2021-2022 Season,  Pride and Prejudice

Dancing Through the Ages and Adaptations of Jane Austen

by Emma Rollins, dramaturg

What kind of person are you at a dance? Are you more like Lydia, who loves to dance and be the center of attention? Or are you more like Mr. Darcy, who sticks to the walls and maybe eats a few refreshments. Or are you somewhere in between? 

No matter what, the likelihood of you dancing or at least watching someone else dance semi-often in your life is fairly high. Although we may now only do the current popular Tik Tok dance or stream Dirty Dancing (or some other film) to watch the professionals, dance remains prominent in our daily lives. 

During Jane Austen’s time, dance was a very popular pastime and form of entertainment. Both community and private balls were an excellent opportunity to mingle with people (and start a romance) and exercise. 

As you watch the show you may notice the dancing isn’t always the calm dancing you see in the films, or even historically accurate. You may also notice some tunes that were written well after the Regency Period. Melanie Cartwright, the choreographer, incorporated dances such as waltz, quadrille, contra, polka, and even line dancing! Stephanie Brienholt, the director, wanted to subtly incorporate both old and new concepts, trends, re-interpretations and adaptations in our re-telling of Pride and Prejudice. Like a palimpsest (typically a document that has many layers and levels of writing that’s been added to and built upon) Pride and Prejudice has had so many editions and adaptations which our production builds upon. 

Learn a Contra!  Jacob Hall’s Jig  is a contra dance from England circa 1695. This fun, lively dance was probably performed and participated in at many parties and dances during this time and probably even during Jane Austen’s life. I had the opportunity to teach the actors this dance to help them understand the dancing of Austen’s lifetime. Oftentimes we picture the slow contra dances with couples having conversations and staring deep into each other’s souls, such as what we see in many classic adaptations of Pride and Prejudice. However, Jacob Hall’s Jig isn’t the same. The music is lively and the steps are quick, showing the versatility of the types of dance and music that existed before and during Austen’s life. 

During a dramaturgy workshop, the actors (and stage managers) learned Jacob Hall’s Jig (Photo Credit: Lillian Bills)


Background Information to know before you start:

Types of Sets: 















M: Man

W: Woman


CCW: Counterclockwise (also known as Line of Dance or LOD)

CW: Clockwise (also known as Reverse Line of Dance or RLOD)

World: The group of two couples that do the dance together as 1st and 2nd couples


Jacob Hall’s Jig

Formation: Longways Proper Set, Duple Minor (2 couples)

To help with any confusion here are some slides breaking down each of the steps to help you work through it. Here



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Section Measure Pattern
A1 1-4 1st Man takes 2nd Woman by right hand and goes around once CW
A1 5-8 2nd woman switches to take left hand of 1st man opening up so 1st Woman can grab right hand with 1st Man and left with 2nd Women. Circle once, CW, then everyone goes home.
A2 1-4 2nd Man takes 1st Woman by left hand and goes around once CCW.
A2 5-8 Switch hands opening up so 2nd Woman can grab right hand with 1st woman and left with 2nd Man. Circle once, CCW, then everyone go home.
B1 1-4 1st First couple grab hands (W: Right, M: Left) walking down the set, in the middle, between and past the 2nd couple.  Then they change hands, turning in towards each other and grab other hands walking back. Stopping between couple 2.
B1 5-8 All four take hands walking up the set for 4 counts Everyone walks back for 4 counts, ends start to come in towards each other to close off the circle. (Everyone facing Center)
B2 1-4 They all circle CW until they end up where they started this new circle. 2nd Couple should now be where the first couple started at the head.
B2 5-8 1st leads up the set back through the 2nd couple, this time they cast off, pushing away and walking away from their partner and circling around the outside of the 2nd couple. Coming into the 2nd couple’s original spot.


Repeat down the line. 1st will now be with a new 2nd couple and the original 2nd on the very end will get a break. After your break on either end, you come back in as the other couple until music ends. 



  • Spencer

    This is such a fun idea! I wonder how dancing could be incorporated into educational packets that get sent to schools when they see a BYU production. I am not much of a dancer but I think there is something so cool about being able to do the same actions that people throughout history did!

  • Reyna

    I love this!! Whenever I see dance scenes from this era I’m so jealous that we don’t have dances like these today, dances that everyone just recognizes and knows how to do. We have whipping and dabbing and all that, but it’s so cool how coordinated these dances were and how it’s a group effort rather than individual moves. I suppose we do have line dances, which is pretty close, but I’d love it if we could bring back fun partner dancing (and not just the rocking back and forth kind. Boring.)

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