The Dabke Dance

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Lebanese
Age: 21
Occupation: Student/Screenwriter
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/15/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Arabic, French, Spanish

This interview is a transcribed conversation between me, interviewer, and interviewee, referred to as SM. 

SM: I’m from Lebanon and in Lebanon and many other Middle Eastern Countries along the Sinai Peninsula, we commonly do this dance we all refer to as the dabke. I always see it at family weddings and other celebrations like birthdays.

Me: So what does this dance look like?

SM: So this dabke dance is done with both men and women, and it’s basically when people line up together and hold hands or link arms and then in a circle begin to dance and stomp their feet in synchronization. They also, like, sway their bodies from side to side in synchronization. Everyone dances and, oh, everyone sings as well in the circle. The circle rotates and people just keep swaying and dancing and stomping.

Me: Ok, and why do you do this dance?

SM: I was told by my dad, and other family members, that the dabke actually originates in Lebanon when we as Phoenicians used to make our homes out of stone and would put straw, wood, and finally mud on top. My dad said they used to have to stomp on the mud to pack it into the straw and be sturdy. Apparently the only way to do that on the roofs of the homes was to have men line up and stomp in synchronization.

Me: Have you ever done the dabke?

SM: Yeah, I’ve done it at a couple weddings and stuff – usually it just breaks out and everyone gets swept into it.

Background:

Interviewee was born and raised in America, but his parents are both Lebanese. He lived in Dubai during his teen years and has always had very close ties to Lebanon. He visits Lebanon at least once a year and speaks with his parents regularly, where they speak in Arabic and often chat about history. They also all continually practice many Lebanese and Arabic traditions and share folklore. 

Context:

This interview was conducted over a video call. Interviewee and I are romantically involved, so the conversation was very open and casual. He was very willing to help out and share some of his culture’s lore. 

Thoughts:

It is interesting to hear a young person’s rendition of a traditional dance that clearly is still prevalent in Middle Eastern culture. His recollection and the version he knows is only one of many – many different dabkes emerged in different Middle Eastern countries. The interviewee explained the history of the dabke quite well – it is adapted from a roof dance. I greatly enjoyed learning about this and would love to see it in person. 

For a different version and more history of the dabke dance, refer to this link: https://www.arabamerica.com/dabke-cultural-background-preparing-arab-american-wedding-season/