Encyclopedia of Dance: Jiga


The jiga is considered one of the most ancient Irish dances, preserved to this day in this national culture, although it is currently performed mainly in staged form.

This expressive Irish dance has several versions. At what they are divided according to rather unusual classifications — depending on the speed that the dancers gain, and depending on the types of shoes used.

History of occurrence

It is believed that the name of the dance was given by the melody of the same name, which as early as the 12th century was played on the violin during public fairs.

The jig dance was originally a pair dance. However, picked up by the sailors, the jig turned into an energetic, fast and comical solo dance.

English colonization involved the eradication of Irish culture, so in the 17th century there was a ban on national music and dances. For more than a century and a half, folk dances were taught secretly under the guidance of wandering teachers.

The emergence of the first dance schools in the 18th century is connected with the dance masters, who pass on their skills to everyone who wishes. The activities of the Gaelic League to standardize and formalize Irish dance in the 20th century increased the demands for learning and performance.

Currently, jig, among other solo dances, exists both as a competitive form and as a dance show. The dynamism, expressiveness of the movements of the jig, the emotionality of the performance amaze the imagination and fascinate the audience.

Thanks to the entertainment, Irish dances have become popular in many countries of the world, they are studied, as well as in Ireland, in specially organized dance schools.

What is a jig?

The term «jig» denotes both the dance itself and the music to which it is performed. Different types of music correspond to specific types of jigs. However, the musical size of all types of jig, except for the slip jig, is 6/8, and the latter is performed to music with a time signature of 9/8.

For each type of jig there are requirements in what type of shoes it should be performed — in hard or soft. Hard shoes are shoes, usually black, with a special heel on the toe, a small heel and an additional fastening in the form of a strap. Soft shoes for women are soft leather slippers with long laces without a heel, somewhat similar to ballet flats, for men — boots with soft soles and a small heel.


Types of jigs and their features

Depending on the musical size and nature of the dance, several types of jigs are distinguished:

  • simple, soft or single — single jig (single jig)
  • double — double jig (double jig)
  • triple — treble jig (treble jig)
  • slip jig (slip jig)

According to the types of shoes worn during the dance, we can distinguish:

  • light jig
  • heavy jig

single jig

One of the most common and simplest types of jigs. It is performed more often by beginner dancers and usually in soft shoes, i.e. performed without percussive movements and sounds.

Double jig

Performed in both soft and hard shoes. By the nature of the movements, this is a predominantly male dance with the spirit of a warrior inherent in it. The main drawing in the choreography is the line. It is danced at a faster pace than the single jig, with a beat.

treble jig

By the nature of execution, it is slower than other types. Performed exclusively in hard shoes. The dance contains characteristic jumps, pirouettes and swings. The traditional treble jig is danced at 92 beats per minute, while the unconventional treble jig is danced at a slower pace of 73 beats per minute, which requires special skill.

Slip jig

It currently exists exclusively as a female dance. Although in the middle of the 20th century it was performed both by men and in pairs. It differs from other types of jig in musical size and performance in soft shoes. Due to the special manner of performing the slip jig is called the «Irish ballet». This is due to specific movements in the form of pirouettes, swings and jumps. For example, the “deer jump” is performed with a hang, as if lifting the dancer above the stage. This dance is technical because of the intricately organized groups of movements.

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