Tag Archives: creativity

Maypole Dance at Waldorf School

This friend told me this story late at night in the kitchen on May 1, 2021. We were surrounded by four other friends who moved in and out of the room, and he spoke about his experience attending annual Maypole celebrations at a New York (Ghent) Waldorf School.

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“I went to a very alternative school called a Waldorf School… and they have a lot of different celebrations and practices and things, and one that is very timely is their May Day celebration… one of the main components of May Day is a maypole. I’m not sure which kids are assigned different parts but each has a ribbon and they dance around the pole creating a pattern, this interesting woven pattern on the pole. The ribbons all weave to form a lattice.”

The speaker said that he thought the celebration might be a way to welcome summer, and that different grades performed different tasks in the May Day celebration. The school included grades Kindergarten through twelfth grade, and students in the third grade often performed the Maypole dance. Students in the sixth and seventh grades played instruments (flute, cello, violin, clarinet, viola) in the orchestra.

I asked the speaker to explain, in his own words, what it meant to attend a Waldorf school. “Waldorf school is a pedagogical movement that began in Germany as an education system started by these same people wo run the Waldorf Hotels or Waldorf cigarette companies, and they started this school for the kids of the factory workers,” the speaker said. “And the goal is like to offer holistic creativity-focused education. So there’s a lot of visual arts and performing arts and a lot of things that wouldn’t really fall under the generally accepted scope of academics.”

The speaker said that grounds crew set up the 20- or 30-foot Maypole in late April and that the structure stayed up for a few weeks after May. He said that every student had to take part in this celebration. Younger students would get excited about the celebration. He said that older students did not want to stand in the hot sun playing a violin wearing a dress shirt.

The speaker said that he does not do anything special for May Day, and that he did not appreciate this celebration until after he left the Waldorf school. “That school never really communicated why we were doing what we were doing,” he said, noting that he appreciates this experience in retrospect

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I did not know that this friend attended a Waldorf school, and I was able to tell him later that the Maypole dance is a fertility dance. It seems odd that third graders would take part in this dance, but they are also young and full of life. The Maypole represents a phallus. I asked questions about how the students received this tradition, and it struck me odd that a school designed to promote the arts would not explain the history or meaning of this celebration.

It is also relevant that this speaker told this tale on May 1. He later explained that he remembered this tradition because he had received a school email describing online May Day celebrations. This shows that some newsletters can be very important for the communities in which they share information. He continues to be loosely part of this Waldorf school community long after he graduated and moved away from this location.

Homemade Anti-Viral Mask

Context:

The informant (MS) is a San Franciscan in her twenties who lives in a small apartment in Bernal Heights. She made these masks for my parents and I for use during the COVID-19 pandemic. California legislators issued an order to shelter in place and leave home only for essential errands. The government has recommended the use of protective masks in order to lessen the likelihood of respiratory transmission. She taught herself to sew the masks by reverse-engineering a homemade mask given to her by a neighbor and by watching several instructional you-tube videos. She made them because “it feels more personalized and cute rather than wearing the medical store bought masks.” She told me that it was “a fun project to occupy my time.”

Text:

Thoughts:

This is but one example of the many folkloric responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the early stages of the pandemic, authorities told us that masks would not help to protect us, a statement which intended to prevent surgical mask hoarding and mask shortages for healthcare workers. The CDC now recommends the use of cloth face coverings and has instructions published on their website on how to construct cloth masks from various household items such as t-shirts, bits of extra cloth, bandanas, and elastic. The construction of these homemade masks, owing to the difficulty of obtaining factory-made surgical masks, has proliferated as a form of expressive material culture in its own right. This mask, with its floral design, improvised folds, and double-sided fabrics is an example of one of these expressive, fashionable, yet practical coronavirus masks. For my informant, who has been unemployed due to the virus, the home project of creating these masks has helped to pass the time while in quarantine. It is also a means of helping out her family and friends. The colorful design expresses an indomitable playfulness and aesthetic concern invested even in the practical, state-mandated, and utilitarian cloth mask. It seems to express hope during the pandemic, or at least a care for preserving creativity and self-expression through what one wears. These masks have had their own fashion lives in the US, changing and responding to changes of style. People have been adapting their masks to express their own identities and even political beliefs. They have become a visual symbol for life in the time of coronavirus and a platform for self-expression and stylization throughout the suppressive necessities of social distancing.

Creative Karma

The interviewer’s initials are denoted through the initials BD, while the informant’s responses are marked as WC.

WC: This other theory that my father received from my grandfather, and it’s very simple, I think many people share this same perspective. He believes—because my father is a creative, and my grandfather was a creative and a professor—that when he gets a new or innovative idea, and they speak it into the universe but they do not act on it, it opens the door and someone within a very short time span will act on that idea and receive all the credit for it. Like my dad wrote music. He would write a song and sing it for people and let them hear it, but never actually record the song and put it out there. The he’d hear a song eerily similar on the radio. This theory basically teaches you to act on your ideas and instincts that you have. And honestly I can’t say they’re wrong!

BD: So you would say you believe this theory too?

WC: Yeah, I have evidence in the universe that I’ve thought about things that didn’t in fact begin to manifest, and then it manifested without me.


Analysis:
While this is a bit of a downer belief, it does push those who believe it to execute their ideas. It is interesting how it runs through a family with creative vocations and modes of thought. It is likely they would not have held onto this belief if they had not been in the arts.