Dancing the Maypole -- Nat & others

Nat Case ncase at hedbergmaps.com
Wed Jun 12 13:37:35 EDT 2002


At 10:53 AM -0400 6/11/02, HSchinske at aol.com wrote:
>I just asked the following question (see paragraph in quotes below) on
>Girlsown and got only one response, saying the expression wasn't in the OED.
>Apparently, judging from what one can find on Google, "dancing the Maypole"
>is common among pagan groups, but not so among other dancing folk (I hate to
>call you mundane or anything, but you know what I mean!). Anyone else hear it
>outside the pagan context? Is there any specific reason why pagans use this
>expression?
>--------------------
>"Is there a common phrase "dancing the Maypole," as opposed to "dancing
>around the Maypole"? I've always heard "dancing around the Maypole" but a
>friend asks if there is reason to use the other. I thought since there are
>some folks here who know a fair amount about morris and folkdancing I would
>ask."

"Maypole dances" or "maypole dancing" is more common, I think, at 
least in the states. I could ask on MORRIS-L, which I subscribe to, 
if you want. "Dancing the maypole" sounds like OK though, maybe a 
colloquialism: " ' Oh yes.' the grls replied,'We're going up meadow 
to dance the maypole."

In general, "dancing the X" as a construction rings of Taking It 
Serously as a Ceremony. So it makes sense that as regards maypoles it 
would be more common among pagan groups. In morris circles, "dancing 
the morris" has overtones of "carrying on the traditions of the 
ancients."

Asides:
Maypoles are generally a separate thing, more for kids, and more of a 
social thing than morris, which is a prepared performance. Their 
biggest association is that they are focused on May, and while 
dancing during May is historically a done thing, the more commonly 
known tradition of dancing in the May at dawn on May 1 is a 
relatively new phenomenon; I think the Oxford Morris Men started it 
by joining in the traditional Magdalene Bridge goings-on in the 
1930's. Traditionally Whitsun is the peak of Morris season, at least 
in the Cotswolds.

What most people think of as "Morris", i.e. the white clothes, 
hankies and sticks, is actually only one part of English ritual 
dance, of which many varieties are also called "morris": Clog morris 
in the northwest, Border Morris along the Welsh borders, long sword 
and rapper sword from Yorkshire and environs, molly dancing, garland 
dancing, and a variety of one-off traditions including  the Padstow 
and Helston May celebrations, the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, and the 
Abrams Circle Dance. The distinctions between Morris and country 
dance are mostly class ones: many of the dances we do are thought to 
be derived in part from social dances they did up at the manor...

And yes, you should be very very afraid of the Morris: see 
http://www.mit.edu/~jcb/AntiMorris/


-Nat Case
Juggler Meadow Morris Men 
http://www-unix.oit.umass.edu/~amcardle/Juggler_Meadow.html
Ramsey's Braggarts  http://www.hamline.edu/~thodapp/morris/ramsey.html
Great Northern Border
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