Mind the Gap

Tinikling

by Esther Elizabeth Suson

Tinikling  music is one of the most danceable pieces ever written. It has that classic tan-TAN-TAN tan-TAN-TAN beat shared with the waltz, and any Filipino who’s ever seen the tinikling danced knows just how compellingly catchy it is.

As I was riding the BGC bus, they began to play the tinikling music over the speakers. Half-drowsy as it was near lunchtime, I lightly tapped my foot to the three-beat. Across from me, an older woman was looking into the distance and tapping one hand on the other to the same.

As I craned my head to glance out the windshield, my eye was caught by the hands of the girl beside me. She was in one of the seats by a floor-to-ceiling pole, so her left hand was across her body, holding it. Meanwhile, her right hand was dancing two fingers on the back of her left.

Tinikling1

I watched her fingers dance, confused. Rather than tapping out the three-beat like practically everyone else, they were following the quicker, more varied sub-tempo of the melody. Or so I thought. Even if she could hear and follow it, her fingers were not moving to the obvious changes of beat. Sometimes, she moved in counterpoint.

I watched her fingers dance, lifting and moving and beating, and listened to the music, and put it together.

She was not simply following the music, she was dancing to it. I and the woman opposite were moving to the obvious tempo, following the tune at its most basic manifestation but she, she was living the dance in her head, every step and lift and turn, her deeper experience betrayed by the unhesitating movements of her fingers.

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