Earlier this week I spent the day with Gary, an old friend and travelling companion.
He gave me what he described as “A dancing skeleton“, a 9cm plastic jointed marionette that was part of a Day of The Dead hoard we’d collected while in Mexico City and Oaxaca State in October and November 1993.
Gary recalled the guy who sold it to us making a line of the little fellas leap and dance, but when we got back to the hotel the little skeleton hung limply immobile on our makeshift ofrenda, refusing all our attempts at his resuscitation. Gary thought we’d lost some strings somewhere along the line.
But I’m not so sure.
I now vaguely recall seeing a jig-doll at an English Folk Festival around 2002. The dolly held by a stick with string-jointed knees, hips and shoulders , like our little skelly, bounced around while the puppeteer tapped out a fiddly rhythm on a springy board, the marionette performed a fine little English clog dance, in fact.
This morning, I went googling to see if I’d imagined the Morris-Dolly. Youtube was awash with many terrible home movies and I found that although jig-dolls are common at British Folk Fayres, there are many more youtube videos of the American counterpart – the Limberjack doll. None of the videos seemed to really fit what I do remember of the Dancing Skeletons, but one stayed with me, haunted my waking consciousness, if only for the title
– Flatfooting Appalachian limberjack and chicken
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