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City, district to talk about Lancers
City council wants to talk to the school district and other groups about modernizing the Lancers Dance during New Westminster’s traditional May Day festivities.
Council approved setting up the discussion at its Aug. 26 meeting. Coun. Chuck Puchmayr proposed the move in July because many residents have said the traditional dance between the mature men of the Royal Lancers and the Grade 5 girls in the May Queen Suite makes them uncomfortable.
“This is no disrespect to the tradition and no disrespect to the people engaged in the Lancers Dance, [but] this has been an issue where more and more people have approached me,” said Puchmayr, who emphasized he was not saying anything untoward was taking place or being disrespectful to the tradition.
“It’s just we’re in a time where parents are concerned about their young people. We’ve seen it with coaching, we’ve put in more restrictions on interactions with coaching. Parents are more cautious these days. This is one of those issues that have been sort of a white elephant in the room in regards to May Day festivities.”
Puchmayr said although some have questioned why council would become involved it should do so because the city is a significant contributor to the festivities and when taxpayers approach councillors with a concern it is incumbent on the council to bring it forward.
Betty Coun. Betty McIntosh said some of the Lancers have been taken aback by the reaction to Puchmayr’s suggestion, and was able to get the other councillors to include the Lancers in the discussions.
Puchmayr said when the city introduced the Royal Knights—Grade 5 boys to accompany the May Queen Suite—he assumed they eventually would be the ones to dance with the girls. But that hasn’t happened. Instead they sit on the floor while the girls dance with the men. One father suggested to Puchmayr the Lancers could teach the boys how to dance with the girls.
“When the Lancers come in with the May Queen suite I must admit it’s quite stirring, it looks like they’re the protectors of the young girls. But then I thought about it and I went, ‘wait a minute,’ ” said Coun. Lorrie Williams, who also didn’t like seeing the boys sitting on the floor during the dance.
“It bothered me. I took a picture of that, they just watched and they almost looked like they were pushed aside. That was the illusion.”
Williams suggested the Lancers become the guardians of both the girls and the boys.
“It would be a welcome change. In adding the Knights when we did, we made a change to our tradition,” said Williams. “That way nobody steps down and nobody is offended.”