The jig dance tradition: five centuries old and still counting

A Highland Dance by David Allan
A Highland Dance by David Allan

Jig is a folk dance that became popular in Scotland and northern England in the 16th century and in Ireland in the 18th century. It is an improvised dance performed with rapid footwork while keeping the torso rigid.

At the court of Elizabeth I, the Northern jigs were fashionable and appeared as stage dances in compositions by William Byrd, John Bull, and Giles Farnaby. The jig soon spread to France and, in modified form as the gigue, became the new trend at the court of Louis XIV.

Irish jigs are performed by one or more soloists or by couples dancing the solo dance. Related to the jig is the Italian giga, a lively couple dance still popular in the folk tradition.

The most common structure of a jig is two eight-bar parts that set up varying forms of step sequences depending on the region's dancing tradition.

Here is the famous Scottish folk band Silly Wizard performing a few jigs:

And another amazing vocal song by Silly Wizard on SoundCloud.

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