Although our bank holiday is on Monday, yesterday was May Day and the traditional Celtic Beltane festival. Half way between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice this festival marks the beginning of summer. Many of the old traditions associated with this time of year are not with us any more but one that I certainly remember from my childhood was that of May Pole Dancing.
Anyone else remember that?
May Poll Dancing in my primary school was a project of great precision. As the season approached our teacher spent a good deal of time trying to get us to dance the correct formations in the correct order so that the weaving of our feet and hands would create the correct, geometric patterns (made by the ribbons we were holding) at the top of the May Pole.
One of the issues for me with May Pole dancing was that I was big for my age and the costumes were all in a box that the school kept. You see we were supposed to share them but most of them didn’t fit me which meant I automatically became a secondary candidate for May Pole Dancing by virtue of my size and was often asked to hold the may pole instead of being allowed the dance with the rest of my class mates. This seems pretty unfair when I remember it now. Especially since I loved dancing and wanted to be one of the class and participate just like everyone else.
And so I realise this May morning that the story about May Pole dancing that I recall from the 1980s has two themes. The first story nostalgic. I love the thought of it and the idea of dancing about and making pretty patterns with ribbon on a summers day to welcome the season. My other story – the reality that the May Pole season also held a kind of dread for me that I wouldn’t be chosen because there was something wrong with me (being too big) and then I would feel rubbish and upset and left out of it all over again.
These kind of internal stories can be tricky and show up for us when we least expect them. The memory of feeling left out or discriminated against often stays with us and helps to shape the way we think about ourselves. In my case the second memory is strongest and I find myself feeling a bit angry even now. Though I think I probably was allowed to dance some years, the times when I wasn’t have somehow left a deeper story in me about not being good enough or fitting in, than anything positive I might feel about the idea of May Pole dancing.
These days as a Nia teacher I’m happy to teach a movement technique in my classes and workshops where everyone is welcome no matter their size or shape. No matter their story about their body or about fitness. I’m proud that I teach a class in which you can choose to move as you wish and wear what you want! I hope that in some small way my teaching helps lay new Body Stories and as I embark on new classes and workshops this summer that I dance away still more of the memory of being left out and continue to replace it with the deep sense of comfort and joy in my own body that Nia has brought me.
To come to one of my Nia Playshops in Brighton or London this summer sign up here. New classes in South East London launching at the end of May. Join my mailing list to be updated when they are announced. If you want to work with me on Story my StoryPower Course is open for registration now and starts 28th May. It costs £120 for 12 weeks but if you sign up now you can get one third off; and pay just £80.