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Maypole Dancing

This dance is a tradition on May 1st - May Day. It is danced in celebration of spring. Many years ago I researched May Pole Dancing for a teacher I was working with that wanted to teach the children the dance. I recently found the directions that I had copied from an old book I found at the library. When we built our maypole, we used a long PVC pipe that was about 5-6 inches in diameter so that we could attach the steamers so that they were taped to the inside of the pipe. We used plastic party streamers which we pretty wide and were pretty sturdy. Ours was about 12 feet of pipe with about 3 feet buried in the ground. One of the mothers made a beautiful silk flower bouquet that we used to decorate the top.

We used a tape of Celtic music with bag pipes and flutes but really any folk music could be used. There are many CDs now available with English and Irish folk songs that you can buy even at Walmart. Two groups that I love but don't know what nationality they are are Blackmore's Night and Enya. They both have songs that reflect the spirit of Spring but go with what ever you like.

The dancers will be weaving the ribbons down the maypole. It is a beautiful circular dance. I have included instructions for older children and younger children and parents. It may take a few practice runs but the dance is relatively simple to learn.

An even number of participants take a ribbon (12 - 20 traditionally, but you can do this with even 6 kids if you make the pole smaller in diameter). Hold the ribbon taut but don't pull. Count off "'1",' "2"' around the circle (every other person is a 'One'). For 'Ones', the 'Two' on your left is your partner. For 'Twos' the 'One' on your right is your partner.

  • After 8 counts of music, everyone bows to the pole for 4 counts, then bows to their partner for 4 counts.
  • Everyone skips toward the pole for 8 counts.
  • Everyone skips back for 8 counts.
  • Side step to the right for 8 counts.
  • Side step to the left for 8 counts.
  • Turn to your partner and begin to weave. 'Ones' hold ribbon in right hand and begin weaving by going under their partner's ribbon. Alternate going over and under with each person you pass. 'Twos' hold ribbon in left hand and begin weaving by holding ribbon up 'over' their partner as they pass. Alternate going under and over with each person you pass. (It helps to mentally say 'over, under' to yourself to stay on track).
  • The second time you meet your partner, stop.
  • All skip into the maypole for 8 counts.
  • All skip out for 8 counts.
  • Turn in the opposite direction ('Ones' will now go counter-clockwise and 'Twos' will go clockwise) and begin unweaving. 'Ones' will start by going over and 'Twos' will start by going under. Travel around the pole until you meet your partner for the 2nd time and stop.
  • Ribbons are un-woven.
  • Everyone side steps to the right for 8 counts
  • Everyone side steps to the left for 8 counts
  • Lift your ribbons high and let them go!
  • Maypole dance for younger children
  • Everyone take a ribbon
  • Bow to the pole
  • Skip into the pole (8 counts)
  • Skip out (8 counts)
  • Turn to the left and begin to skip round the maypole
  • Skip around 3 or 4 times until the pole is wrapped ' way.
  • Skip into the pole (8 counts)
  • Skip out (8 counts)
  • Turn to the right and skip round the maypole until the pole is unwrapped.
  • Skip into the pole (8 counts)
  • Skip out (8 counts)
  • Hold your ribbon up and let it fly!
Even simpler:
  • Everyone take a ribbon
  • All turn to the left and skip around the maypole until it is half way wrapped
  • Skip into the maypole
  • Skip out
  • All turn to the right and skip around the maypole until it is unwrapped.
  • Hold the ribbons high and then let them fly!
Happy May Day
Let your hearts be gay,
To the music let your hearts sway,
Spring flowers are on their way.

About The Author: Debra Frick is a mother of 5 and a grandmother to 8 grandsons and one granddaughter. She is a published author and poetress. Recycling and saving money are her passions. She also loves crocheting and cooking. She is also a pet rescue volunteer and has many pets of her own.

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By Kim Churchman [3]05/04/2009

I got to do that as a little girl maybe six years old. I will always remember how cool the pole looked with the ribbon braided over it. Good for you, your kids are so lucky!

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