Dabke is a popular folkloric dance that is common to the Levantine Eastern Mediterranean region. The synchronized “stamping of the feet” (Arabic.dabke) is the basic movement for the dance, which can be danced either in a straight line, in an arch or in a circle.
One of the folk traditions states that dabke originated from the common work at house building. In the past, the houses of the Levant were made from stone with its roofs made of wood, straw and dirt. The parts of the roof had to be assembled, and that required stomping it hard in a uniform way.
There are a couple of Middle Eastern instruments commonly used to play the background music for dabke. Mijwiz – kind of a reed clarinet, tablah – a small hand-drum and a tambourine (riq) are the main ones. Oud (lute), a pear-shaped stringed instrument with the characteristic deep and mellow sound, can be used as well.
For a better understanding and imagination, have a look at this video with a great collection of pictures and music:
Dabke in the Palestinian tradition
Dabke is deeply rooted in the Palestinian culture and is often performed at joyful celebrations, especially at weddings. Sometimes it is danced spontaneously by the gathered guests (since most Palestinians know the basic steps), but it is also very common that a wedding couple would invite a group of professional performers to give a show.
Often during the performances the dancers wear costumes based on the traditional clothes. Women wear embroidered long dresses and men wear baggy trousers with wide belts and long leather shoes. Both genders might cover their heads with a plain white or white with a black pattern kofiyeeh (a scarf).
The dance has become a way of preserving Palestinian culture as well, thus learning dabke is a common after-school-activity for youth. The young performers have an opportunity to demonstrate their skills during various folkloric festivals, e.g. Olive Harvest Festival celebrated in October – November.
Dabke in Contemporary Performances
Within the Palestinian contemporary art scene dabke evolved from a simple dance consisting of only 10 to 15 steps into a complex musical and theatrical performances with a plot. Actors often captivate the audience with complex choreographies inspired by “stamping of the feet.”
El-Funoun from Ramallah and Diyar Dance Theatre from Bethlehem are considered the most outstanding and distinguished dance troupes that aim to express the spirit of Arab-Palestinian folklore and contemporary culture. Their unique combinations of traditional and stylized dance and music have made them the leading dance organizations within Palestinian society and they play an important role in reviving and fostering Palestinian identity.
Where to go to see Dabke?
Dabke shows are an inseparable part of various annual Palestinian folklore festivals.
- April: Artas Lettuce Festival in the village of Artas close to Bethlehem (for more info contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com)
- June: Faqous Festival in Beit Sahour (for more info contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com)
- July: Sabastiya Festival for Heritage and Tourism (for more info contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)
- July: Birzeit Heritage Week in the village of Birzeit close to Ramallah (for more info contact:email@example.com)
- September: Grapes Festival in Hebron (for more info contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)
- October: Olive Harvest Festival in Bethlehem (for more info contact: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org)
- December: Shepherds Night Festival in Beit Sahour (for more info contact: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org)
There are also many nice restaurants in Bethlehem and Beit Sahour that in addition to delicious traditional meals and oriental atmosphere offer a possibility of organizing Dabke shows and musical performances for groups at any time of the year. Please contact the following places in advance:
- Al-Areeshah Palace at Jasir Intercontinental Hotel (00 972 (0) 2 276 6777)
- Citadel Restaurant (00972 (0) 2 277 7771)
- Dar al-Balad (00972 (0) 2 274 9073)
- Grotto Restaurant (00972 (0) 2 274 8844) tried and highly recommended by Travelujah
- The Tent Restaurant (00972 (0) 2 277 3875)
Beata Andonia blogs regularly for Travelujah. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010.
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