What is maypole dancing?
I’ve not specifically heard of “maypole” dancing, but I’ll describe what I do know: a bunch of children dancing around a large, vertical pole stuck in the ground. Often, the children will be singing, and holding ribbons attached to the top of the maypole. If this is what you’re thinking of, then it is often a schoolyard game, but back in the old days, the maypole was actually a phallic symbol that represented fertility. You can see an in-movie representation of one by watching THE WICKER MAN, starring Christopher Lee. It’s a great, but notorious, flick. You can find further information about the maypole by looking for “maypole fertility” at Google.com.
Maypole dancing is a traditional form of folk dance from western Europe, especially England, Sweden and Germany. Dancers dance in a circle each holding a coloured ribbon attached to a central pole. By the movements of the dancers the ribbons are intertwined and plaited either on to the pole itself or into a web around the pole. The dancers may then retrace their steps exactly in order to unravel the ribbons. Maypole dancing is extremely ancient and is thought to have Pagan fertility symbolism. It is traditionally performed in the spring around the festival of May Day, but in Sweden it is during the midsummer festivities. It was revived in the early twentieth century in a more genteel form.
There is also a form of maypole dance that was established in the renaissance, that involved gypsys and belly dancing. At the festival I work at we do a different type of dance around the maypole than that of which is usually specified. It all depends where you perform it and what occasion you are performing it for.