Does Dabke Improve Your Health?
By: Ivey Noojin/Arab America Contributing Writer
Dabke is a popular Arab folk dance that originated in the mountains close to the Mediterranean Sea and the Tigris River. It has been integral to the cultures of Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq for centuries, even though the meaning of the dance has changed since its beginning.
History of Dabke
Many tribes created the dance to protect their homes. At that time, they built their abodes with tree branches and mud, which were contingent on the weather. Whenever it rained, the mud would begin to drip. In response, the tribespeople would gather together and hold hands, stomping up on and down on the mud to make it stick together. They also would gather close together and jump up and down whenever it was cold to help warm each other.
However, even though houses are no longer made from mud and many people now have electric heaters in their homes for cold weather, the dabke still exists. The dance is an important reminder of the importance of family and community, and many people perform it at weddings and other celebrations. It has become a widely practiced tradition throughout the Middle East.
There are seven modern variations of the dance:
- zareef al toul
Al-karradiyeh and al-tayyara are made up of quick steps that require a lot of flexibility and endurance. Therefore, younger people generally perform these two modifications. Al-dalouna has a slower rhythm with each movement coordinated to the beat. Al-sahjeh and taghreeba are movements to the lyrics that someone is singing during e dance. Each step synchronizes with the repetitive rhythms, sending a message with its movement. Duhhleyh also has synchronized movements like al sahjeh but includes different sounds. The Bedouins dance to this variation.
There is one variation that is not known for its movement or rhythm, but for its use: zareef al toul. This type of dabke dance praises specific qualities in a person, which is why it is usually performed at weddings and special occasions.
Zareef al toul is a variation emphasizes love and the connection become the people who are being celebrated.
Dancing can quite literally help you shake the stress away. Plus, dabke is one way of letting loose and having fun, enabling you to forget about the stressors in your life. Dancing is a nice way to burn calories and strengthen your heart, lungs, and muscles, all the while enjoying yourself.
The Benefits of Learning
Constant learning is one of the best ways to combat dementia and Alzheimers; your brain has to continually adapt to the new cues you are giving it. With different steps and different people involved, dabke can keep your brain sharp and decrease the probability of memoryless later in life.
Balance and Coordination
Dabke will help train your mind to become accustomed to quick movements and spins, which will make everyday actions easier to achieve. Especially as you get older or if you sit at a desk all day, dizziness after standing up is probably a normal aspect of your day; however, dancing the dabke will help you get rid of those symptoms. Also, dancing strengthens the hips, feet, thighs, and core, which will all help you maintain your balance and not fall in other areas of life. The dabke is basically training your brain and muscles to work together.
The Benefits of Music
Families and friends dance to mostly to exciting music which helps stimulate the brain; such stimulation can be especially crucial as you get older. Therefore, you are rewarding the brain with stimulation each movement you make. In addition, doing the dabke to exciting music may lead to a slower rate of motor decline or progression of neurodegenerative diseases.
Exercise is always a good thing if you are trying to lose weight. Plus, this kind of exercise is so much more fun than going to the gym and trying to run on a treadmill! This means that the dabke will help increase your physical confidence. If you feel better about your body, you will most likely feel better about your self. Your self-esteem and self-confidence will also increase, which ultimately feeds into your mental health as well.
Open to Anyone
There are no limitations about who can dance. The dabke is such an important aspect of the Arab culture, and you will most likely be commended for learning and performing it. You can be someone who is looking to connect more with the Arab culture. You also could be someone who wants to try a new form of exercise or someone who wants to explore a new wave of new beginnings. No matter your what’s your age, identity, or fitness level, the fun dance of dabke is available to you.
So go accept invitations for Arab American gatherings and celebrations and don’t be afraid to learn it and dance your heart out! The dabke is good for your body and your soul!