The Palestinian-Israeli conflict gets more than its share of attention. And yet, listening more attentively to the narrative of the dabke, Palestine’s national dance, gives a new angle to resistance and struggle.
By Dana Mills
In July 2015 Palestinian activists in London took to the streets to hold a Day of Rage to commemorate the bloodiest day of the Protective Edge, Israel’s 2014 war in Gaza one year earlier. In addition to signs and posters, chants and cries, protesters stormed the British Museum and Barclays Bank in London with a dabke flash mob. In 2012, students at Arizona State University commemorating the Deir Yasin massacre in 1948 also danced dabke.
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has had more than its share of coverage. Dance history, however, is not always the first place one goes to find political stories. And yet, listening more attentively to the narrative of the dabke, Palestine’s national dance, gives a new angle to resistance and struggle.
The dabke is a participatory dance in which people form a line that can be expanded as new dancers join the moving chorus. The movements of the line are led by a lawith, a dancer who leads and initiates changes in the line formation, and who is followed by a chorus. The dance involves movements up and down in space, and includes rhythmic stomping, clapping, and changes of pace. There are breaks created by individual dancers performing solos and the group response to them.
But dabke is much more than just a dance. It is a form of storytelling through movement, and for many, a way to showcase solidarity and cooperation, cultural resistance, and the strength of the human spirit.
The use of dabke is hardly new. During the British Mandate, Palestinians danced the dabke as a statement of resistance to Jewish immigration to Palestine before 1948 (there is evidence of performance of the dabke in 1923 in the village of Nebi Musa during a protest against the arrival in large numbers of Jews), as well as the growing international support for Zionism. After 1948 dabke dances were choreographed into stories of the villages destroyed in the Nakba. Like many other elements in Palestinian life, dance has always been connected to politics.
After 1967, dabke became even more politicized. Before the 1967 War, it was mainly performed as a traditionally rural dance; after the war, dabke began crossing class divides,...Read More