DANCE ORIGIN: Palestine
CHOREOGRAPHER: Wael Elbhassy
First Appearance in SF EDF: 2007
Palestine lies between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and is an ancient and holy land with a complex political, cultural, and religious history.
Al-Juthoor, meaning “roots” in Arabic, makes its Festival debut this year with a choreographed theatrical presentation of the popular dance, dabkeh. Dabkeh is the indigenous folk dance of the Levant region of the Middle East, which includes Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and portions of Jordan and Iraq. This dance is customarily a part of any social or celebratory event, such as parties and weddings. It is performed as an improvised, communal line dance that young and old take part in, with the leader at the head of the line directing the variations of steps.
Dabkeh groups that present staged versions of this folk dance are common in the Middle East as part of state-sponsored or community folk dance groups. In the Palestinian territories these groups are often formed in refugee camps or cultural centers, as a means of preserving aspects of Palestinian culture and as a statement of resistance against oppression. Palestinians in the diaspora also use dabkeh as cultural preservation, while bringing awareness to the Palestinian cause.
Al Juthoor, founded in January 2005, is a dance company whose mission is to present and preserve Palestinian dance, music, and culture and bring awareness to the Palestinian cause. Members of the group have grown up with dabkeh as a part of social life, and devote time for freestyle improvisational dabkeh dancing at the end of each of its weekly rehearsals. Al Juthoor is among the few professional Palestinian folkloric dance companies in the United States and thus, is in great demand for performances by the Arab community.
TITLE: Sabbal Oyounoh and Mareyah
CHOREOGRAPHER: Wael Elbhassy
DANCERS: Saji Abuomar, Wael Elbhassy, Amir Hasan, Christina Khalil, Loubna Qutami Amani Shoman, Debbie Smith, Jamil Wakeem
Al Juthoor presents the Palestinian style of dabkeh, with two new dances choreographed by Wael Elbhassy. The first piece is set to the traditional song, Sabb al Oyounoh (She Fluttered Her Eyes), recorded by Ashraf Abul Leil, who renders the vocal line on the mijwiz, a double reed folk instrument. The choreography is similar to how it would be danced in a social situation, in a line, with the dancers’ arms linked by the hands or across the shoulders. The second piece, Maraeyah, is more elaborate and theatrical, with expanded stage patterns and partnering. It is set to a traditional Bedouin song that originated in Jordan but is commonly heard in Palestine. This version was recorded by Jordanian singer Omar Abdeilat, and incorporates the bagpipe, which was introduced during the colonial era by British military bands. The title of the song literally means, “Are you shepherded by someone?” (as in cared for or protected), or more colloquially, “Are you available?!”
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