If you’re invited to a wedding or graduation in the Levant, chances are that you will be invited for dabke.
The dabke is an Arabic folk dance that started in the mountainous regions of the Levant. Legend has it, people used to live in houses made of tree branches and mud. As happens, mud changes in temperature and humidity or just generally when there’s bad weather, it cracks. So the townsfolk would get together and patch the holes. They will form a line and stomp the mud back into place. Eventually, they found that singing kept them warmer when they were fixing the crack in the cold winter months.
As time passed, newer building technology came along and replaced the need for the stomping of the mud into place. However, generations passed down the tradition of the dabke. This is a reminder of just how important family. community and tradition actually are in Arab culture.
You can still see it today at weddings and other happy occasions. The dancers usually wear the traditional clothing of their region. Women wear long, embroidered dresses and men wear pants with wide belts and leather shoes. Both men and women might also cover their head with the black and white checkered kofiyeeh.
Over generations, the dabke dance has not only endured as a dance, but has become a form of creative protest. After the Gaza massacre where over 2000 Palestinians were killed, thirty dancer-activists performed the traditional Palestinian dabke dance. The locations were the British Museum and in a central London Barclays bank. Performing the dabke became a revolutionary way to protest in a way that capture people’s attention.
In sum, while the original purpose of dabke started with repairing the roof of a neighbor’s house, it has since evolved into a symbol of love, life, and resistance.
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