Cus­toms & tra­di­tions

Hey! Dabkeh: More than just a dance

Lebanon Traveler - - CONTENTS -

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.


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.


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.


Born in the Le­banese vil­lage of Abadiyeh, Malek Andary is a chore­og­ra­pher and dancer

Photo: Cara­calla

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