on grass. North West dancers perform on grass with reluctance. It's very easy to skid when doing fast moves in clogs (even when the clogs have rubber on the soles).  Other forms of morris are a bit happier on grass, though wet grass is a high risk factor for any dancer of any kind.

If you've read this far, share your thoughts... Questions, disagreements, comparisons with other traditions, all welcome.
watervole: (Default)
 Trying not to bore you with all my findings - I'm adding about a country a day at present.

However, Peru is something totally different!

The only two examples I've found there so far both use the maypole as a processional item.  They dance with the maypole, rather than round it.


watervole: (Default)
Found a Hungarian dance - with a move I haven't seen before. Annoyingly, the photographer doesn't show you the top of the pole, so I can only guess at the pattern it makes.
Szalagos tanc translates as 'strip dance', thus demonstrating the dangers of translation...



But why?

I'm open to suggestions...
watervole: (Default)
 This maypole research is growing by the day.

I've realised that it isn't just dance figures, but also the type of pole used, the kind of music, the stepping, the costumes and the places where they are danced.

I'm starting to create a spreadsheet to follow these factors through and to make the patterns show more clearly.

My cousin Patsy who lives in Spain is helping me out with a lot of the Basque stuff.

Is anyone interested in helping?  

I'm able to identify the dance figures (though the Brazilians are incredibly inventive and keep coming up with new ones!).  Would other people be interested in helping with other aspects?  (No prior knowledge needed)

If you are, comment with your email address and you can do as many or as few dances as you like.  (I'll give you access to the data)
watervole: (Maypole)
I've started work on the French and Italian dances, but still a way to go there.

In the meantime, here is the most joyous dance I've found yet. It's just a simple plait, but it's wonderful. It's from a Portuguese speaking area (possibly, but not definitely, Brazil.)

The Brazilian (and Cuban) dances are the most 'living tradition' I've yet found.

Look at this, and then compare with the French dance that follows.



The French dance is frozen in the past.  It's danced with precision, but I'm not seeing joy there.




Looking at the French dance moves and the general style, it's very clear where the English maypole tradition was taken from.  Definitely from France.  (I've seen one or two web pages that say France or Italy, but the only Italian dances I have so far have stylistic differences.

If there's interest, I'll start breaking down what I consider the stylistic details of each tradition.
watervole: (Default)
 I really wasn't going to post any more maypole dances today, because I thought you'd be sick to death of them, but I've started work on a group of dances with Spanish ancestry (looking quite different - on  the basis of the ones I've found so far - to the Portuguese ones)

Just look at this one from the Dominican Republic.  How could any self-respecting morris dancer not post this one!


I think there may possibly be an overlap with mattachine traditions here, but the explanation as to why this is possible is far to long to go into here.

watervole: (Default)
With a complete change of style and music, I now take you to the Caribbean.

I don't yet know the origins of this Cuban dance, but it involves some moves that are not seen in the classic British dances. Possible some Spanish origins? (Haven't yet found any Spanish dances, but will start looking)



Grenada next - not nearly as good as the Cuban dancers. This one shows strong English influence in the dance moves.



Jamaica - this performance was done by a group of teachers for Jamaica day and is pure English in the moves. (English school teachers probably took the tradition over originally, but it's now regarded as a traditional Jamaican dance)



I've also found one from Nicaragua, but it was just a basic plait.
watervole: (Default)
 I've been doing a lot more looking at maypole dances, and some of the cultural patterns are fascinating.

Just as the German Bandertanz has ended up unchanged in Brazil, I've now found the Basque Zinta Danza in identical form in Argentina - sure enough, Wikipedia tells me that around 10% of the Argentine population comes from the Basque country.

See the Basque version:

And from Argentina:


Even the costumes are almost the same.

The whole style of the dance is different to other ones I've seen.  Look at the footwork, very light and a bit more complex than most maypole dances.

If anyone is interested, I'll tell you about the Caribbean maypole dances and the competitions in Brazil with fantastic moves and serious audience appreciation.
watervole: (Default)
Dances move and evolve.  Watch this sequence. 

Some of you may remember my post a while back about the German maypole dance - the Bandertanz.

There is a large German community in Brazil, and they are very keen on maintaining their traditions.

Here is the Brazilian bandertanz - absolutely identical in music and figures to the German ones I've found.


But now look at this next one!

I've never seen anything like it before.  This is serious adult professional or competitive maypole dancing.  It has two figures that are totally new to me, and I'd find both difficult to teach.  (I've only worked out how to do one of them so far...)

Google translate says "Traditional Dance Gaucho - Pau Tape - presented during the Festival Gangs in Faxinal-Pr. I thank all the students who dreamed me and stumbled rehearse, rehearse,"

And, Faxinal (Parana) is in the southern region of Brazil!  (Most German Brazilians also come from the southern part of the country)

So, we have a traditional Gaucho (that's south American cowboy) maypole dance, that is very likely derived from a dance brought by German settlers to Brazil, but by moving across ethnic boundaries, the dance has freed up a little and developed new moves.  


No wonder I love folklore research!

Of course, there may have been an independant Portuguese maypole tradition.  Just because I haven't found any yet, doesn't mean there aren't any (I've seen references to Portugal having a maypole tradition, but no actual dances).  However, even if there are, I'd bet that the closeness of the German dancers helps to keep it alive and vibrant.

I know there are come Caribbean maypole dances.  I need to find out more about those some day...

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Judith Proctor

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