Dance video

Georgia Tech students spotlight Tinikling dance (VIDEO)

At Georgia Tech, a group of students put a modern spin on the traditional Filipino folk dance known as Tinikling.

If you haven’t heard of Tinikling, you’re not alone.

It’s a traditional Filipino cultural dance where you dance on bamboo poles that clash to the beat – the trick is not to get your feet stuck.

A group of Georgia Tech students went viral when they performed it to a popular American rap song.

Betina Siopongco — the founder and president of the Georgia Tech Filipino Student Association — says the club was formed a year ago to support Filipino-American students and celebrate their culture.

“We were trying, first, to pay homage to our cultural roots,” she said. “But at the same time, we really wanted to highlight our other identities of being American.”

Not only did the dance go viral – with over 1.4 million views – but it also caught the attention of Lil Nas X, who even tweeted his support for the group.

It’s unclear exactly how Tinikling was born, but dancer and educator Gerald Casel has some ideas.

“During the Spanish occupation, natives working in colonial fields who were not performing were forced to stand between two bamboo poles as punishment,” he said. “They were actually punished in the fields by using these two bamboo poles to hit their ankles together.”

Not getting caught between the sticks was a sign of resistance and resilience.

Tinikling has been taught in schools across the country for years. In public schools in Jefferson County, Colorado, dance was taught even before physical education coordinator Dave Yonkie got there nearly 28 years ago.

“Once the kids start having success, they’ll start to personalize it a bit,” he said.

Yonkie said he learned Tinikling when he was in school nearly 50 years ago and now enjoys teaching it to his students.

From California to Louisiana to New Jersey, students dance the Tinikling. But it is important to know where it comes from too.

“It makes me really happy that the world is becoming a much more open and knowledgeable place,” Betina Siopongco said. “You know, Filipinos and non-Filipinos are comfortable and proud to learn about each other’s cultures.