The Dabke is an Arabic folk dance that started in the mountainous regions above the Mediterranean coastline and the Tigriss River. When the Dabke dance was first created it was mainly danced by people of the villages and towns of Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, and some quasi-bedouin tribes that were living in nearby territories. The region that I am going to focus on is Lebanon. In Lebanon, the Dabke dance was originally formed because of the different seasons Lebanon was exposed to. When the weather changed in Lebanon, the villagers had to adjust accordingly and they ended up forming a dance based on building their homes. In Lebanon, and many of the other regions where the Dabke is danced, the roofs were flat and made of tree branches that were topped with mud. Therefore, when the weather started to change the mud would crack and the roofs would have to be fixed. To fix the roof the Lebanese would hold hands, form a line, and start stomping their feet while walking on the roof so that the mud would adjust. In historical folklore, it is said that when the mud started to crack the owner of the house would call to the neighbors to have them help with the roof. He would yell, “Al-Awneh” which translates to “let’s go and help.” Then all of the neighbors and family members would get on the roof and start stomping to adjust the mud.
Thus, this leads to why the Lebanese are very traditional and their families are close to each other. With the ancestral tradition of the Dabke, family is thought to be a whole village, which I believe is why so many Lebanese families and Arabic’s connect with one another because in some ways they both have the same historical heritage. Once many years passed and the villagers found new ways to build their houses, the Dabke was passed down through families as a tradition of how their culture was built. The words sung while dancing the Dabke were also passed down from when the families and neighbors would help each other fix cracks in their roofs. The term, Daloonah, is a form of improvised singing while dancing the Dabke. In the ancient times of the Dabke, Daloonah (improvised singing) was created and added to keep the men working in the cold weather warmer because singing helped them stimulate their blood pressure to produce more energy while working in the cold.
In today’s Lebanese culture the Dabke is still danced and is one of the Lebanese’s most famous traditions. The Dabke has been passed down from generation to generation and is performed in almost every Lebanese household. The Dabke passed down throughout history has been made livelier and more joyous and is usually performed or danced at weddings, special occasions, and family gatherings. However, when the Dabke was first created the dance was slow and static. The dance progressively began to change after the First World War when many immigrants were coming to Lebanon, and the dance has further changed in minute ways from generation to generation.
Today the Dabke is a line dance where everyone stands in a line holding hands facing outwards or to the audience (if there is an audience). The dance usually starts with a musician playing a solo and then the dancers start to move together creating a synchronized movement and step. This usually consists of stepping with the left foot and right foot and then crossing the left foot and right foot over. Each of these steps has a little hop, kind of like a Greek dance. While dancing the Dabke, there is one main leader, usually a male called the “Lawweeh” who is expected to be the most skilled in the group of dancers. The Lawweeh should be able to improvise and is usually extremely light on his feet. The Lawweeh directs the dancers to slow down or speed up and helps keep the energy of the dance while giving directions. He also may sing out in song, break out of the line to improvise by himself, or try and get more family members or audience members to join the line as well.
The Dabke is a dance that has been passed down over time and still resonates with many people all over the world. Like many other dance forms, Dabke started in a culture that was going through struggles, looked for ways to make things enjoyable, and turned to dance. I believe the Dabke dance will continue to be passed down through the generations and will hopefully continue to remind people of how their roots as a culture were established and how they are heavily impacted by their ancestors and historical traditions today.