Maypole dancing

Updated: Aug 29

Maypole dancing is a traditional form of dancing that is done in Grenada. Maypole dancing represents one of the traditions that is slowing being lost to the future generations of Grenadians.


Origin

The word 'maypole" means a living tree. The Maypole symbols rebirth. Maypole dancing has a diverse origin including influence of cultures of Western Europe, Latin America and Northern Africa. In particular, in Europe, Maypole got its name from the time of year, May day, which is May 01, and associated with the start of summer in Europe.


Today, the parish of St. David remains an active participant of Maypole dancing in Grenada.


About the dance

In the Maypole dance, there is the use of a tall pole. The tall pole has ribbons attached to the very top. Maypole dancers move in circular fashion to weave the ribbon in complex pattern around the pole. The ribbons are multi-colour. During independence celebrations, the colours of red, yellow and green are used to mark the occasion.


The dance begins with the Maypole dancers forming a circle around the pole. At the start of the music, the dancers move forward to collect their ribbons that are hanging from the pole. Each dancer holds the ribbon in their right hand. The dancers take four steps towards the maypole, and four steps backwards for a total count of 8 steps. Then, the dancers raise their arms, and begin the pattern of moving in and out among themselves or what is referred to as "over and under' pattern to begin to weave the ribbon around the pole. Using this step-hop, step-hop fashion, alternating one foot from the other, in a clockwise, and rhythmic fashion, the dancers plait or weave the ribbon until all the ribbon has been used.


Once the weave or plait has been completed, the dancers now must do the dance in reverse to "unplait" or untie the ribbon. The dancers begin again, but this time the steps are made in reverse or anti-clockwise fashion. An observer can see that the ribbon begins to unplait or unweave as the dancers move at the same pace, and in their unique pattern of over and under each other.


It is also usual to see a person holding the pole in the middle to provide additional support to uphold the pole as the dancers plait and unplait the ribbon. Dancers may also sing their own song or chant as they complete the Maypole dance in addition to music. Dancers are clothed in large flair skirts, or short skirts, and their heads tied.


Photo credits; Gold coast - Commonwealth Games Corporation visit to Grenada


To be Grenadian involves embracing aspects of our culture that gives us our identity.


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