The Tinikling dance from Philippines is a very intriguing dance style said to have originated by imitating  the movements of a bird – the Tikling bird. This folk dance originated from the Leyte island in the Philippines. This dance is said to be traditionally performed to ‘Rondalla’ music and involves two people tapping and moving bamboo poles on the ground and against each other with the dancers hopping and dancing in the blocks thus formed by the bamboo poles. This folk dance in the Philippines, basically involves imitation of movements seen in a bird known as ‘Tikling’. Apart from being performed in the Philippines, this dance style is also extremely popular in the United States of America and is taught in schools as a component of physical education.

a. History and origin of the Tinikling Dance:

According to the cultural history of the Philippines, this traditional folk dance of the Philippines form is said to have originated on the island of Leyte located in the Visayas region. It was developed during the colonial rule of the Spanish. Apparently, this dance was created by imitating body movements seen in a bird called Tikling, and hence has aptly been named Tinikling. Furthermore, this dance over the years has become so popular that it is being taught in schools in the United States of America as a form of aerobic exercise. The tinikling dance is considered the national dance of Philippines and is performed during special occasions such as Independence Day and Filipino festivals

Tales of the Tinikling dance

The Tinikling dance is said to have started during the Spanish occupation of the Philippines, specifically on the island of Leyte. The tikling birds avoided the bamboo traps that the rice farmers on the Visayan Islands typically set up to guard their fields from predators. Locals are said to have created this dramatic traditional folk dance by mimicking the movements of birds.

is it calledHowever, according to legend, the dance was created when the King of Spain ordered the locals to work on vast plantations during the Spanish colonial era. Those who disobeyed his commands or worked too slowly were made to stand between two bamboo poles as a form of corporal punishment.

Then, in an effort to beat the Filipinos’ feet, these poles were clapped together. When the two poles were about to be clapped, the Filipinos would jump to avoid this punishment. The act of jumping between the poles evolved over time from a test to a creative dance.

Why the dance name is Tinikling ?

Do you know how this particular style of dance got its name? According to legend, the long-legged bird known as the tikling in the Philippines is the source of the Tinikling’s name. The slaty-breasted rail (Gallirallus striatus), the buff-banded rail (Gallirallus philippensis), and the barred rail are the three rail species to which this bird belongs (Gallirallus torquatus).

A person who dances the tinikling mimics a tikling bird’s movements as it walks across the grass or avoids bamboo traps erected by Filipino farmers on vast rice fields (hence, tikling-like).

b. Costumes used in the Tinikling Dance:

The costume used in this dance form vary depending on the gender, and they are as follows:

1. For men:

The attire worn includes a traditional embroidered shirt known as ‘Barong Tagalog‘ and red trousers.

2. For women:

The attire worn includes:

  1. Balintawak: Colourful dresses possessing wide arched sleeves.
  2. Patadyong: A pineapple fiber blouse and checkered skirts.

c. Music involved in the Tinikling Dance:

The musical instruments used in this dance includes stringed instrument such as bandurrias, guitars, laudes, octavinas, and ukuleles. Furthermore, the music in this dance style involves the use of a triple meter

Tinikling dance Tips

On the third beat, the foot that is up remains up. For instance, as the dancer exits the poles on the RLR in the basic step, the left foot is up. They will be behind a beat when they cross back to the other side of the poles if they put that foot down again.

To give students the chance to practice the dance moves before putting them between poles, use two parallel pieces of tape on the floor or a pair of rhythm sticks.

Original tinikling music is in the key of 3/4. Even though there have been 4/4 adaptations made, if you want to stay true to the original, look for 3/4 music. This is a fantastic video with tinikling in 3/4 that opens with the live rondalla instruments.

Tinikling dance Props

2 Poles per set, ideally 9 to 12 feet in length to accommodate dancers For this, PVC pipes work well.

Two pieces of wood (a 24 should do) should be placed between each set of poles so that clickers can tap the poles without risking injury to their hands.

Jump bands make an excellent substitute for poles. When using jump bands, the clappers can move their feet in either direction.

d. Training availability and technique involved in the Tinikling Dance:

In terms of technique, the performers dance to the rhythm of music used by passing through rapidly moving sticks made from bamboo. Furthermore, the performers while dancing hold their hands behind their back. In addition, as the tempo of the music increases the pace of the body movements becomes rapid. As for training centers/schools, training for this unique ‘folk’ dance is provided in schools all across United States of America.

Some Tinikling Dance Videos (YouTube)

Tinkling Tutorial
Tinkling- National Dance of Phillipines
Filipino Tinkling

image credit

Fast Tinikling Filipino Folk Dance in Pennsylvania, USA (Cathedral of Learning Open House)
Filipino Dance by Americans (Modernized Version) Group 1, 2 and 3
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