Then the performance leaps into the 21st century as a rap song fills the air, poles keeping the beat, and the dancers adding gyrations.
The fancy footwork and unexpected music are the brainchild of Mireya Paulos, a 2017 graduate of Foothill High, who began to choreograph tinikling performances for the school's multicultural rallies when she was a freshman. She had always seen the catchy dance at Filipino celebrations, she said, and to learn more she attended college workshops in tinikling.
This summer Paulos wanted to do something special for her cousin Olivia Mendoza's cotillion, which is a coming-of-age party sometimes held for Filipino girls when they turn 18.
"She asked me to choreograph it because she knows my background," Paulos said.
The traditional Filipino folk dance involves two people pounding and sliding bamboo poles on the ground with one or more dancers moving between the poles.
But Paulos took it a step further, using 16 performers and creating a modern version of tinikling set to the beat of "My Type," a recent hit by Bay Area rapper Saweetie.
She gathered her dancing friends to practice every Friday evening in her driveway, and Aug. 10 they performed at the cotillion, to everyone's delight. Afterward Paulos posted a video of the performance on a Filipino website.
The video went viral, with 1 million views on social media platforms, thanks to getting recognition by famous people and re-postings.
"I was shocked," Paulos said. "I didn't know social media was that powerful. I first uploaded it on a Filipino community page."
When she checked soon afterward, it had 30,000 views and was growing.
The video came to the attention of Saweetie herself, who is half Filipino, and she posted it on her Instagram.
"It was posted on Instagram, the Filipino page, and on Facebook," Paulos said, "and within 24 hours, Saweetie saw it, after it got the attention of celebrities and influencers."
"I have communicated with her team but not with her," Paulos said. "But I hope to meet her."
KTVU/FOX2 got wind of the sensation, and invited Paulos and Mendoza to appear on its show, "The Nine," with Frank Mallicoat, Gasia Mikaelian and Sal Castaneda. After that, the young women were contacted by NBC Bay Area, NBCLA and other news outlets, including CNN Philippines.
"Studying all these tinikling videos, it seemed like it was all the same and then everyone (on social media) was saying, 'It's amazing,' and 'I've never seen this before,'" Paulos said in her KTVU interview.
Mendoza recalled that she'd been seeing the dance performed at special family parties since she was in the second grade.
"I wanted to bring it back for my party, but I'm usually pretty quiet so they weren't expecting it," she told interviewer Mallicoat. "It's amazing to think that many people have seen our dancing and enjoyed our dancing."
Paulos just entered UCLA after transferring from Chabot and Las Positas colleges, and is focusing on public health care.
"I only do tinikling when I have the time, or the opportunity comes up," she said. "It's a very dramatic dance, so it's time consuming, and done only at traditional times, like festivals or birthday parties."
"But if there is some special event, I'll do it," she added.
More about tinikling (tin-ik-ling)
The name tinikling refers to birds known in the Philippines as tikling, and the dance imitates their movement as they gingerly step between grass stems, run over tree branches, or dodge bamboo traps set by rice farmers.
Tinikling is considered a national dance in the Philippines and is performed on special occasions like traditional Filipino festivals or at big parties. Some Filipinos say the dance represents two main cultural character traits: resilience and fun-loving.
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