A type of partner dance competition where one's partner is selected by blind draw and the music is selected by the event coordinators (cf. strictly swing, just dance). Depending on the number of contestants, there can be several preliminary heats leading up to a final heat. During preliminary heats, each competitor rotates partners several times, dancing to one or more songs with each new partner, and is advanced individually. During the final heat, competitors remain with one randomly selected partner for several songs, and are judged as a couple.

Jack and Jills emphasize the social dancing aspects of a dance, like lead/follow skills and improvisation, over choreography, since both partner and music are randomly selected.

Plain vanilla Jack and Jills assume a male leader and a female follower. Alternatively, a Jill and Jack has a female leader and a male follower, while a Jack and Jack has males for both roles, and a Jill and Jill has females for both roles.

There are several rules variations to determine who leads and who follows for Jack and Jacks and Jill and Jills:

  1. contestants register as either a leader or a follower and stick to that role for the whole competition.
  2. contestants are randomly assigned a role when they draw a partner.
  3. contestants are required to spend an equal amount of time leading and following per song or set of songs.

Yes, yes, the facts are nice and all but why Jack and Jills? Well, I can only speak from my experience in the Lindy Hop community, but in a vernacular dance like Lindy Hop, Jack and Jills reward the social dancing skills one develops by going out to clubs and events and dancing with the other regular dancers in the scene. Nobody actually uses aerials or does long breakaway routines in normal daily dancing, but it's hard to win any of the choreographed competition divisions without busting out the fancy stuff (see Minnie's Moochers for a notable exception).

That's not to say it doesn't take a great deal of skill to win a choreographed division, but that skill is to social dancing what fencing is to actually trying to kill someone with a sword. When someone wins a Jack and Jill, that's a person that you know it's going to feel good dancing with as well as look good dancing with. To win a Jack and Jill, one needs strong lead/follow, musicality, and improvisation skills. To win a choreographed division one needs a good choreographer and dancers who are good at learning choreography.

Thus, Jack and Jills promote and reward the skills one uses in daily dancing, while choreographed divisions help to innovate and push the envelope of the dance. You need both to keep the dance fresh and relevant.

Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water;
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.

Up Jack got and home did he trot,
As fast as he could caper;
Went to bed and bound his head,
With vinegar and brown paper.

When Jill came in how she did grin
To see Jack's paper plaster;
Mother vexed, did whip her next;
For causing Jack's disaster.

Nursery rhymes are one of the most lasting forms of passed-down lore. While seemingly fun and innocent, many nursery rhymes actually have deep political, religious, and/or satirical roots. Jack and Jill is just such a nursery rhyme.

While most nursery rhymes having roots in past occurences can apply to only one event in history, Jack and Jill can be related to many different events, from political to mythological and even an average couple's love.

The first and most popular interpretation involves Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (Jack and Jill). After being married for four years, Louis assumed the throne with Marie Antoinette by his side (went up the hill). After rebellion broke out due to heavy taxation, Louis tried to eliminate some of the most oppressive taxes (to fetch a pail of water); however, the people weren't satisfied and so broke into the Bastille and held the royal family captive in the palace, thus ending the monarchy (Jack fell down). Years later, after France finally declared itself a republic, Louis was beheaded (and broke his crown), with Marie Antoinette being beheaded soon after (and Jill came tumbling after). Discrediting this theory is the fact that 'Jack and Jill' was first published as 'Jack and Gill' ('Gill' being, if anything, a male name) in the 1765 edition of 'Mother Goose's Melody' (almost 30 years before Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette's beheading).

A mythologyical interpretation, suggested by Lewis Spence in 1947, is that this rhyme is originally based on Scandinavian mythology. After the moon god Mani left a bucket of dew on the top of a hill, Jack and Jill decided to steal it. The moon, seeing this, asked his friend the wind to blow Jack and Jill away, to which the wind complied. While Jack and Jill were tending to his injured head, the moon captured them.

Another interpretation states that 'Jack and Jill' is the true story of a Scottish couple. Jack went up a hill to fetch a pail of water and fell on the way down and was killed. Jill died later of a broken heart.

And yet another theory is that 'Jack and Jill' is really the story of a greedy king (Jack) who changed the unit of measurement (Jill, which was originally printed as 'Gill') so he could get more gold. It was discovered what he was doing and he lost his kingdom (Jack fell down and broke his crown), and the measurement Gill was never used again (and Gill came tumbling after).

Due to the fact that most nursery rhymes were probably around much longer than they have been in print, it is truly impossible to discern which of these explanations, if any, are correct. But take these theories as you will.


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