If you had asked me almost a year ago, how I felt about the dabke being featured at my wedding, I would’ve probably given you a huge look of disapproval.
At the time, I was trying really hard to shun all aspects of a traditional Lebanese wedding, particularly because it’s just not my thing. I wanted the evening to be full of the latest English chart hits mixed in with some salsa and reggaeton. Those are the styles I enjoy and can dance to. (Side note: I feel if Ahmad had gotten his way, we would’ve probably listened to Slayer and Black Sabbath. Headbanging and all.)
But the dabke, especially in a huge, long dress? Forget about it. I can’t even do it when I’m wearing flats and jeans.
The closer we got to the wedding day, the more I started to regain my senses- and I’m really glad I did. It was one the highlights of the evening.
The dance is one of the cornerstones of Lebanese weddings, and people will come expecting to get up and execute it no matter what the style of the event is. The dabke is so deeply rooted in our celebratory culture that I just could not stand up and say: no, this will not be at my wedding.
I think our DJ was the one to convince me the most that it needed to be included because it would really get everyone going and put them in a happy mood. And as a bride, I did not want for my guests to be sitting down and/or not having a good time.
I also learned that I personally do not have to be involved in it. I could just stand in the middle, clap and wave my arms around. I can’t begin to describe the sigh of relief I had at that moment. That’s one less chance for me to completely embarrass myself.
This is where I also learned that I am not as anti-traditional as I thought or appeared to be. In fact, I got a bit excited when we agreed with the DJ on the music he would play for that segment of the night: all classics that we have grown up listening to.
In fact, I love tradition when it means our culture can come on full display. The Knot and other bridal magazines published in the US and Europe will not tell you about the dabke because it is not their thing- it is very much unique to our part of the world. And unlike the zaffe, which kicks off the evening and I absolutely loathe, this dance is not about showing off or making a grand entrance.
It is about people coming together to dance and be happy.They join hands and form a circle around the couple, while cheering, singing, and smiling, whether the line include 5 or 50 people.
But what made it all the more special at our wedding was how diverse it was.
Every region performs the steps differently (maybe that’s why I have not been able to learn it) so you end up with so many variants: some step and stomp, some learn forwards and backwards, some take several steps then kick… I can’t really describe how intricate it can get. What I do know that it is beautiful to watch.
When our friends and family members formed the dabke line at our wedding, we had several regions and variants represented: Nabatiyeh, Baalbeck, Bekaa, Palestine, Jordan, and Syria. The steps were different but they were all moving together that you couldn’t tell they had just all come together. Soon enough, almost all the attendees had joined in. It’s infectious.
It was such a surprise to us because we had counted on a single hand who would take part. I think it was stupid on our behalf to think that most people wouldn’t be interested just because it wasn’t our main interest.
Because no matter what the wedding is like, it is at that moment when everything comes full circle, when tradition and culture meet with celebration, and everyone is just having a great time.It never fails to be special, even if you’ve heard the songs and seen the steps a million times.
That alone is enough to make the most skeptical person change their mind- and gets to clap along.