Jig Doll is a new project created by Hannah James. A rarity in folk music, Hannah is a singer, musician and innovative clog dancer. Jig Doll combines all of these disciplines in a beautiful new show exploring the life of the travelling player: sometimes exotic, sometimes frightening, it’s a world where home changes daily, and the only touchstones are the skills you carry with you, and the people you meet on the way.
Jig Doll is the culmination of Hannah’s career thus far, allowing her to combine all of the disciplines for which she’s become known and take them to exciting new places. Much more than a concert, Jig Doll features newly-composed music in a magical setting woven around percussive dance. What’s more, there are opportunities to take part in the project through free video tutorials here on the website, as well as following Hannah’s journey through her video diary and blog.
Although this is her first solo project, Hannah has worked with a first-class group of mentors to help bring the show together:
Sonia Sabri is one of the UK’s foremost practitioners of Kathak, a form of classical Indian dance which is strongly shaped by percussion.
Karen Tweed is an English traditional musician known for her diverse European influences, musical innovation and skills in composition.
Cormac Byrne is an inspirational percussionist who understands translating percussion onto new instruments – like feet!
Bush Hartshorn is an international choreographer and artistic director whom Hannah first worked with during the development of the Demon Barbers’ Time Gentlemen Please.
Jig Doll is the perfect metaphor for the project: combining music, dance and percussion, wooden dancing dolls have been popular for at least two centuries throughout the UK and Ireland. Coming to the UK from Italy and France, they became part of British traditional culture. Often used to add visual interest to music gatherings, they were also incorporated regularly by travelling street musicians to attract children (and their parents) and to provide percussive accompaniment. Even now, the sight of the jointed jig doll bouncing on its wooden board, arms spinning and feet clattering in perfect time to the music, is captivating.
Although there was a later history of jig dolls being commercially produced, it was much more common for people to carve and decorate them from whatever materials were to hand, and as a result they were unique and personal to the maker. They were found in pubs, on board ships, and anywhere that people gathered to make their own entertainment.
(With thanks to East Anglian Traditional Music Trust)