Nine ladies dancing

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In the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

Nine ladies dancing, Eight maids a-milking

Seven swans a-swimming

Six geese a-laying

Five gold rings,

Four calling birds, three French hens

Two turtledoves and a partridge in a pear tree

A traditional part of any Shakespearean stage production was the jig at the end – as Benedick says “Let’s have a dance ere we are married, that we may lighten our own hearts and our wives’ heels.”

The jig was a bit more than just a dance – a song, a story, some play-fighting, and normally some audience interaction too. It’s a tradition that the (new) Globe has adapted to maintain. While some productions have had a full jig after the main show, each of their performances finishes with at least a beautifully choreographed routine, often still in character. In 2012 I saw a brilliant production of Much Ado About Nothing with Eve Best and Charles Edwards as Beatrice and Benedick. They did the jig in character too and it was almost as good as the play itself.

Rude Mechanicals

The Rude Mechanicals in A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream at the Globe

The production of Antony and Cleopatra I went to last summer had a jig afterwards – apparently the Globe experimented briefly with not doing them after the tragedies and found the audience often left disappointed. It was a strange relief to see the dead multitudes get up and not just walk but dance – modern audiences may not be as credulous as their early-modern counterparts but we still like a bit of reassurance! It’s an experience I could have done with after King Lear too…

It’s also – it seems to me – making a bit of a comeback. Certainly for musicals, and in particular those blockbusters which play to crowded houses year after year, the applause and curtain call has taken on a singing, dancing life of it’s own. So as a contrast, below are links to the jog at the end of Richard II with the incomparable Mark Rylance, and the Singin’ in the Rain version…

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