Jig Doll/Limberjack history, from Italy to the UK, from France to The Netherlands and instructions on how to learn to dance your doll. The best place to find out all you want to know about Jig Dolls.
A Brief History
Dancing dolls are thought to have been brought to England from Italy as early as the sixteenth century and have been popular street entertainment for hundreds of years. Such older versions were known as Poupées à la Planchette or Marionettes à la Planchette. These puppets, operated by a horizontal string attached to the musician's leg, 'danced' on a board on the ground as the musician tapped his foot. They were, and still are, popular street entertainment throughout Europe.
At some stage, possibly in the mid-19th century, the string was replaced by a wooden rod fixed into the back of the body, or attached to a wire loop on the top of the doll's head, with the doll dancing on a vibrating board. Later, some jig dolls were automated.
In the UK and Australia, a jig doll usually goes by that name, or any of the following: dancing doll; busker's puppet; clogger; jigger; Mr. Jollyboy or Mrs. Jollyboy (a commercial version made by Dover Toys, UK), etc. A Mr Jollyboy is in the private collection of Martin Judkins.
In the USA, a jig doll would be called a limberjack or limberjill or limbertoy; paddle puppet; stick puppet. A commercial version was called: Dancing Dan or Dancin' Dan; Dapper Dan; Dancing Jo or Dancin' Jo; Stepping Sam or Steppin' Sam and many other names.
In French-speaking parts of Canada they are referred to as les gigueux. They are currently also making a strong leap forward in popularity in for instance Japan, where they are called Jig Dolls.
You might know the song "Whisky on a Sunday", the story of the Jamaican singer/entertainer Seth Davy, seated on the corner of Bevington Bush in Liverpool at the beginning of 1900s dancing his Jig Dolls on his jig plank. The song was made famous in the 60's by Irish folksinger Danny Doyle and stayed at No. 1 in the Irish charts for ten weeks.
How To Dance Your Doll
1. Choose a flat bottomed chair or table. Sit firmly on about 6 inches/15cm of the end of the board and hold the Jig Doll with its toes just touching the board. Hold the doll with the left hand. (Or right if you’re strange.)
2. With the closed hand gently beat time on the dancing board about 6 inches/15 centimeters in front of the chair.
3. The Jig Doll is a very independent sort. All it wants you to do is hold it over the board, beat time with your right hand and gently roll him sideways, backwards and forewards. Everything else it will do itself and the more you leave it to it, the better it will like it.
4. Don't hurry it! Don't worry it! It has a lot more in it than you may think and as soon as you get to know each other, it will suit you with every movement.
5. Avoid stopping the vibrations of the board by tapping it too often. Try and keep time with the vibrations and let them do their work.
6. The Jig Doll is fond of turning a summersault now and then. When it wants to go, don't hinder it. Let it have its liberty. It comes up smiling every time.
7. Whistle, sing a bright catchy tune or take it along to a session, the Jig Doll will be with it every time!
8. Practice dancing your Jig Doll with the recommended downloadable music on www.jigdoll.com (coming soon)