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Irish dance hard shoes

The Jig (Irish: port) is a form of lively folk dance, as well as the accompanying dance tune, originating in England in the sixteenth century and today most associated with Irish dance music and Scottish country dance music.[1] Jigs were originally in 2/4 time, but have been adapted to a variety of time signatures, by which they are often classified into groups, including light jigs, slip jigs, single jigs, and treble jigs.



The term jig was probably derived from the French 'giguer', meaning 'to jump' or giga, the Italian.[2] It was known as a dance in sixteenth-century England, often in 2/4 time, and the term was used for a dancing entertainment in sixteenth century plays.[3] Later the dance began to be associated with music particularly in 6/8 time, and with slip jigs 9/8 time.[4]

The Jig in Ireland and Scotland

In the seventeenth century the dance was adopted in Ireland and Scotland, where it was widely adapted, and with which countries they are now most often associated.[5] The jig is second only to the reel in traditional Irish dance; it is popular but somewhat less common in Scottish country dance music. It is transcribed in compound meter, being 6/8 time. The most common structure of a jig is two eight-bar parts, performing two different steps, each once on the right foot, and one on the left foot. As with most other types of dance tunes in Irish music, at a session or a dance it is common for two or more jigs to be strung together in a set, flowing on without interruption.

Light jigs

Light jigs are the fastest of the jigs, danced in ghillies, and are performed in 6/8 time. The performer's feet rarely leave the ground for long, as the step is fast, typically performed at a speed around 116 at feiseanna. There are several light jig steps, varying with each dance school, but one step is almost standard in all light jigs. This step is known as the rising step, or the rise and grind. This is the right side version of it: Put your weight on your left foot and lift your right foot off the ground. Hop on your left foot once. Hop on your left foot again, bringing your right foot back behind your left foot and then shift your weight onto your right foot, leaving your left foot in the air. Dancers use the phrase "hop, hop back" for these three movements, and there is a slight pause between the hop, and hop back. The next movement is a hop on your right foot. Then you shift your weight on your feet , left-right-left-right. The phrase for this whole movement is: "hop, hop back, hop back 2-3-4." To do the step on the left foot, reverse the left and right directions. [6]

Slip jigs

Slip jigs are in 9/8 time. Because of the longer measures, they are longer than the reel and the light jig, with the same number of bars to the music.[7] The dance is performed high on the toes, and is often considered the "ballet of Irish dance" because of its graceful movements that seem to slip the performers across the floor. Slip jigs are performed at a speed of 113 at feiseanna.

Single jigs

Single jigs are the least common of the jigs, performed in ghillies, in a 6/8 or less commonly a 12/8 time. Musically, the Single Jig tends to follow the pattern of a quarter note followed by an eighth note (twice per 6/8 bar), whereas the Double Jig follows the pattern of having three eighth notes (twice per 6/8 bar).[8]

Hop jigs

The term Hop Jig is the subject of some confusion, as some people use it for a single jig[9], while others use this term to refer to a tune in 9/8 time (e.g., Francis O'Neill[10]). Among the latter, some do not distinguish it from a slip jig, while some reserve the term to a slip-jig variant that has special characteristics, in particular an emphasis on 1/4 - 1/8 pairs.[11]

Treble jigs

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Treble jigs (also called the Hard or Heavy jig) are performed in hard shoes, and also to a 6/8 time meter. They are characterized by stomps, trebles, and clicks. Many set dances are performed in treble jig time, a few being Drunken Gauger, Blackthorne Stick, The Three Sea Captains, and St. Patrick's Day. Two types of treble jigs are performed at feiseanna: the traditional and non-traditional (slow) treble jigs. Beginners will do a treble jig at traditional speed (92 bpm), while more advanced dancers will dance the non-traditional (slow) treble jig at 73 bpm.


  1. ^ Driscoll, Michael; Meredith Hamiltion, Marie Coons (May 2003). A Child's Introduction Poetry. 151 West 19th Street New York, NY 10011: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers. pp. 12. ISBN 1-57912-282-5. 
  2. ^ J. Ling, L. Schenck, R. Schenck, A History of European Folk Music (Boydell & Brewer, 1997), p. 194.
  3. ^ C. R. Wilson and M. Calore, Music in Shakespeare: A Dictionary (Continuum International, 2005), p. 233.
  4. ^ J. Lee and M. R. Casey, Making the Irish American: History and Heritage of the Irish in the United States (New York University Press, 2006), p. 418.
  5. ^ M. Raven, ed., One Thousand English Country Dance Tunes (Michael Raven, 1999), p. 106.
  6. ^ Irish and Scottish dancing footwork
  7. ^ J. R. Cowdery, The melodic tradition of Ireland (Kent State University Press, 1990), p. 17.
  8. ^ accessed Fri Aug 7 17:48:25 EST 2009
  9. ^ accessed Fri Oct 2 2009
  10. ^ O'Neill, Capt. Francis (1907). The Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems. Chicago: Lyon & Healy. 
  11. ^ accessed Fri Oct 2 2009


  • Baskerville, Charles Read. The Elizabethan Jig. 1929.
  • Brissenden, Alan. Shakespeare and the Dance. 1981.

External links



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