I had never heard of the Dabke before my first night in Palestine. I was having dinner with my host in Bethlehem restaurant, and I was vibrating in so much culture shock that I didn’t know what to think. So I decided to sit back and enjoy the performance of this dance presented to us by a co-ed group of local college students. The performance was excellent. They all moved in a unique and synchronized fashion that I knew must have taken time and effort to perfect.
Then they invited their American guests to join them. I reluctantly locked hands with my colleagues and tried my best to go with the rhythm of the Arabic tune, stepping my foot in and out of the dance circle.
I was never good at dancing, and I always had a slight envy towards those who could dance with what seemed like little effort. I find it even more fascinating that not only is it integral to so many cultures, but to the human experience in general.
The act of dancing can be traced back almost over 9,000 years ago found in cave art depictions, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and references from ancient Greek philosophers to scenes in the Old Testament of the Bible.
It can be performed in religious and secular ceremonies, as well as sports and even in martial arts.
There are thousands of variations of dancing that are practiced all over the world. From traditional acts like North American clog dancing, Arabic Dabke, Salsa in Latin America, or Punjabi Bhangra. To dances found in subcultures such as breakdancing, swing, and popping.
Like music, dancing can also be used as a form of peace building and conflict resolution. One organization that is spearheading this method is Dance 4 Peace, a nonprofit which began in 2010 as a form of conflict transformation. With this program, students are not taught how to dance; rather, they are given a space to express themselves through dance.
And I think that’s the most beautiful aspect of the act and art of dancing. The binding power of dance isn’t the fact that it’s found in nearly culture that’s existed on earth, but the fact that you don’t even need to know how to dance to simply move your body to a beat that you appreciate. We have different styles and outlooks towards dancing, but we all like to move.
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