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Just go ahead and say it: Pole dancing in the United Kingdom just isn’t what it was in the late 1700s.

After an emergence of the art of maypole dancing in Britain in the late-Victorian era, the activity began to fade from schools and playgrounds in the 20th century, said Mike Ruff, an instructor who teaches the dance at schools and community groups.

In the past 10 years, however, the traditional dance has seen a bit of a renaissance, re-emerging in popularity and branching out into new forms, Ruff said.

“There’s been something of a revival, with new dances being created,” he said.

For the uninitiated, the maypole dance is one typically done by children, who grab the ends of colored ribbons tied to a pole and dance around it in specific patterns, weaving the ribbons in and out of each other as they move.

Though not unique to Britain, it has its most ancient roots in pagan and Celtic rituals, and was practiced in England for centuries — before the Puritans banned it in the mid-1600s.

“Fortunately, the Puritans wrote down what they were banning … in great detail,” Ruff said.

In Victorian days, a man name John Ruskin revived it in England with a set of eight or nine dances, and it remained prevalent until the middle of the last century, Ruff said.

Today, residents of England will occasionally see the maypole at various summer events and festivals, and increasingly often in demonstrations in British schools.

Got a question about something you’ve seen or heard around the United Kingdom? E-mail us at: uknews@estripes.osd.mil

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