Last updated

A performance of Tinikling by the Philippine Cultural Dancers group
Genre folk dance
Instrument(s)bamboo poles
Origin Philippines

Tinikling is a traditional Philippine folk dance which originated prior to Spanish colonialism in the area. [1] The dance involves at least two people beating, tapping, and sliding bamboo poles on the ground and against each other in coordination with one or more dancers who step over and in between the poles in a dance. It is traditionally danced to rondalla music, a sort of serenade played by an ensemble of stringed instruments which originated in Spain during the Middle Ages. The locomotor movements used in this dance are hopping, jumping, and turning.



The Buff-banded rail (Gallirallus philippensis), one of the birds locally known in the Philippines as tikling, which were the inspiration for the movements of the dance Gallirallus philippensis Lord Howe Island 1.jpg
The Buff-banded rail (Gallirallus philippensis), one of the birds locally known in the Philippines as tikling, which were the inspiration for the movements of the dance

The name tinikling is a reference to birds locally known as tikling , which can be any of a number of rail species, but more specifically refers to the slaty-breasted rail ( Gallirallus striatus ), the buff-banded rail ( Gallirallus philippensis ), and the barred rail ( Gallirallus torquatus ). [2] The term tinikling literally means "to perform it tickling-like." [3]

The dance originated in Palo, Leyte, Island in the Visayas. [4] It imitates the movement of the tikling birds as they walk between grass stems, run over tree branches, or dodge bamboo traps set by rice farmers." [4] Dancers imitate the tikling bird's legendary grace and speed by skillfully manoeuvring between large bamboo poles. [5] However, other known stories also explain where this national dance originated from. A more popular one is the legend, without historical evidence, that says the tinikling dance originated from Filipino field workers during the time of Spanish colonization. It was a form of punishment for workers who worked too slowly in the large haciendas the Spanish had. More specifically, two spine-tipped bamboo poles were used to hit the feet of the field workers. Legend claims that after a while, the workers trained themselves to dodge the strikes of the bamboo poles. What was once a way to avoid punishment now became a form of art and dance. [6]

Today tinikling is taught throughout the United States. In grades K-12 the dance is used as an aerobic exercise for physical education classes, to help expand physical movements such as hand coordination, foot speed, and also rhythm. Tinikling is commonly performed at schools and on special occasions, such as the Filipino Independence Day, as a celebration of Filipino culture and Filipino pride. [7]


Two or four parallel pairs of bamboo poles, each around 6 to 12 ft (1.8 to 3.7 m) long, are held by two or more sitting or kneeling people ("clappers" or "clickers"). The poles are used as percussive instruments accompanying rondalla music played with string instruments (usually bandurrias, guitars, laúdes, octavinas, or ukuleles). They produce clapping sounds as they are struck against the ground (or two raised pieces of wood) and each other in a triple metre pattern. Traditionally, the poles are tapped twice on the ground on the first two beats, then brought together on the third beat. [8] [9] [10] [11]

Two or more dancers then weave through the rapidly moving bamboo poles with bare feet and ankles. The dancers have to carefully follow the rhythm so as not to get their ankles caught between the poles as they snap closed. They start the dance with their hands at their hips or clasped behind their backs. The tempo of the bamboo poles becomes faster as the dance progresses, forcing the dancers closer together as their movements become more frantic. The dancers hold hands at the last part of the dance when the tempo is the fastest. They end the dance by letting go of each other's hands and stepping out entirely of the moving bamboo poles. [9] [10] [11]

For the dance, women traditionally wear a dress called Balintawak or patadyong, and men wear an untucked embroidered shirt called the barong Tagalog . The Balintawak are colorful dresses with wide arched sleeves and the patadyong is a pineapple fiber blouse paired with checkered skirts. The barong Tagalog is usually a light long-sleeved shirt worn with red trousers. Dancers wear no footwear while performing. [1]

Modern variants of the dance can include innovations like increasing the number or arrangement of the poles (including switching poles mid-dance), changing the number of dancers, or using different music and choreography. [9] Tinikling has also been noted to have the music changed in modern times to modern songs with strong percussions and bass to connect the traditions of the Philippine folk dance with their modern-day lifestyle. In the Philippines, the dance is often performed on certain Sundays. [4]


When performed by dance troupes or in cultural shows, Tinikling is typically performed in the "Rural Suite," which includes dances originating from Filipino Christians that have a more "folksy" character. [12] These dances originate mostly from the islands of Visayas and Luzon and imitate the simplicity and joy of the lifestyle of the Filipino villagers living in those regions during the Spanish period. [13] Other Filipino folk dances of this category include Sayaw sa Bangko , Maglalatik , and Pandanggo sa Ilaw .

A similar dance to tinikling done by the Kayan in upper mahakam, central Borneo. The photo was taken around 1898 and 1900 A.D. KITLV - 25689 - Demmeni, J. - Kayan woman dancing on a specific beat between rice pistils (kang kep). Upper Mahakam, Central Borneo - 1898-1900.tif
A similar dance to tinikling done by the Kayan in upper mahakam, central Borneo. The photo was taken around 1898 and 1900 A.D.

In the United States, this dance has been altered into a four-beat rhythm to adjust to popular music. In some cases, it has been used in conjunction with traditional Filipino martial arts to demonstrate fleetness of foot and flow of movement. [14] As mentioned earlier, Tinikling is used as aerobic exercise for physical education classes in the United States for grades K-12. Instead of using traditional bamboo poles, most schools create their poles using plastic PVC pipe or wooden dowels. [15] Another alternative is to tie elastic bands to the ankles of two students. The two students switch between jumping with their feet apart and their feet together to simulate the movement of the wooden poles. This way, more students are engaged in the aerobic exercise, rather than just the dancer. [16]

Regional Versions of the Dance

Similar dances are found throughout Asia signifying close genetic and cultural relationships of people within the region. In Taiwan, there are the Ami and Puyuma bamboo dances. In Southeast Asia similar dances such as the Rangku Alu of the Manggarai and the Gaba-gaba of the Ambonese in Indonesia, Múa Sạp from Vietnam, Lao Kra Top Mai from Thailand, Robam Kom Araek from Cambodia, Karen or Chin Bamboo Dance from Myanmar, Alai Sekap in Brunei, and Magunatip of the Murut people of Borneo. In Northeast India, various bamboo dances like the Cheraw dance from Mizoram people and various other Naga groups like the bamboo dances of the Kuki people are still conducted today. Multiple bamboo dances in southern China: the Zhuang, the Li (called Da Chai), Yao, etc.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Folk dance</span> Dance that reflects the life of the people of a certain region

A folk dance is a dance that reflects the life of the people of a certain country or region. Not all ethnic dances are folk dances. For example, ritual dances or dances of ritual origin are not considered to be folk dances. Ritual dances are usually called "religious dances" because of their purpose.

The music of the Philippines includes the musical performance arts in the Philippines and the music of Filipinos composed in various local and international genres and styles. Philippine musical compositions are often a mixture of Indigenous styles, and various Asian styles, as well as Spanish/Latin American and (US) American influences through foreign rule from those countries.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tanauan, Leyte</span> Municipality in Leyte, Philippines

Tanauan, officially the Municipality of Tanauan, is a 2nd class municipality in the province of Leyte, Philippines. According to the 2020 census, it has a population of 57,455 people.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Philippine folk music</span> Music genre

The traditional music of the Philippines reflects the Philippines' diverse culture, originating from more than 100 ethnolinguistic groups and shaped by a widely varying historical and sociocultural milieu.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jota (music)</span> Spanish music genre and dance

The jota is a genre of music and the associated dance known throughout Spain, most likely originating in Aragon. It varies by region, having a characteristic form in Aragon, Mallorca, Catalonia, León, Castile, Navarre, Cantabria, Asturias, Galicia, La Rioja, Murcia and Eastern Andalusia. Being a visual representation, the jota is danced and sung accompanied by castanets, and the interpreters tend to wear regional costumes. In Valencia, the jota was once danced during interment ceremonies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Singkil</span> Philippine folk dance

Singkil is an ethnic dance of the Philippines that has its origins in the Maranao people of Lake Lanao, a Mindanao Muslim ethnolinguistic group. The dance is widely recognized today as the royal dance of a prince and a princess weaving in and out of crisscrossed bamboo poles clapped in syncopated rhythm. While the man manipulates a sword and shield, the woman gracefully twirls a pair of fans. The dance takes its name from the belled accessory worn on the ankles of the Maranao princess. A kulintang and agung ensemble always accompanies the dance. Singkil has evolved over time, with significant reinterpretations and changes introduced by the Bayanihan folk dance group, such as the incorporation of the elements from the Darangen epic, particularly the episodes involving Prince Bantugan and Princess Gandingan.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pangalay</span> Traditional Filipino dance native to the Tausūg people

Pangalay is the traditional "fingernail" dance of the Tausūg people of the Sulu Archipelago and eastern coast Bajau of Sabah.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cariñosa</span> Philippine dance

The cariñosa is a Philippine dance of colonial-era origin from the Maria Clara suite of Philippine folk dances, where the fan or handkerchief plays an instrumental role as it places the couple in a romance scenario.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Baro't saya</span> Traditional womans costume of the Philippines, consisting of a blouse (baro) and skirt (saya)

The baro’t saya or baro at saya is a traditional dress ensemble worn by women in the Philippines. It is a national dress of the Philippines and combines elements from both the precolonial native Filipino and colonial Spanish clothing styles. It traditionally consists of four parts: a blouse, a long skirt, a kerchief worn over the shoulders, and a short rectangular cloth worn over the skirt.

Michael Dadap is a popular Filipino guitarist, composer, and conductor, and an influential advocate of Filipino folk music. He was influential in the creation of a world-class rondalla ensemble in the United States is also the founding music director of the Iskwelahang Rondalla of Boston, Massachusetts.

The Arts in the Philippines are all the arts in the Philippines, from the beginning of civilization to the present. They reflect a range of artistic influences on the country's culture, including indigenous art. Philippine art consists of two branches: traditional and non-traditional art. Each branch is divided into categories and subcategories.

The Culture of Basilan are derived from the three main cultural ethnolinguistic nations, the Yakan, Suluanon Tausug and the Zamboangueño in the southern Philippines. Both Yakans and Tausugs are predominantly Muslim, joined by their kin from the Sama, Badjao, Maranao, and other Muslim ethnolinguistic groups of Mindanao, while the Zamboangueños are primarily Christian, joined by the predominantly Christian ethnolinguistic groups; the Cebuano, Ilocano, Tagalog and others. These three main groups, however, represent Basilan's tri-people or tri-ethnic group community.

The Philippines is home to several folk dances such as Tinikling, Pandanggo, Cariñosa, and Subli. Dance has integrated itself in Philippine society over the course of many years and is imbedded in Philippine culture.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Maglalatik</span> Philippine folk dance

The Maglalatik is a folk dance from the Philippines performed by male dancers. Coconut shell halves are secured onto the dancers' hands and on vests upon which are hung four or six more coconut shell halves. The dancers perform the dance by hitting one coconut shell with the other; sometimes the ones on the hands, the ones on the body, or the shells worn by another performer, all in time to a fast drumbeat.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marriage and wedding customs in the Philippines</span>

Traditional marriage customs in the Philippines and Filipino wedding practices pertain to the characteristics of marriage and wedding traditions established and adhered by them Filipino men and women in the Philippines after a period of adoption courtship and engagement. These traditions extend to other countries around the world where Filipino communities exist. Kasalan is the Filipino word for "wedding", while its root word – kasal – means "marriage". The present-day character of marriages and weddings in the Philippines were primarily influenced by the permutation of Christian, both Catholic and Protestant, Hindu, Islam, Chinese, Spanish, and American models.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Maria Clara gown</span> A traditional gown worn by women in the Philippines

The María Clara gown, historically known as the traje de mestiza during the Spanish colonial era, is a type of traditional dress worn by women in the Philippines. It is an aristocratic version of the baro't saya. It takes its name from María Clara, the mestiza protagonist of the novel Noli Me Tángere, penned in 1887 by Filipino nationalist José Rizal. It is traditionally made out of piña, the same material used for the barong tagalog.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rondalla</span> Spanish ensemble of stringed instruments

The rondalla is an ensemble of stringed instruments played with the plectrum or pick and generally known as plectrum instruments. It originated in Medieval Spain, especially in the ancient Crown of Aragon: Catalonia, Aragon, Murcia, and Valencia. The tradition was later taken to Spanish America and the Philippines. The word rondalla is from the Spanish ronda, meaning "serenade."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Francisca Reyes-Aquino</span> Filipino dancer (1899–1983)

Francisca Reyes-Aquino was a Filipino folk dancer and academic noted for her research on Philippine folk dance. She is a recipient of the Republic Award of Merit and the Ramon Magsaysay Award and is a designated National Artist of the Philippines for Dance.

Filipino Americans have a long history of music in the United States. The Philippines have musical context and varied influences due to indigenous traditions and early colonial influences of Spanish and American occupation. During occupation by the United States, many Filipinos were recruited for manual labor along the West Coast. These early laborers commonly would perform Spanish-influenced rondallas as well as choral groups. With many Filipinos living in the United States beginning around the 1900s, Filipinos have contributed towards early Americana staples such as blues and jazz, and continue to influence more modern contemporary genres such as hip hop and rock. American music has also been influential in the Philippines for artists and vice versa. Though contributing to the evolution of American music, large number of Filipino Americans have a strong identity with culture of the Philippines by participating or organizing traditional dances and musical performances, largely in the form of PCNs on university campuses. Traditional dances and musical performances commonly practiced in the US are rondallas, choral groups, and gong chime ensembles. College campuses often organize performances on campuses, but can also have characteristics unique to America, as many Filipino Americans want to share their experiences of living in America and perform a more neo-traditional variation of traditional performances.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sisingaan</span> Indonesian traditional lion dance

Sisingaan or also known as Gotong Singa, Singa Ungkleuk, Singa Depok, Kuda Ungkleuk, Pergosi or Odong-odong, is a traditional Sundanese lion dance originated from Subang, West Java, Indonesia. This lion dance performance marked by a form of an ark or palanquin that resembles a lion. The lion ark or lion-shaped effigy is carried by a group of dancers who perform various attractions accompanied by traditional music. The lion palanquin is being ride by a children. This dance usually performed to celebrate the child's circumcision ceremony, where the child is carried on a lion around the kampung (village).


  1. 1 2 Valdeavilla, Ronica (June 21, 2018). "Tinikling: The National Dance of The Philippines with Bamboo Poles". theculturetrip.com. The Culture Trip Ltd. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
  2. Kennedy, Robert S.; Gonzales, Pedro C.; Dickinson, Edward C.; Miranda, Hector C. Jr.; Pritz, John Ely (2000). A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines. Oxford University Press. pp. 76–77. ISBN   9780198546689.
  3. "Researchers probe the possible origin of "tinikling" folk dance in Leyte". Philippine Information Agency. August 8, 2006. Retrieved January 15, 2008.
  4. 1 2 3 "History". giancruz.com. Tinikling: The Philippine National Dance. Archived from the original on February 27, 2009. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
  5. Horowitz, Gayle L. (2009). International Games: Building Skills Through Multicultural Play. Human Kinetics. p. 74. ISBN   9780736073943.
  6. "Tinikling: The Bird-like National Dance of the Philippines". November 10, 2019.
  7. "Tinikling Revolution". BrownNationCulture.com. November 6, 2008. Archived from the original on October 31, 2010. Retrieved November 7, 2012.
  8. Riley, Alison (September 1, 2010). "Tinikling: A dance for the birds". Asiaxpress.com. Retrieved November 13, 2016.
  9. 1 2 3 Virtue, Julia (May 14, 2013). "Tinikling". USC Folklore Archives. Retrieved November 13, 2016.
  10. 1 2 Lopez, Leandicho (2006). A Handbook of Philippine Folklore. University of the Philippines Press. pp. 459–462. ISBN   9789715425148.
  11. 1 2 Lane, Christy; Langhout, Susan (1998). Multicultural Folk Dance Guide, Volume 2. University of the Philippines Press. pp. 27–33. ISBN   9780880119214.
  12. Farnell, Brenda (2015). "The Pangalay Dance in the Construction of Filipino Heritage". The Journal for the Anthropological Study of Human Movement. 22 (1).
  13. "Samahang Pilipino". samahangpilipinoatucla.com. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
  14. Kautz, Pete (2005). "The Tinikling: How Traditional Filipino Dance Can Develop Your Combative Attributes!". Alliance Martial Arts. Retrieved January 15, 2009.
  15. Steihl, Jim; Morris, G. S. Don; Sinclair, Christina (2008). Teaching Physical Activity: Change, Challenge, and Choice. Human Kinetics.
  16. Bennett, John Price; Riemer, Padma Coughenour (2006). Rhythmic Activities and Dance. Human Kinetics.