Enjoy a Maypole Dance
At Your Garden Tea Party

maypole silhouette, maypole tea party

The Maypole is up,
Now give me the cup,
I'll drink to the garlands around it,
But first unto those
Whose hands did compose,
The glory of flowers that crowned it.

Hostessing a garden tea party this Spring will be enhanced by a May-pole dance. This is enjoyed by all who participate, as well as by those who watch.

Learning the steps for plaiting the pole can be tricky so a few practice runs will be necessary for the simple dance. Some of the more elaborate dances require more practice and usually are done by older participants, teenagers - adults.

Things You Will Need for Your Maypole

  • Loads of silk flowers in a wreath or garland to decorate the top of the pole.
  • wide ribbons, streamers or bunting, 3 yards longer than the height of the pole, one for each dancer
  • 12-15' pole (wooden 3-4" diameter, or a metal pipe - a telescoping birdhouse or flag pole is great!
  • In general, the streamers are held tightly in the hand furthest away from the maypole, and loosely in the hand closest to the pole to guide it up and over the next person.Below are basic directions and we use boys and girls to demonstrate partners, but these dances are especially cute with all girls in pretty party frocks with flower wreathes in their hair.

    The Grande Plait

    One of the most common dances and the easiest, the dancers stand away from the pole, with the ribbons slack but not touching the ground.

    The partners face each other and curtsy. When the music starts, the boys go clockwise and the girls go counter clockwise using a skipping step.

    The steps are a weaving in and out of the person next to you. First person is boys to the inside, girls to the outside, then opposite, girls to the inside, boys to the outside. Continue on until the plaiting is too low to pass under comfortably.

    And now the fun begins!

    Dancers reverse direction and try to undo the ribbons. If the dancers look at the point where their ribbons cross they can work out who should go over and under. After that it is easy.

    The Barbers Pole

    The boys start standing close to the pole with their ribbons pulled tight. The girls start away from the pole with their ribbons slightly slack.

    On the beat the girls move one complete revolution in one direction. When they get back to their starting position, they move towards the pole, pulling their ribbons tight, while the boys move away from the pole and let their ribbons go slack.

    When the boys get to the end of their ribbons they move one complete revolution IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION as the girls did. Continue in this manner until the ribbons are used up, then reverse and undo.

    The first part of this dance is quite easy, while the undoing can be a bit tricky. Keep an eye on the point where the ribbons cross over to see if you have gone too far.

    Basic directions were taken from the Street Swing's website for the Grande Plait and the Barbers Pole.

    For additional information, I have found two books for you that are out of print at archive.org. Both are by Jeanette Emeline Carpenter Lincoln (whew what a name!) and both have explicit directions, diagrams and some interesting reading about the history of Maypoles.

    The first book is 'Maypole Possibilities' , and the next is The Festival Book: May-day Pastimes . When you view these books, on the left hand side of the screen you are given options of how you want to view them. FYI, I prefer the flip-book versions to the other ones. These can be downloaded to your computer for viewing off line also if you prefer.

    Additional Information:

    Return to Girls Tea Party
    Go to Tea Party Guide from Maypole Dancing

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