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Dabke (دبكة) is an Arabic folk dance. It is popular in Palestinian Territories and several Arab countries such as Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. A line dance, it is widely performed at weddings and joyous occasions. The leader of the dabke heads the line, alternating between facing the audience and the other dancers.
Dabke in Arabic is literally “stamping of the feet.” The leader, called raas (“head”) or lawweeh (“waver”), is allowed to improvise on the type of dabke. The leader twirls a handkerchief or string of beads known as a masbha (similar to a rosary), while the rest of the dancers keep the rhythm. The dancers also use vocalizations to show energy and keep up the beat. The dabke leader is supposed to be like a tree, with arms in the air, a proud and upright trunk, and feet that stomp the ground in rhythm. At weddings, the singer begins with a mawwal. The raas or lawweeh takes the lead. Everyone does a basic 1-2-3 step before the song kicks in. At weddings, the dance is sometimes performed by a professional troupe dressed in costume.
The “dabkeh” originated in the Levant where houses were built from stone with a roof made of wood, straw and dirt. The dirt roof had to be compacted which required stomping the dirt hard in a uniform way to compact it evenly. This event of cooperation is called ta’awon and from here comes the word awneh, meaning “help.” This developed into the song Ala Dal Ouna (على دلعونا), or roughly translated “Let’s go and help”. The dabke and the rhythmic songs go together in an attempt to keep the work fun and useful.