Everyone's heard of an Irish jig, but few people actually know what it is. Of course, we've probably all, at some point or another, hopped around a bit and said we were 'doing a jig,' but probably someone who knows what a jig actually is wouldn't find our hopping to be a jig at all. So what exactly IS a jig?
The jig is a celtic dance which takes its name from the type of music to which it is danced, also called a 'jig.' The music takes its name from the French word 'gigue,' which is an older word for a fiddle. Therefore, an Irish jig is one of many cultural dances that is done to fiddle music, specifically, Celtic fiddle music. There are Irish and Scottish variants of jig music, but the most well known of the jigs is the Irish jig.
An Irish Jig
An Irish jig is done to jig fiddle music, which often has a beat of 6/8. There are other beats that are still considered to be jigs as well; however, the most common jig music/dance is one of a 6/8 beat. A jig is danced with a lot of hopping, making it into a joyful dance; jigs are often danced at weddings and other types of celebrations.
A traditional Irish jig is a series of hops and steps that repeat themselves over and over again. The steps are very simple, either stepping forward or taking steps backwards, but the hops can require some practice in getting the timing and coordination right. The best way to practice getting it right is to make sure that you are listening well to the music. The beat is fast, so you'll want to make small steps and hops at first in order to maximize your chances of getting in all the steps on the beat of the music.
- Point your left foot in front of you
- Step onto your left foot and bring your right foot into a closed position behind it, transferring your weight onto your right foot
- Bring your left toe up to your right knee as you hop
- Swing your left leg so that your left knee is pointing in front of you and your foot is by your right knee---this is also done while hopping
- Place your left foot on the ground behind you: the first of four steps backwards, left, right, left, right
- Your weight should now be on your right foot, so that you can point your left foot in front of you---you're back to the beginning!
Learning by Example
If the above steps seem a bit confusing, you can also observe others dancing an Irish jig in order to get a better idea of how to string the steps together and how they should fit on the music. A few clips:
- Wedding Jig: A celebratory dance
- Children's Jig: Children performing the jig they've mastered
- Tap Jig: Combining jig with Irish hard shoe dancing
Popularity of Celtic Dance
Celtic dance forms have increased in popularity steadily since Riverdance took the world by storm in the 1990's. This means that there are more dance studios offering courses and workshops in traditional Celtic dance. In addition, the opportunities to see live Irish dancing are increasing, making it not only easier to learn the steps, but also making it a more popular hobby and activity.