Welcome to Alton Maypole Dancers
(For information about cancelled sessions and the coronavirus impact please see http://altonmaypole.co.uk/sessions )

Why Maypole?

  • No dance experience necessary
  • A fun way to raise your heart rate
  • No dance partner needed
  • Open to everyone aged 18+
  • No upfront costs (just a donation after each session to cover hall costs)
  • It’s lots of fun!

I’ve always been fascinated by the beauty of the Maypole and by the potential of choreographing clever and engaging dances around it.  In my opinion it’s an underestimated dance form which requires no partner, caters for all abilities of dancer and has a wonderful community aspect to it. The dances only become something special when all of the group contribute. It also looks like a lot of fun!

Maypole is often associated with primary school children but it wasn’t always that way.  A couple of years ago I went to a maypole workshop at Cecil Sharp House (home to The English Folk Dance and Song Society). To my astonishment I discovered that it wasn’t originally an activity for children. In fact it seems that children dancing around a maypole is really a very British thing; of 20 countries around the world who dance around the maypole the UK is one of the few countries where the dance is performed by children. This all harks back to a man called John Ruskin who transformed maypole dancing in 19th century into what we see today (if you want to read a little bit more about this see my blog post http://altonmaypole.co.uk/the-history-of-maypole-dancing.)

As much as the maypole is certainly a wonderful thing for school children to do, I’ve a niggling suspicion that there are quite a few adults who would love to give the maypole a go. There are some spectacular patterns that can be woven around the pole and I see little reason not to incorporate different steps into the traditional walking/skipping we’ve been used to seeing in the past.  Musically I intend to choreograph to all sorts of tracks: from traditional folk songs to modern music (when I say modern I’m really thinking about the likes of Stevie Wonder and Fleetwood Mac!).

My idea is that I’d like to get a little group together over between mid Feb-May to see what we can come up with. If there are enough people I’ll see if we can present something at some of the local events in May/June.

The group will meet once a week on a Thursday evening at Wooteys Junior School Hall (Wooteys Way, Alton GU34 2JA) and if things go well I might schedule some additional sessions subject to everyone’s availability.

No dance experience is necessary. It’s free to join (I’ll just ask for a donation in a little box at the end of each session to try and cover the cost of the hall).

If you are interested in joining the group please fill in the contact form here and I’ll shortly be in touch with you about the sessions.

Thank you for your interest.

Poppy Bastin

About me

I’m Poppy and I grew up in Lower Froyle and now live in Alton. I trained at the Royal Ballet School (White Lodge and the Upper School) for 7 years graduating in 2000 before joining the final year at Central School of Ballet for their Ballet Central Tour in 2001. While a student I was fortunate enough to dance in several ballets including the Nutcracker and Petrushka with The Royal Ballet. I also danced with the Mariinsky Ballet in Sleeping Beauty as a child in their garland dance.

Me at The Royal Ballet School in 1996 backstage at Holland Park Theatre before our 3rd Year Scottish dance

During my training it became noticeably apparent that my skills lay far more in teaching and choreography than in being on stage (I wasn’t a particularly consistent dancer!).  Choreography became my raison d’etre and I won several choreographic awards while at school including the Dame Ninette de Valois award, the James Monahan award and the Ursula Morton award. When I was 18 I was invited to choreograph for The Royal Ballet Company, which was a rare privilege for one so young.

At the age of 19 I was asked to choreograph the London Children’s Ballet’s annual production at the Sadler’s Wells Peacock Theatre and shortly after this was a recipient of a Deutsche Bank Pyramid Award which allowed me to choreograph a short piece for Birmingham Royal Ballet and Ballet Central.

In 2004 I formed my own dance company with two very talented friends and we beavered away every Sunday with five other dancers in a gym creating new works which we performed at The Place and at The Space in London. One of the reviews for our work came from the then critic from the Metro, which said it was “hugely entertaining” which for me was what I’d always intended my choreography to be.

Following this I left dance for a decade and moved into the production side of things working for several theatre companies including Ambassador Theatre Group, Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre, Sonia Friedman Productions and finally (coming somewhat full circle) I joined The Royal Opera House as a Producer. I was also awarded a Stage One Producer bursary during this time from the Society of London Theatres and produced several shows at the Edinburgh Fringe (one of these acts is now very famous magician in Vegas).

In 2014 I moved away from dance and theatre entirely and started a family. Dancing became a long and distant memory for me especially because my day job in further education administration and system management was so far removed from the bright lights of the West End.

While at the Royal Ballet School I was taught a range of traditional dance forms including Playford, English Country Dance, National, Character, Scottish and Irish dancing in addition to Classical Ballet. I’d never really given much thought to these additional styles that we’d learnt since (and I think it would be fair to say) as students we were so focused on the classical ballet side of things we perhaps didn’t see the merit in these less obviously challenging styles. However, I genuinely adored them and could recall the wonderful teacher Nicola Gaines teaching me Playford dances from The Dancing Master (which was printed in 1651). There was always something I found comforting and beautiful about the social interaction and the way the steps they mirrored the music.

I very much look forward to putting my past knowledge of traditional dance to work again to create original choreographies that I hope the local community will love dancing.