is a form of folk dance from Germany, England, and Sweden. There are two
forms. The first and most popular consists of dancers that perform circle
dances around a tall, garland-festooned pole. In the second, dancers move
in a circle, each holding a colored ribbon attached to a much smaller
pole. As they move around the pole, the dancers intertwine their ribbons
either in a web around the pole or to plait it to the pole, itself. To
unravel the ribbons, the dancers retrace their steps.
Historians believe the
first maypole dance originated as part of Germanic pagan fertility
rituals. Originally, the dancers danced around a living tree. While
dancers usually perform this dance in the spring on May 1 or May Day,
those in Sweden perform it during their midsummer celebrations.
The second kind of maypole
dance, with origins in the 18th Century, began as a traditional or
artistic dance popular in Italy and France. Eventually, traveling dancing
troupes performed it in London theaters, thus bringing this traditional
dance to larger audiences. An English teacher training school adopted the
maypole dance and soon it had spread across most of central and southern
England. The dance became part of the repertoire of physical education for
girls and remained popular in elementary schools in both England and the
United States well into the 1950s.