Dabke is a lively and energetic line dance found throughout the Middle East, particularly in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, and Iraq. The word dabke means “to stomp” in Arabic, and is one of the defining characteristics of the folkloric dance. At weddings, parties, and even at social protests, men and women form a line to perform this celebratory dance, which consists of jumps, kicks, and feet shuffling. Today, dabke is also performed at shows with elaborate choreography, comprised of basic dabke steps and Raqs Sharqi moves.
Dabke is performed with a strong, poised upper body, and relaxed knees. The footwork is always the highlight, even when doing upper body movements. There are dozens of styles depending on the region and occasion. Like a dialect or accent, you can often tell where a person is from by their dabke style.
The person leading the dabke at the front of the line is called the raas (“head”) or lawweeh (“waver”). The leader often spins a hankerchief or string of beads known as a masbha, and performs fancy steps. At times, the second person in line also shows off a bit. However, the rest of the line keeps the rhythm with the basic steps.
According to one folk tale, dabke originated in the Levant where houses were built from stone with a flat roof made from mud. To compact the mud, the villagers would hold hands, forming a line on the roof, and stomp their feet. As the villagers joyously stomped in unison, they would sing songs that have since been passed down from generation to generation.
Traditional dabke music is performed live with a vocalist using the mijwiz (similar to a reed clarinet), tablah (a small hand-drum), and riq (a type of tambourine). The oud (a pear-shaped stringed instrument) can also be used. Newer dabke music often blends traditional instruments with electronic beats.
Dabke music is often confused with saidi, as it also uses a 4/4 rhythm. However, unlike saidi, dabke is counted in 6 or 8 steps for each 8 counts of music.
Our Dabke Favorites
1) Lebanese Simon is our favorite Dabke dancer. His energy and charisma is simply contagious.
2) These guys are having tons of fun celebrating with a little Dabke.
3) Paris-based, Zomzom and Yaël Zarca, performing Dabke for the stage.
Arab Folk Dance with Karim Nagi
Dabketna blog articles
The Dabke- An Arabic Folk Dance by Dance History Development
Dabke by Arabic Language blog
Dabke – Folklore Dance of the Levant by Travelujah
DABKE ~ BASIC STEPS AND COMBO by Sadie Marquardt