In an increasingly homogenized world, celebrating folk art has become extremely important. Filipino folk dances are just one example of how communities are keeping their culture alive. These dances represent the country's rich — sometimes torrid — history; Spanish influences in some moves hint at this complicated past. But the best way to honor these cultural practices is to try them out yourself!
Tinikling is the country's national dance and is the best-known of all its historic folk dance styles. You might have seen this impressive, fast-paced dance performed at a cultural heritage celebration at school. When dancing the Tinikling, two performers beat, tap, and slide bamboo poles on the ground. The bamboo serves as both a percussion instrument to help keep time and as an integral prop in the dance itself.
But beware! You've got to have lightning-fast reflexes else you get tripped up on the poles. It just goes to show how talented Tinikling dancers are.
Singles Tinikling Dance
At the start of this dance, the poles are placed on the left sides of the two dancers, and they will start with a left foot lead.
Working your way inside and outside of the two poles, you'll complete these series of steps:
1. Hop on your right foot outside of the bamboo poles.
2. Hop another time on the right foot outside of the bamboo poles.
3. Step on the left foot in between the two poles.
4. Step on the right foot in between the two poles.
5. Hop on the left foot outside the poles.
6. Hop again on the left foot outside both poles.
7. Step back inside the two poles on your right foot.
8. Now step back inside on your left foot.
Doubles Tinikling Dance
Let's add another step to your burgeoning knowledge. When trying the doubles Tinikling steps, both dancers should start on the right side of the bamboo poles. Then you can follow this sequence of steps:
1. Hop on both feet outside of the poles.
2. Hop another hop on both feet outside of the poles.
3. Hop on both feet in between the poles.
4. Do another hop using both feet in between the poles.
5. Hop on both feet, landing so you straddle both of the poles on either side.
6. Again, hop on both feet, keeping that straddle.
7. Hop on both feet in between the poles.
8. Do another hop on both feet in between the poles.
While these are the basics, professional Tinikling dancers incorporate arm flourishes, hand movements, and more to add an exciting flare.
The Binasuan is one stunning — but harrowing — Filipino dance. Dancers carry full wine glasses in both hands and on top of their heads. While wine is traditionally used in the dance, any dark-colored beverage will do. Because it often involves balancing tricks, there are no specific moves that are set in stone.
If you'd like to try the Binasuan though, these steps will get you started:
- Step in a flowing motion onto the center of your performance area. As you step, balance the wine glass carefully on your head. Also, keep your hands turned up to balance both wine glasses.
- Sway your hips to the right while lifting the wine glasses high above your head.
- Sway your hips to the left while lifting the wine glasses high above your head.
- Twirl in place quickly while balancing the wine glasses for 30 seconds, concluding the twirl when you face the audience again.
- Step forward with your right foot and reach your right arm in front of you in a flowing motion.
- Step forward with your left foot and reach your left arm in the same flowing motion.
- Rotate your arms over your shoulder in small, circular motions as you step from left to right in small, quick motions for 30 seconds.
- Twirl and rotate your arms below your shoulders.
Consider practicing with plastic cups filled with water until you get the hang of the movements so you don't stain your clothes.
The Sinulog is a ritual dance that's performed in honor of Santo Niño. It's now a part of the annual Sinulog festival, and dancers wear brightly colored, traditional costumes when performing. Unlike some of the other Filipino folk dances, this one requires drums.
To take a stab at the Sinulog, follow these steps:
- Stand straight and offer candles (real or symbolic) towards a painting or other depiction of Santo Niño.
- Recite a prayer to the saint.
- Using slow, steady movements, bounce with your torso in a wave-like, circular motion.
- Continuing the flowing movements, take two steps forward.
- Take one step backward as you try to keep the steady movements.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 for as long as the drums are playing.
- Finish the dance with another prayer.
The Seedling dance pays homage to the Philippines' rich farming culture. Before the start of this dance, take a round basket (of any size) in your arms. A wicker or wooden basket best embodies this folk practice, but any kind of basket will work.
To honor Filipino farmers and farming culture, try dancing the Seedling using these steps:
- Bend your knees as that represents climbing and descending.
- Keeping your knees bent, step forward with one foot, then with the order. Move left and right as you're doing this.
- In a fluid motion, lift the basket to the left. Doing the same motion, lift the basket to the right. Make sure you keep your steps alternating between going to your left and going to your right.
- When you step to your left, coordinate the lifting of the basket to the left. When you step to the right, lift the basket to the right. This fluidity is super important.
- Repeat steps 3 & 4 multiple times — the length will depend on the music you've chosen.
- Keeping your movement fluid, sit the basket down in front of you. Step to the left and step to the right around it. You can improvise while you dance around the basket, so long as you never stop moving.
- Take the pretend "seeds" from the basket and make tossing movements as you would offer them to Diwata, a dryad-like spirit in Filipino mythology.
While the majority of the Philippines' cultural dances have been touched in some way by colonial influence, there are indigenous dances that are purely Filipino. In the communities where these dances are practiced, they're used as a form of worship, which makes them a sacred cultural act. Dugso is a stand-out among these indigenous dances, and it has been choreographed in multiple portions to please and entertain the various tribes' gods and deities.
The Dinatag is one part of this dance, serving as the introduction to the Dugso. For the Dinatag, dancers should join arms in a T-shaped position and their movements should be as fluid as possible.
Try your hand at the Dugso's introduction with these dance steps:
- Brush your left foot backward, then bring your left foot to meet your right foot.
- Step to the left with your left foot, bringing your body sideways.
- Brush your left foot backward from your new position, then bring your left foot to meet your right foot.
- Step to the left again with your left foot, bringing your body sideways again, so you are now turned around from your original position.
- Step to your right, then tap your left foot to meet your right foot.
- Step to your left in a sideways motion.
- Step to your right again, then tap your left foot to meet your right foot.
- Step to your left in a sideways motion.
- Brush your right foot backward, then tap your right foot to meet your left foot.
- Step to your right in a sideways motion.
- Step your left foot across in front of your right foot.
- Tap your right foot to meet your left movement, moving to the right.
- Step your left foot behind you, across your right foot.
- Step to the right sideways.
- Step your left foot behind you again, across your right foot.
- Step to the right sideways.
- Repeat all steps 1 to 16.
The Itik-Itik is a mimetic dance, meaning its moves are pulled from mimicking something else. In the Itik-Itik's case, it's ducks!
Get ready to shake your tail feather with these beautiful moves:
- Step to your left and raise your left arm up in a flowing motion.
- Step to your right and raise your right arm up in a flowing motion.
- Repeat steps 1 and 2 seven times.
- Step forward and bring your hands into your chest, bending your elbows and making sure to point your hands inward x7.
- Step in a circle as you sway your arms to the right, then to the left.
- Raise your arm and step hop to the left.
- Raise your arm and step hop to the right.
- Repeat steps 6 and 7 five times.
- Sway to the right, then to the left x6.
Once you've mastered these steps, complete them in sets of three and you've got a fully formed Itik-Itik.
Connect to the World Through Dance
Thanks to technology, we're way more connected than ever before. But there's only so much you can learn about a culture through a screen. Get to know the Philippines more deeply by exploring their many folk dances. If these boots were made for walking, then they were made for dancing too.