Customs & traditions
Hey! Dabkeh: More than just a dance
In Lebanon, dabke is closely intertwined with the country’s cultural heritage. The legendary Lebanese composer-songwriter duo the Rahbani Brothers created a whole cultural movement with their musical plays, from the late ‘50s to the late ‘70s. With their memorable songs, colorful costumes, witty dialogues and lively dabke dance routines, their iconic musicals carved out a fundamental part of the dance’s legacy. Starring Lebanese singer Fairouz, Assi and Mansour Rahbani made musicals that were deeply rooted in a village setting and, as they continued into the ‘70s, they are said to have provided an empowering cultural alternative that inspired national pride in a time of political unrest.
HOW DABKE STARTED
Unity is at the core of dabke and its origins
are uniquely linked with the design of village houses from the past. Their roofs were constructed from wood, straw and mud, meaning villagers had to press the mud together to prevent cracking or leakage. The task required more than one person and so the owner of the house would enlist the help of their neighbors. Together they would stand side by side in a synchronized manner and begin to forcefully stomp. This step was referred to as the al-awneh, meaning help. “The main events in the villages were the weddings or the birth of someone, and dabke was the main joyful part of a celebration or an event like that,” explains Youla Noujaim, the organizer of Jabalna, a mountain festival that dedicated their 2015 program to dabke.
VARIATIONS OF THE DANCE
Dabke has been modified in some regions
of Lebanon, though it still retains the same roots and atmosphere. Different forms of the dance also exist in the Levant and its influence has spread to the Arab world. Dabke has remained a common cultural thread practiced by different communities.
Danced across Mount Lebanon, Dalouna is one of the more popular types of dabke. Consisting of a six beat measure, it’s often accompanied by a tabla drum, a mizmar copper flute, and a signature of clapping sounds. In Baalbeck, Ra’sit al Aarja (the limping dance), runs at a slower pace. The movement is divided into 12 beats and features a bowed string instrument called a rebab, a minjera flute and tabla drum.
THE DABKE TEACHER
Born in the Lebanese village of Abadiyeh, Malek Andary is a choreographer and dancer