Dance was born with man. Like music it is a universal language shared by all nations. With the development of civilization Dance took various forms and shaped into numerous schools. “Dabke” is a dance performed by different inhabitants of the mountains lying above the Mediterranean coastline and the Tigriss River. Therefore it is a dance only typical of the villages and towns of Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq, in addition to some quasi-bedouin tribes living in Lebanon and other close territories.
The eminent musician Zaki Nassif reckons that the origin of Dabke goes back to the days when the people of the village gathered for the “aouna” or “aouni”. This is a rural tradition and obligation to assist the owner of a newly built house in tamping the roof of the house by thumping it with their feet. This technique was later replaced by the roller (“Mahdale” or “Mahdalie” ). Three arguments justify this theory:
First; Dabke is a collective dance performed in an arc and limited by the space.
Second, all kinds of Dabke have one thing in common: thumping the floor hard with their feet.
Third, the famous Dabke called “Dal’ouna” has its name derived from the Aramaic word “ouna” (mutual aid).
The popularity of Dabke in the Lebanese countryside explains the diversity of this dance’s rhythms (ranging from very slow to very fast), steps (mtanniye, mtallate, arja), and inherited tunes and melodies (dal’ouna, houwara, nadda, haykalo, zayno, etc.)
Since the founding of the Baalbeck Festival in 1957, Lebanese musicians, notably the Rahballi brothers, Zaki Nassif, and Afif Radwan, included Dabke in their musicals and operettas. They worked hard on enhancing it and succeeding in presenting it as a worthy classical art.
Dabke is still the cornerstone of the dancing art in Lebanon despite the numerous and different styles of dance. It is not limited to weddings and other happy events, but fills an important place at the heart of the artistic movement. It is a must in every musical or operetta presented in Lebanon.
“Voix de l’Orient” has taken upon itself, since the day it was founded, to spread Lebanese music in the wide world. Still working to achieve that aim, it presents today a new edition in two parts (part 2 to follow) under title “Dabkat” featuring a number of the most popular Dabke tunes sung by the great Fairuz, Lebanon’s “Ambassador to the stars”.