Dabke in Ramallah

Soon after arriving at my friend’s home in Ramallah, we spent hours catching up on what we had been up to since we had seen each other last, years ago. Among the many things we re-bonded over were recent artistic performances we had been involved in. I shared performances where I had dabbled as a percussionist and vocalist in an all-women’s musical ensemble in Chicago called “SoundRight.” Alternately, she led me into the world of professional dabke – sharing videos of her performance at the Ramallah Cultural Palace back in June with the dabke troupe, Wishah. It was unlike the dabke I had seen before, where Arab friends spontaneously created circles at weddings, or in the streets, schooling us non-Arabs on how it’s broken down. As an Indian, who’s watched her fair share of Bollywood films, I always found the movements in dabke fairly simple. But this was different. I watched, mesmerized, by the ultimately intricate and strikingly elegant flow of each movement, the exquisite dresses, and the obvious passion of each dancer. The next day, much to my excitement, we learned that Wishah was having its final rehearsal before heading to Egypt for a performance. It was beautiful. Each stomp, cry, jump, and clap, represented a different element of Palestinian culture, highlighting rich traditions that live beyond the history of occupation. I’m not going to lie – it was the highlight of my day. I was so excited I added my own zughrat to their soundtrack! Here’s one of the dance sets I captured on video…

From bboy crews in Chicago to dabke troups in Ramallah, a familiar story line knits its way throughout – illustrating the unifying power of music and dance in expressing the most beautiful aspects of humanity’s common culture.

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