watervole: (Default)
You've all read my maypole posts in the last year as I've been researching overseas maypole dances.  Now's your chance to try some of these dances yourselves.  I'm running a workshop on March 15th, where I'll be attempting to teach a selection of these dances.  Whether it's the German slow waltz of the Bandertanz, or the energetic high leaps of the Cuban style, or the relaxed Venezualan El Sebucan, the complex Brazilian dances, or the Italian circle dance, why not come along and give it a try?

Crash space is available, though there are plenty of local B+Bs.

I'd love to see some of you there.  (there's also a local ceilidh in the evening, so if you want to go for broke you get a £1discount if you go to both)

watervole: (Default)
 Having read further, I have to say that my suspicions regarding the maypole dancing with ribbons at the Buxton well-dressing in 1870 turn out to be unjustified.

I've now read the appropriate chapter in Huttons 'Stations of the Sun' (a wonderful book that I cannot recommend too highly if you want to read accurate historical detail rather than waffly speculation about calendar customs), I discover that the first maypole dances in Britain were not those introduced by Ruskin, but imitations of stage performances (presumably using European dances) that were popular on the London stage from 1836 onwards (presumably with adults-though I can't state that for certain).  Hotton says that these stage dances involved plaits (but they may not have been limited to plaits) and that the pole was held by the dancers (the pole being held by the dancers, rather than having a base to keep it upright, is very common in European countries to this day) It was these that inspired the Derbyshire dances from 1840 onwards, and they dispersed outwards from Buxton initially, starting to appear in southern fetes around 1850 and by 1880, the ribbon dances had replaced the older maypole dances across the country.

Ruskin visited events in Cheshire in the 1860s and saw both the maypole dances and the may queen ceremonies that went with them.  The May Queens in this period were little girls - I don't know about the age of the maypole dancers - I haven't seen a reference that gives an age.  (there is a strong implication that a key one in northern Cheshire had children performing the dance).  It was in 1881 that Ruskin teamed up with JP Faunthorpe, principal of Whitelands teacher training college, to design a May Queen ceremony there, complete with maypole dance.  The ceremony carries on to this day.  They've moved with the times - sometimes they have a May King now (photo and text of interest to Abbey book fans)

As pupils graduated from Whitelands, they took the May Day ceremony with them and spread it right across the country, though it's important to note that although most modern May Queens/maypole dances descend from Whitelands, some predate it and others were created by teachers who didn't go  to Whitelands.

In short, maypole dancing with ribbons in England goes back to 1840 as the earliest date, rather than 1881 as I'd previously assumed.  (I'm not counting the actual London stage performance)
watervole: (Default)
 English maypole dancing with ribbons is supposed to have started around 1890 with John Ruskin.

However, this reference, if accurate, places a dance back 20 years earlier in 1870.

scan of old letter

Barber's Pole and 'Spider's Web' are both typical ribbon dances and both are still danced today.

The notes were written in 1908, so it would seem reasonable for the 1870 date of Sharp's informant to not be too far out.  Having said that, I'm still a bit suspicious as this is in Buxton and I've seen other sources from that part of the country that imply maypole dancing was fairly recent (but I'd need to read them again and that means waiting until I can afford to buy my own copy of the book in question).  IF someone has seen something regularly for a decade, then it might be the case that they 'remember' it for longer.

This letter refers to a slightly earlier period.

scan of letter about maypole garlands

The description of the garlands would probably be around 1840-50 and that fits with what I'd expect.  This isn't a pole that has ribbons for dancing, but has decorated garlands hung from in.  (Visualise rings hanging horizontally around the pole)

I like the description of the poor people buying their own pole when the old one wore out and the rich people would not help.

The letter continues with more description of the garlands and a mention of a May queen.

letter mentioning may queen

There are two more pages for anyone who wants to go and read the original  (The last note says there was never 'any dancing with ropes')

If you want to read a load of completely bonkers theories as to the origins of maypoles and the dances round them (involving ancient Israelites, sacrifices to Baal, etc, then you may enjoy this letter)

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)
 Is anyone on my flist fluent (or reasonably so) in Spanish/Portuguese/Hungarian/German/Dutch/Greek/almost any European language that has a maypole dance tradition with ribbons?

I found Greek and Dutch dances today.  I think it's pretty safe to assume that almost any country in Southern Europe will turn out to have a maypole dance with ribbons (and Northern Europe to have maypole dances without ribbons)

Google Translate isn't up to the job at the level I need.

I need people willing to do a little bit of research for me (not masses) and ask occasional questions on You Tube.

I think at least two of those languages are on my flist, but I know people only have limited free time.
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)
 So, who spotted the Swedish maypole in Eurovision?  (a bit truncated but definitely a maypole)


watervole: (Default)
Judith Proctor


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