You are on page 1of 3


The name "tinikling" is a reference to birds locally known

as tikling, which can be any of a number of rail species; the
term tinikiling literally means "tikling-like."[2]

The dance originated in Leyte, an island in the Visayas in the

central Philippines. 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. Dancers imitate the tikling
bird's legendary grace and speed by skillfully maneuvering
between large bamboo poles.[3]

Legend has it that tinikling originated during the Spanish rule of

the Philippines, when natives worked on large plantations under
the control of the King of Spain. Those who didn't work
productively were punished by standing between two bamboo
poles.[4] This however, is a mere legend and has no historical

One of the oldest traditional Filipino dances, the Tinikling

dance, or bamboo dance, is performed using long
bamboo poles. Originating on the island of Leyte in the
central Philippines, the Tinikling dance takes its name
from the tikling bird. The movements of the dance are
meant to imitate the bird as it steps through its marshy

Creating the Dance

Developed around the time the Spanish
occupation of the Philippines began in 1565, the
Tinikling dance traces its origins to the island of
Leyte. The wet climate of the island made it
highly suitable for growing crops such as rice.
Farmers and field hands working in the rice
paddies had ample opportunity to observe the
behavior of the tikling birds that lived in the area
as they searched for food along the field edge.
Imitating the hopping movements at home
proved to be an entertaining pastime.

Evolving the Dance

Originally more of a playful activity similar to
that of jumping rope, the Tinikling dance
eventually became a more formal traditional
dance. Although still retaining the fun element,
modern performers have a specific order of steps
to perform. The barefoot dancing couples, male
and female, wear traditional Filipino costumes.
The male dancer wears a barong-tagalog, a loose,
long-sleeved embroidered tunic. His female
counterpart wears a balintawak, consisting of a
dress with butterfly sleeves and a scarf worn over
the left shoulder.

Continuing the Legend

While the origin of the dance is attributed to
the tikling bird, there is another origin legend that
persists. It has its roots in the Spanish occupation,
when the Spanish seized farms and forced the
former owners to work them. According to this
legend, as a punishment for working too slowly,
workers were forced to stand while their feet were
beaten with freshly cut bamboo poles. To avoid
bruised and bloodied feet, the workers practiced
dodging the bamboo poles, creating the
movements that eventually became the Tinikling