A jig is a lively dance that originated in England in the 16th century but over the centuries has become most closely associated with Ireland and Scotland. The term jig may have come from the French word “giguer,” which means “to jump,” or the Italian “giga,” but whatever the origin of the term, the resulting dance sure can be fun.
The oldest jigs were in 2/4 time but nowadays most are in 6/8. (Slip jigs are in 9/8 time, which sounds complicated, and is.)
Today there are many different kinds of jigs, such as:
— the light jig: a fast jig danced in 6/8 time, sometimes so fast the dancer’s feet barely have time to leave the ground
— the slip jig: A dance performed in 9/8 time. Slip jig dancers often perform high on their toes and seem to glide gracefully across the dance floor, and
— the treble jig: performed in heavy shoes and full of slow stomps. In 6/8 time.
In case you’re curious, Irish and Scottish jigs are quite different from one another. Not only is the footwork different, but often when Scottish dancers do their version of the Irish jig, it’s actually a caricature: “The Scottish Version of the Irish Jig is another caricature dance depicting an Irish washerwoman who is angry with her erring husband,” says this site about Scottish Highland dancing. “Red or green jig shoes are worn and there is much stamping and facial grimacing….” Check out this face-off between the Irish jig and the Scottish jig.
(How is a jig different from a reel? “Cant-a-lope/Ho-ney-dew” vs. “Wa-ter-me-lon”)