This wooden musical instrument is also known as a jig doll, paddle puppet, and dancin’ dan among other names. It consists of a figure with loose joints that when “danced” on a vibrating platform resemble a clog or step dancer.
Limberjacks, in one form or another, were popular street entertainment in Europe for centuries. In more recent times they became popular in the Appalachians. Nowadays, they are more widely known. They are used in storytelling and historical venues, have appeared in TV programs, folk instrument recordings and are enjoyed by children and adults alike just for fun!
Start by sitting on a hard flat surface. Make sure the chair, stool or other surface has room for the paddle to stick out from the side. Place about a third of the paddle under your hip and angle it out to the side. Firmly insert the stick into the hole in limberjack’s back and suspend the limberjack over the far end of the paddle with the feet barely touching it.
Using your thumb or side of your fist of your other hand, start tapping the near end of the paddle with enough force to bounce it. As the paddle bounces up your limberjack will start to dance. His arms will swing and his legs will tap in a clickety-clackety manner reminiscent of step or clog dancers.
Maintain a steady tempo to keep the limberjack dancing. You can vary the rhythm by bringing the limberjack down on the beat. Once you get familiar with the movements, practice dancing the limberjack to music.