Dabke (also spelled Debke) is a folk dance seen in many Middle Eastern countries. It is a unifying dance that shares the importance of family, community and cultural heritage. Each culture has its own variation of dabke; Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian, Jordanian, and Iraqi dabke all look and feel slightly different from one another. Colors and patterns in traditional costumes help define each region, as well as different rhythms and movements.
The origins of this dance are traced back to ancient times of Middle Eastern villages when homes were built with mud and tree branches, which kept the roofs secure. The roofs were flat, and when the weather conditions changed, causing the mud to dry and crack, families and neighbors would join together to repair it. They’d hold hands and stomp their feet to fix the mud, with each family helping the next, making a village of people feel connected and supported. As housing materials developed and mud was no longer used, dabke was still passed down through generations as a dance of community, solidarity and connection. It has been used in the streets as a form of protest against the government, with people holding hands and literally building a wall with their bodies and stomping the ground in anger and resistance. It is also danced in times of celebrations: weddings, anniversaries, engagement parties, birthdays…sometimes just a simple family gathering will have everyone up and dancing!
Our Sahlala Dancers Dabke piece, originally choreographed by Olga Kramarova for Bellydance Evolution’s Fantasm: 1001 Nights, is a Lebanese style dabke. Our costumes take a theatrical approach to the traditional garb, but still stay close to the aesthetic with a head scarf, leather shoes, long overcoat and wide belt. It is a powerful dance of community and celebration of culture that makes everyone want to hit the dance floor!