watervole: (Default)
 I'm knackered.  May bank holiday weekend is the top time for morris and maypole bookings, but dancing, playing and calling maypole dancing two days in succession is really exhausting.

Still, the Saturday maypole group were definitely above average. Managed a decent plait (which isn't as easy as it sounds).  Admittedly, I used a simple 'cheat' plait in which the odds and evens move alternately, but if you let everyone move together, then the ones who have internalised the pattern speed up and overtake the slower ones and create a toplogical disaster.

It's only safe to let everyone move if they are ALL experienced dancers and hence move strictly in time with the music, as that synchronises their actions.

If anyone out there has a group of adults (minimum of 8, max 24) who would like to spend half a day to a day learning how to do complex maypole dances as a team, just let me know.  It's something I'd love to teach...
watervole: (Default)
 I'm going to be pretty croaky by Sunday evening.

Today I'm teaching maypole and longsword dancing at a local school.  I do this every year on Wednesday afternoons in the run up to Wimborne Minster Folk Festival.  The children will perform on Saturday at the festival and they always do me proud.

Saturday, I'm calling maypole at the Dorset Venison Fair for two half hour sessions.

Sunday, I'm calling maypole at a private event at Rockley Park and teaching a longsword workshop as well.

May bank holiday weekend is always a busy time.  We turned down a request for May 1st as we knew we'd be knackered by then.  (We being Anonymous Morris, who will be dancing at the two weekend events)

The catch is that calling for dances, even using a mike, always leaves me with a rough voice.   Time to get out the glycerine!
watervole: (Default)
 Just discovered this old movie footage from 1938 of the Peeover Rose Queen.

Look at the male morris team and their pom pom style sticks.  I've never seen ones like that before on a traditional side.  I wonder if modern sides actually avoid that look because we now associate it with carnival morris/majorettes/cheer leaders...

Also, look at the women's side performing at the same time.  Identical style pom pom  sticks.

 The men's Morris side who are featured both years are the Over Peover Morris Dancers. The women's Morris side are thought to be the Magpie Morris Dancers.

There's also a nice little maypole dance 5 1/2 mins in, shows figures that you don't see children dancing nowardays.
watervole: (Default)
 Vera, could you take a look at this one?

Scroll forward to 31:23 - this is the first time I've seen a Czech maypole dance using ribbons, but it's done by an American folk group (though they seem to be doing specifically Czech and Slovak dances, so I hope they've done some research).

I couldn't catch the name of the village they gave.

It's only a plait, followed by what I assume to be more typical Czech maypole dances without ribbons.  What do you reckon?  Do you think the ribbon dance is authentic, or just tacked on to the real maypole dances?
watervole: (Default)
 I've just done a couple of maypole sessions with the Dorset Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers.

I had high hopes of this one, and I was proved right.

A group of all adults, and, being weavers, they understood exactly what I meant by 'maintain an even ribbon tension'.

Ah, the joys of a group who all know left from right and clockwise from anti-clockwise.

I never even had to tell anyone to lift their ribbons to let other people pass underneath.

I was able to try dances that I'd never dared do with a group before.  We did a move called 'Quadrille' that I found in an ancient dance book from 1906 - I had no idea what it would look like on the pole and the dancers were as interested as I was to see how it would turn out.  

I was able to do moves from Germany, Brazil, and Mexico as well.  It took a while to get the 'in out plait' correct, but it worked and made another attractive weave pattern.  Did a move that I call 'sun and moon' (I can't speak Portuguese, so I've no idea what it's called in Brazil)

We also did a figure that I have now renamed the 'Dorset Weavers Braid', because they did it so much better than the only other group I ever tried it with.  It looked so good, that they asked to keep on going for another repeat.  It makes a lovely braid that winds gently round the pole - 

If they ask me back next year (as I hope they will), I want to experiment with all  sorts of possible patterns.  With this group, we can experiment with different ways of arranging the ribbon colours and see if we can get particular effects on the pole.  I've got ideas for weaving braids and then plaiting or webbing the braids, and I'm sure there's other things we can come up with.
watervole: (Default)
 The Czechs aren't the only ones with a tradition of raiding maypoles from other villages....

Read this page here - which will tell you how an enterprising group managed to steal this maypole!

watervole: (Default)
 Spoke too soon about bad teachers...

I had a group today who got almost everything wrong!

In my defence, I should say that groups with more than three children age under 4 are very tough indeed, and I did have 24 dancers, but it was still a mess.

24 are just too many to handle without a wrangler, and my volunteer wrangler was new to the job, so wasn't yet aware of just how much she was being volunteered for.  (With that many kids, the wrangler needs to do things like checked they haven't wrapped the ribbon round their hand, catch those who are overtaking, and do things like ensuring all the ribbons are in the correct place to start with and making sure kids hold their ribbons high enough that they don't chop people's heads off. In short, she needs to be about six people in one...)

I'd strung the pole for 12, but so many kids wanted to join in that I went up to the max.

But, slapping my own wrist for being so cocky!
watervole: (Default)
 I was reading Vicarage's journal where he comments on the ineptness of the people in the public participation maypole dance he was watching and the fact that it ended in a real tangle.

I commented there, to the effect that I don't think there are bad dancers, only bad teachers.  I still stand by that, although I'd make an exception if the dancers have mental handicaps and can't really understand the instructions.

The trick with calling maypole is to start with something really basic to teach the dancers things like how to hold their ribbons.

1.  Do not wrap your ribbon round your wrist - basic safety.  IF you fall and can't let go, either your arm is going to get a very nasty yank or the pole will fall over. Both are bad...

2.  NEVER OVERTAKE.  If you can instil this principle on something like a really basic barber's pole, then the dancers will obey it when they come to more complicated moves.  Overtaking is the commonest cause of tangles.

3.  Call moves at the speed of the slowest dancer and make it very clear why you are doing so.  "It's not the bad dancers that make maypole dances go wrong, it's the good ones.  The good ones know what they should be doing next and do it before I call it. What you can't see is the little old lady (or mum with a baby, or three year old boy, or teenager who doesn't speak English) on the other side of the dance who is still sorting out the previous move.  If you move before I call, you'll be moving ahead of the other dancers and this will result in tangles."

4.  Find a clear way of checking that they know the colour of their ribbons and will respond to calls.  Something easy like dancing towards the pole when their colour is called and keep changing the colour order, so that they listen rather then move from habit.  Once you have that instilled, you can do more complex things with colour calls.

5.  Never use the words right and left. "Pass right shoulders" is fine for a morris dancer, but a surprising number of kids and adults have right/left confusion. Always use the words 'over' and 'under'.  Call "red ribbons go under green ribbons" rather than "red and green pass right shoulders"

6.  Make sure they can count to one and make a joke of it.  "Who can count to one?  Good.  Go under one and only one green ribbon"

7.  Be very aware of the commonest mistakes and be ready to pre-empt them the moment they start to happen.

8.  Develop the ability to watch the entire set of dancers, partly by watching the ribbon pattern at the top of the pole (where you will see if the pattern is correct) and partly by having an awareness of how everyone is moving and if anyone is out of pattern.  Do not be afraid to shout "Freeze" if you see a problem developing.

9.  Love your dancers, praise their every success and get the audience to applaud when they do something tricky.  Undoing a pattern is more tricky than doing it, so make sure the audience are aware of this and applaud the undoing as well as the doing.

10.  Work with live musicians if you possibly can, especially ones who are used to working with you.

I had a really good session on Saturday, with a mix of all ages and abilities.  They were wonderful.  Someone made one small mistake on undoing a plait, but they managed (by dint of each of them watching their own ribbons and how they were wrapped on the pole) to undo it without me needing to tell them anything other than to watch their ribbons and to let the slow dancers come to them rather than rushing too fast.  They managed not only to do it perfectly, but to do it in time to the music.  I was really chuffed with them.
watervole: (Default)
Here's one for my collection of unusual maypole dances!

The music is pretty good too.

watervole: (Default)
 Is anyone able to make me a couple of stills or a very short video clip of the Gallifreyan children maypole dancing?

I trust you did all notice that maypole is a traditional dance on Gallifrey?...
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...

watervole: (Default)
I was working at another care home this afternoon, trying to devise maypole dances for two little girls age 2 and 4 and a group of frail people in wheelchairs. 

I got the staff to do some of the usual maypole dances, but here's one I invented on the spot.

The 'Hello' dance.
Take 3 to 6 people in wheelchairs and a few small children.
Space wheelchairs around the pole facing out and give each person a ribbon to hold fairly tightly.
Let small children dance around the ribbon holders in any way they like (not necessarily holding a ribbon themselves - actually works better without).  They can skip and dance anywhere, the only rule is that they have to say 'hello' or wave every time they pass in front of someone.
This was surprisingly popular -  It allows very small children to interact with very frail old ladies.
watervole: (Default)
 Lesson for today: do not give toys to dementia patients.

We were dancing at a family day at a local dementia care home.  I often take some shakers and the like with me now.  I gave a couple to two children who were visiting family and a couple to two of the more alert patients.

I couldn't find one of the maracas afterwards.  The lady I'd given it to had no idea where it was.  One of the staff, wiser than I, asked to look in her handbag.  There it was.

I gather it's quite common behaviour.  Patients often pick up things left around (a  visitor told me she never dared put her purse down) and then 'put them in safe places'.  They mean no harm by it, but they forget afterwards that they ever had the item.

Maypole tip for the day.  People in wheelchairs can easily be pushed around for a Barber's Pole.  (and people with walking difficulties can still sit on a chair for younger people to make a spider's web around them).  One old lady had a wonderful smile on her face.
watervole: (Default)
 Thanks to sugoll for showing me this one.

Scroll to 1:19 in this 1920 Belgian film.

This one is interesting on a number of fronts.  Firstly (a purely technical one) the pole has two freely rotating heads - which is quite common on some modern poles.  I can set mine up that way if I choose.

Secondly, it shows maypole with ribbons in a country I hadn't previously encountered it in -I'm sure there must be others.

The date is in the same general period as Ruskin's introduction of maypole dancing with ribbons in the UK (but not earlier).  I'd love to know who came up with this concept originally.

Thirdly, I just love the retrofit of this kind of maypole into a 'medieval' style pageant - pure theatrical imagination!


Feb. 17th, 2013 08:12 pm
watervole: (Maypole)
 I'm working on my talk for Redemption on folk traditions and I decided to start on ones that got banned by the Puritans.  So I've started with rushbearing and moving onto maypoles.

I was going to draw on some wonderful Czech examples of traditions are still practices there that have fallen out of use in England and are now only in the history books, but alas, vjezkova's maypole photos no longer have working links to them!

Yes, Vera,  this is a big hint that I need your wonderful maypole photos!

(and if anyone, anywhere has  a decent photo of the Baverian bandertanz, I will be in your debt - I simply cannot find any on line.  It's a waltz dance done with ribbons around a maypole)
watervole: (Maypole)
 I went to Normandy this weekend with the Quayside Cloggies (the ladies North West Morris group I belong to).

I packed pretty light as I didn't want to have to carry much, especially when we were moving between dance spots.

I kept my handbag for essentials like cash and ventolin inhaler, etc.  I had enough space to take either my camera or my English/French dictionary in my handbag.  I chose the dictionary.

This turned out to be a mistake...

The dictionary came in handy, because I stayed with a lovely French couple who didn't speak very much English.

However, what I hadn't know in advance was that the French Group Alfred-Rossel had also invited a dance group from Cherbourg's other twin town in Germany.  Die Volktanzgrup de Weileurstenssbligen  (I think it is near Bremerhaven).

Ottmar from the German group was also staying with Marie and Bernard and his schoolboy English and my schoolgirl German managed to establish that he was a bandertanzer  (there's an unlaut on the a, but I get the wrong character when I try to type it).

A bandertanz is a maypole dance, done with adults, not children.  They'd brought their maypole (maybaum) 1,100km and here was me without a camera!

It was a wooden pole, a bit taller than my maypole, but also coming apart into two sections.  Instead of having a base that they set on the ground, they had adapted their pole (after getting fed up of carrying it in processions) so that the base was in a hand cart that they'd nicknamed the banderwagen.  The only drawback is that in spite of a jack at the back, it sometimes moves around a bit when they dance round it.

They don't have a web site (as far as I can tell), they said they had no footage on You Tube (but have promised to try and film the dance for me.)..  

Research on You Tube this morning has revealed several interesting facts.  There appears to be only bandertanz (aka bandltanz) and it is performed in many different towns.  It's always done to the same tune, called (possibly) the bandltanz waltz.

I can't find a copy of the sheet music - if anyone can help, it would be much appreciated.

Some of the maypoles used are massive and can have 30 or more couples doing the dance at the same time.

The choreography is roughly,

1.,  Couples sway their ribbons in time to the music.

2.  Couples either walk or do a slow polka step for eight steps clockwise, then 8 anti-clockwise.

3.  Several slow turns with partner, using ribbons gracefully as you pass over and under.

4.  Same as three in reverse.

5.  Woman face one way, men face the other.  A long slow plait is made, going on for as long as you choose.

6.  Undo the plait.

7.  Each couple do a complete right hand turn together.

8.  Women go clockwise, men anticlockwise and turn (left handed) a new partner from the next couple.

9.  Repeat this, carrying on in the same direction.  This will build up a tent figure.

10.  Reverse to undo the tent.

11.  Release the ribbons, take your partner in a ballroom hold and polka round the maypole.
watervole: (Maypole)
 Cleared out some more of my email backlog - I'm making good progress on it at the moment.

Went down the allotment for a couple of hours.  Spread more manure (it's the best time of year to do this job, just before things start into growth).  Started weeding and thinning the New Zealand Spinach - it's a plant that is totally unrelated to spinach, but serves pretty much the same function in meals.

It's great merit is that it grows through the winter, survives frost, and is available to eat at a time when almost no other green leaf crops are ready.  It's also pretty much untroubled by pests and diseases.  At the moment, I'm taking leaves off the larger plants and thinning and composting round the smaller ones.

It's other great merit is that it often self- seeds.  Not enough to be a nuisance, but enough to give you some bonus plants - which are inevitably healthier and bigger than the ones you actually planted!

Followed the allotment by going for a quick swim and then cleared more email.

Have discovered that membership of EFDSS comes with free public liability insurance for people performing or teaching folk arts.  Much cheaper than what I was paying for public liability insurance for my maypole last year, so I've just joined.  I'd been thinking of joining in any case.  I'm tempted by the library of folk history materials, which I may go and visit some day.
watervole: (Morris dancing)
 I post this mainly because I know there's a couple of teachers on my flist.

If you ever want to buy a maypole, get it from Educational Aids.  Firstly because their maypoles are excellent quality (expensive, but will outlast cheaper models) and secondly because their customer service is stunning.

I lost one of the screw fittings from my maypole.  There's a giant screw that you use to secure the pole once it's assembled and you use another one at the top to determine whether you want the heads to be fixed or freely rotating for a given dance.  Not that easy to lose, but I suspect I lost it when I was working on the beach at the end of last summer and had to take down quickly when it started raining.

I phoned them up asking how much a replacement would cost.  When they asked how long I'd had the pole and discovered it was less than a year, the lady on the phone looked up my address from the order record and said it was simpler just to mail me a new giant screw than to go through the hassle of my paying for one.

But not only that, she clearly mailed it first class as it arrived this morning - and there were two screws in the packet, so I even have a spare!

Hopefully, I've managed to make a sale for them as well.  The school where I teach maypole has a pole of their own, but it only takes 12 ribbons.  They have the crown of an Educational Aids maypole, but on a wooden pole.  I've worked out how to add the lower crown of the EA model to theirs, and I think they're going to buy one.  12 ribbons is a bit limiting with a typical size class.
watervole: (Default)
We've a house full of recovering morris dancers!

Wimborne on Friday rained a bit.  We managed the procession which was almost dry.  For the dance spot in the Cornmarket afterwards, we managed with a combination of instruments protected by bin bags (you can play a concertina in a bin bag by making holes in the bag for your hands to go through) and helpful umbrellas.

After two dances, we retreated to the ceilidh and danced until midnight and then retired to our tents.

Saturday was bright and sunny.  We weren't dancing on Saturday...  We collected and ambled round the stalls and some of us may have hit some of the music sessions.  In the evening we went to the ceilidh and danced our socks off. 

In the night it rained.  A lot.

Both tents were starting to let water in by the morning.

Abandoning our first dance spot, we chucked dry stuff into the car and struck the tents in the rain.

Nothing daunted, we then went and found a spot to dance in the aforementioned rain.  We had a small but very appreciative audience.

Then we found where the few surviving morris teams were hanging out in a large gazebo at the back of the Bell.  We all took turns dancing there and Anonymous's version of Tinner's Rabbits went down very well (and there were some good performances from other sides. I enjoyed Bourne River's jig to 'Singing in the Rain').

I'd originally been programmed to do maypole dancing with my school group on the Minster Green at 2pm.  With the rain pouring down (and the grass slippery as well) it was highly unlikely that any children would show.  The school phoned round the children to confirm it was off, but just in case any didn't get the message, I found a free spot in the main hall and set up the maypole there (with someone at the Minster to catch anyone who showed there).  Just to ensure the maypole (and the dry, warm, indoor space...) weren't wasted, I invited every morris dancer I passed to come along and join in.

It went surprisingly well.  I ended up with about eighteen morris dancers from a number of sides all joining in the maypole dances.

There's some great things about working with dancers.  With seven year olds ,you struggle for weeks to be able to get them to do a plait -and even then some of them will get it wrong.  With morris  dancers, all you need to say say is: red ribbons face clockwise, green ribbons face anti-clockwise.  Now do a hey passing right shoulders first.  And they're off - perfect plait first time.  (All I need to remember for the future is to tell them to have the ribbon tension slightly slacker so the first few wraps don't catch on the crown).

Even morris dancers make a few mistakes though.  Maypole looks easy, but it is a very unforgiving dance.  Every mistake is 100% obvious when you come to unwind the ribbons.  You can't simply slide back into place when you go wrong (which you can do in almost any other dance without the audience even noticing most of the time).  When I was saying:  "Notice who is on either side of you and who is in front of you and don't overtake" I could see a few smiles at the 'school teacher' routine.  But sure enough, we got a couple of ribbon tangles in 'Crysanthamum' from people passing the dancer in front of them - this tends to happen when the dancer in front moves late.

It was a fun session, helped us get warm and dry out and was colourful with quite a few people watching as well as dancing.

I was told afterwards that one the dancers, an older gentleman, had been unable to do  maypole dancing at school as he'd been very ill as a boy - he'd always regretted not being able to do it - and I'd made him very happy.

It made my day!

Then we all dived back to my place (apart from Rick who had a job interview the next morning), ate stew, played simple card games and collapsed.

In 2013, I'll see it all from a different angle.  I'm on the committee for Wimborne Minster Folk Festival 2013 !
watervole: (Default)
Took my maypole down to Poole Quay yesterday for my first paid outdoor session.

It went very well.  The sound system (which scares me as I'm not a sound techie at all) worked just fine.  I have Lindsey to thank for that.  She worked out exactly what I needed (easy to carry, even with a bad elbow, decent battery life, loud enough for a maypole dance, mike, works with iPod or MP3 player, easy to recharge) and told me where to buy it.

Managed to get a lot of teenagers dancing which was great.  Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and I got to do a much wider range of dances than I do with the 7 year olds I normally teach (older people find it much easier to pick up the dances).

It'll be quite a while before I break even as there's a lot of capital cost, but I'm enjoying it.

If any conventions fancy a maypole dancing session, get in touch...

I think Poole  Tourism took some photos, so I'm hoping they'll pass some along to me.
watervole: (Default)
See Vera's journal for how they do it in the Czech Republic.  Here  and here.   Admire the 'maidens' working on making the wreath that hangs from the top.

Today, I'm setting up my maypole for a Poole arts event.  I'll see if I can get some photos, though it isn't nearly as good as the Czech one.

This is the first time I'll have used my new sound system, so I'm crossing my fingers for it all to go smoothly.  I'm also hoping to teach adults this time, so maybe I can do some of the more complicated dances.

watervole: (Anonymous Morris)
Anonymous Morris have been asked to do several paid performances on Poole Quay this summer.   This will give our finances some much-needed help.  It's also a great place to dance.  (We're currently at seven dancers and three musicians, but one dancer leaves for university in September, another is from Lichenstein and will have to return at some point, and a third plans to sell his house and go to live on a canal.)  Poole Quay could be a useful recruiting ground.

I've been asked to do two hours a week teaching traditional dances at a school in Poole and possibly an after school club as well.  I'm really looking forward to that.  It will be challenging, but good for me.  And it's paid.

Walford Mill are interested in hiring a maypole for some of their family fun days.

I'm getting better at asking people for sensible amounts of money - all those years of haggling with hotels for conventions has proven of some benefit.
watervole: (Meditation Teal'c)
I've bought my maypole, I'm getting a music system and I'll shortly be arranging public liability insurance.

My next problem is to find a name for my business.  My aim is to teach maypole dancing and other traditional English dances including morris.

Any bright ideas?

I'm going to be working with Tradamis, which means I'll be able to offer some things in addition to dance, so putting 'dance' in the name may be a bit limiting.

'Waveney' is one possibility.  It's a name Richard and I have used for several businesses over the years and has the benefit of being very generic.  On the other hand, one could also regard that as a negative...

I expect my initial focus to be on maypole dancing, but don' t really know which way things may develop.

watervole: (concertina)
I'm considering buying my own maypole and hiring out it and myself to allow people to do maypole dancing at fairs/ weddings/etc.

Demand is total guesswork, but I'm hoping I can get some work from schools to cover the basic costs.

Where I don't have knowledge is with regard to sound.  Indoors, I can use either a concertina or CDs.  Outdoors, I'm not sure if that will be loud enough.  I've played for the morris team outdoors with just a concertina, but I'm never at my best when attempting to play and teach at the same time.

Outdoors, there's not always going to be somewhere where I can plug in  a CD player.

Could people who know a bit about this, please tell me what kind of (cheap) options I have.
watervole: (Default)
See Vera's posting on Maypole Wars in the Czech Republic.

What she describes is very like the records of what used to happen with local village maypoles in Britain.

The reasons why we lost our maypole traditions are partly due to the puritans and partly due to other factors  - I'll try and write about it some day when I've more time and my fingers feel more flexible.   however, we do appear to have a unique tradition in ribbon maypole dancing, so we owe thanks to the Victorians for that.  Other traditions of dancing around maypoles are not the same as English maypole dancing.
watervole: (Default)
Vera has kindly reposted her maypole photos for me.

You'll instantly see the close similarity between the Czech Republic maypole and the German one I posted yesterday.

I'd love to see photos of other European maypole traditions.  [livejournal.com profile] cdybedahl says there will be Swedish ones in late June, which arouses my curiosity as to why the later date.  (and also as to what they will look like).

The English part of the Maypole entry on Wikipedia looks as though it is taken from Hutton's 'Stations of the Sun' and I'd regard it as accurate historically.

Hutton is a wonderfully detailed historian (no random speculation to suit his own theories, just a detailed record of everything to be found on the subject in old records) and his book is currently £7.14 including postage on Amazon...

watervole: (Default)
Went with the Cloggies to Milton Abbas street fair today.  It's a very popular local event in a very picturesque village.  It's very well organised and pretty well every house in the village is involved one way or another.

This photo by Joe D shows the thatched cottages of the main street very well.

There's an interesting history as to why the village has such a pretty row of identical thatched cottages. Essentially, the old town of Middleton was in the way of Lord Milton's view where he wanted to landscape his grounds, so he paid an architecht to design a new village in a nearby valley and moved all the villagers into it when it was complete.  By the standards of 1780, they're pretty good buildings, so I don't think the villagers were that badly treated.  More details here

The street fair is on the front lawns of all the houses, and also involves the church, the almshouses and pretty well every square inch you can find.

Outside the old school, they had maypole dancing with the local children.

British maypole dancing is done with ribbons attached to the top of the maypole. Each child (It's almost always a children's dance) holds a ribbon, and the ribbons wind around the pole as they skip round. There are several basic patterns. The simplest one is a basic barber's pole, done by simply dancing round in a circle. Then you get a more complex weave - the children stand facing one another in pairs and then go round the pole passing alternate right and left shoulders.  The most complex one is a tent in which every other child stands still and holds their ribbon taut and the other children dance round each child in turn to make a tent-like pattern with the maypole as the tent pole.

Here's a fairly typical picture. The boys have done a candy stripe one way, and the girls are adding a second layer in the other direction.

This dance is a relatively recent tradition, dating back to the 18th century.

There are older traditions (nearly all lost) of dancing around a maypole, but these were a different kind of dance.

Vera, I want to link to your entry on Czech maypole customs, but you don't use many tags in your journal.  If you can find it, could you please put a link in the comments? I'd like people to be able to compare the different maypole customs.


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Judith Proctor


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