Most etymological scholars agree this word can be attributed to a 15th century Irish improvisational comedy troop known as Dublin Over. The ten member comedy troop, which would reherse in an active barn, always began their meetings with the execution of an original dance. This ten member dance, or “ten-dance” as they called it, was initially used as a means of loosening up. However, as each group member played an integral role in the dance, it also became a reliable means of checking whether or not all group members were present.
The complex antics would go terribly awry if a single member was missing, leaving the entire party sprawled out in a bewildered heap. They found this terribly amusing, as well as utilitarian, and continued the practice with glee. Written evidence asserts that neighbors often heard the comedy troop remarking: “let’s have a ten-dance, then! See if anyone’s missing!” The term soon became widespread, and synonymous with taking role.