Dabke: The Dance of
the Lebanese Village
|Imagine yourself walking into a
village that is full of oak and vineyards, and feeling the blossoming
of the mid-September harvesting. This, my friends, is a village found
in Lebanon following the traditions that its ancestors have left
Lebanese villages are famous for so many of their ancestral traditions
and with honor carry them from generation to generation. Many of these
consist of the family's cooperation and in this case the whole village
is thought to be the FAMILY.
In mid-September, families join each other in their fields, to
celebrate the vine harvest season. The grapes picked from the vine
have been separated, some for making arak (the Lebanese visa to
drunkenness), some for wine, others for vinegar and the rest for
making grape molasses.
The air is filled with the charming aroma of the grape juice that is
being heated on the fire. Some women gather their beautiful straw
trays laden with tabouleh, hummus, babaghanough, stuffed vine leaves
and a collection of delights, fruits, and breads. Others balance water
jugs on their heads walking as elegantly as can be. The young men and
women, dressed in festive clothes, go with their mothers to meet with
the elder male members of the family in the fields. The young women
are dressed in flowing skirts and shirts topped with long vests; veils
and headdresses with beautiful decoration and intricate beading adorn
their heads. The men are wearing their sherwals and labbadeh (baggy
pants and felt hats) with colorful vests over their shirts and boots.
An old man enters the scene carrying a derbake (a small drum made of a
clay cylinder and stretched goat skin), followed by couple of other
men with their nay and mijwiz (the nay is a single long bamboo flute
and the mijwiz is a short double barreled high pitched flute).
The music starts to play, and the fresh September evening breeze is
everywhere. Some men and women hold hands and start to dance to the
daloonah tune, the base of all Dabkes (to stomp the ground with ones
feet), while others clap their hands creating the appropriate mood.
Then this opens way to improvised singing; a woman enters the scene
with a jug balanced on her head and is joined by others, as if
competing. Then men join in with their swords, doing the sword dance
to the rhythm of the mijwiz. As time pass by, and the mood becomes
very temping, the elders join in, holding hands with the youngsters
forming a line of unison and doing the same step. The man and woman at
the opposite ends of the lines make different steps on the theme to
show how competent, agile and graceful they are. The rest of the
company clap and cheer to reveal their happiness.
An old man calls from behind and announces
that the grape juice has boiled enough and once it cools down, they
can drink it. Here the atmosphere is filled with ululation to the man
behind the juice and to the women who prepared the food. And as the
ululation continues the tempo of the Dabke increases.
Luckily, from all the Lebanese traditions
this scene did not die, especially in the villages. The Dabke is a
national Lebanese dance that is carried out nearly in every nightclub,
restaurant, or party you attend.
In the olden days, before tiled roofs were installed on Lebanese
homes. Their flat roofs were made of tree branches that were topped
with mud. When the change of seasons came, especially winter, the mud
would crack and start to leak and would need to be fixed. The owner of
the house would call his neighbors for help- Al-Awneh- and the
neighbors would gather up on the roof. They would hold hands, form a
line and start stomping their feet while walking on the roof in order
to adjust the mud.
After a while, Al-Awneh, became to be known as Daloonah, a form of
improvised singing and dancing the dabke. A derbake, nay and a mijwiz
were added in order to keep the men going in the cold weather (it
helped stimulate the blood pressure to produce more energy).
As time emerged, the Dabke dance came to be known one of Lebanonís
most famous traditions. Today Dabke is performed in every Lebanese
household. The Dabke is made livelier, when friends and families
gather around the Lebanese mezze with arak or wine and begin to
perform this dance.