When I was a kid, and I saw photos of people dancing around a Maypole while holding brightly colored ribbons, I thought it looked pretty silly. Oh, I didn't have anything against folk dancing--in fact, I liked it. I grew up in an Italian family and we all learned to do the Tarantella at weddings. But I didn't get why you needed a pole or a piece of ribbon to hold onto. Why not just dance? Of course, I'd never actually seen a Maypole dance performed.
When I finally witnessed, then participated in May Day celebrations, I came to understand that the dance, though fun, was only a means to an end. The steps are fairly easy. Children and awkward adults like myself can do them, and often do, because something about Maypole dancing makes you want to join in. But the gist of the whole thing is to take those ribbons and plait them around the pole, or create a web away from the pole, using only the dance moves.
The great thing is, preteen boys will dance with girls because they concentrate more on making the pattern than on getting cooties.
I've seen Maypole dances where, once the dancers are holding their ribbons out and taut, a green wreath is placed over the top of the pole. As the plait is formed, the wreath moves down the pole. If the dancers reverse their steps, the wreath moves back up.
Below is a video of kids weaving a Maypole. Enjoy!