Tinikling is the dance that most people think of when they think of the Philippines. A traditional dance that involves two bamboo poles and dancers. October is Filipino American History Month and as I celebrate the family I found this year, I thought it would be fun to share Filipino culture with you. This is the 2nd post in a series of 4 for the month. (Full disclosure: some affiliate links but it won’t change your price. No pressure!)

A Quick History:

  • Comes from Leyte which is an island in the Visayas region of the Philippines
  • Named for a bird, the tikling, that is native to the Philippines as it imitates the movements of the bird.
  • The dance may have been developed to keep the bird out of the crops.
  • The origins of the dance may date back to the Spanish colonial era when the native Filipinos were punished for not working in the fields. They were made to stand between two bamboo poles that were clapped together as punishment. The jumping came because….well…
  • Has transformed into the dance which is also a show of athleticism.

If you are looking for something to pair with a Physical Education class, this might be activity you are looking for!

What You Need:

2 poles per set that are long enough for dancers – 9-12 feet should work. PVC pipes work well for this.
For each set of poles, two pieces of wood (2×4 should work) so that the clickers can tap the poles on something without hurting their hands.

Jump bands are a good alternative for poles. If you use jump bands, the clappers jump their feet together or apart.

How To:


(What I’m calling the people who hold the poles).
The pattern for these students with the poles is apart, apart, together.
Tap (apart), Tap (apart), Slide (slide the poles together)
This slide part ends when the poles click together. It is important that they slide and do not bring the poles upward.

Basic Steps:

1. Tapping – tapping right foot between the bars – R, R, up – 1, 2, up
2. Basic – starting with poles to the right of dancer – R (in), L (in), R (out – to the right of the poles) then L (in), R (in), L (out to the left of the poles)
3. Cross – starting with poles to the right of dancer – R (in), R(in), L (out – to the right of the poles) then R (in), R(in), L (out – to the left of the poles)
4. Turning – this is the same foot pattern as the cross except you turn your body on the in steps so that you do not cross your leg over.
5. Slide – starting with poles to the right of dancer – R (in), L (slide along side of R foot), RL (out) – jump so both feet are on the outside of the poles and the poles run between the feet. Then L (in), R (slide along side of L foot), RL (out).
6. To go back to start from the Slide – Double in (both feet 2x in between the poles), RL (out) as before, then double in 2x, L steps to the L side of the poles so the poles are on the dancer’s right as before.

Check out this video for some more in depth views of the steps. He does a great job of showing these steps.


  • The foot that is up on the 3rd beat stays up. For example, on the RLR in the basic step, the Left foot is up as the dancer is out of the poles. If they bring that foot back down, they will be behind a beat when they cross back to the other side of the poles.
  • Use two parallel pieces of tape on the floor or a pair of rhythm sticks to allow students to practice the dance steps before putting them between poles.
  • Music for tinikling is originally 3/4. There are 4/4 adaptions that have been done, but if you want to stay true to the original, look for 3/4 music. This is a great video with tinikling in 3/4 that shows the live instruments of the rondalla at the beginning.

3 Kids Books featuring Filipino Folk Dancing

Keep Dancing

Author: Cristina Oxtra
Illustrator: Seb Burnett
ISBN: 978-1515883531
Buy the book on Amazon

This book is about Lito. After facing some snickers that he dances, he is reluctant to show that he dances at the school festival. His dad reminds him that dancing is athleticism and shows off his Filipino heritage.

This book would work well if you are facing reluctance for “dancing” to remind students that dancing is not only creative, but can be athletic, difficult, and a way to tie to different cultures.

Filipino Folk Dances

Author, Illustrator: Tita Kitkat
ISBN: 979-8639263507
Buy the book on Amazon

This book is a very brief overview of several dances from the Philippine Islands. Provides, names, a little information on what the dance entails and a colorful illustration of the dance.

The Bamboo Dance

Author: Cress Sia
Illustrator: Lisa Butler
ISBN: 978-0615489841
Buy the book on Amazon

This is a beautiful book with paper-craft style illustrations. About two boys who want to dance the bamboo dance in the festival. This book references several items important to Philippine culture such as sarisari, sampaguita and of course, tinikling. Diego struggles with the dance while the Paco does well. Paco helps his friend become a better dancer so they can dance together.

Note: There is a page where Paco stops at the church to give flowers to the Virgin Mary. Depending on your school situation, this page may need to be skipped. However, it would not be problematic to the story line if you need to do so.

One More Resource:

This YouTube channel is a fabulous resource for different Philippine folk dances. Jay’s tinikling tutorial includes turning and rotations around the poles. He also has some music specifically for tinikling dancing.

I hope that this has been helpful!

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