Video: NYC dabke dancers respond to ZviDance ‘Israeli Dabke’

ActivismIsrael/Palestine
on 13 Comments

ZviDance, a New York based dance company founded by Israeli-born dancer and choreographer Zvi Gotheiner, has appropriated Dabke and added it to their repertoire, performing at multiple venues and most recently, as part of Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors festival. Although ZviDance acknowledges that Dabke’s roots are in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine, the Company fails to realize that by performing Dabke and labeling it Israeli, they are engaging in cultural appropriation. We acknowledge that culture is fluid but so long as there is inequality, there can be no cultural exchange.

We are dancers in a New York-based Dabke troupe. This message is in response to ZviDance’s Dabke performance at Lincoln Center. Zvi, you’re right. Dabke’s roots originate in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. And yes, Dabke comes from the Arabic word meaning “stomping the ground.”

We get that your goal is “cross cultural” expression, but Zvi, your delivery just misses the mark. As dancers, we know that art is a powerful thing. Art has the power to change people. But stomp as hard as you might, art will not break down real physical barriers that separate people. You can’t simply dance away barriers and borders that are policed by tanks and teenage soldiers armed with lethal weapons.

Palestinians and Israelis could never dance together so long as a concrete wall divides them. While you, and other Israelis have appropriated Dabke for your own purposes, and no one restricts your free cultural expression, Palestinians have been arrested for dancing Dabke by the Israeli military. Their right to free expression is limited by the Israeli military occupation that governs their lives.

We all know that under Israeli law, Israelis and Palestinians do not have equal rights. Like it or not, by appropriating dabke, and labeling it Israeli, you further the power imbalance. This makes us feel taken advantage of.

Exploited.

Commodfied.

You may not realize it but your cultural appropriation is our cultural loss.

Dabke is inherently communal; hand in hand, stomping in unison, we express our joys and sorrows alike. Our problem is not with Israelis dancing Dabke. Our real problem is with the whitewashing of reality and ignoring the consequences it has on the people who live it.

Dabke dancers across the world have a message for ZviDance: our cultural heritage is not your natural resource.

Join us in asking ZviDance to stop its cultural appropriation.

Tweet at ZviDance, Lincoln Center, and Out of Doors:
@LincolnCenter
@ZviDance
@LCOutOfDoors

13 Responses

  1. eGuard
    August 5, 2013, 11:22 am

    The ZviDance Dabke is in the “Israeli Contemporary Dance” program by the American Dance Institute. In collaboration with the Embassy of Israel so up for boycotting. The Program has more groups and performances announced.

    link to americandance.org
    link to americandance.org

    Detail: at the Zvi site the announcement adds this: “ZviDance shares the program with El Gusto, an ensemble comprised of Jewish and Muslim musicians who come together to create incredible music”. So turning chaabi into “Jewish” has also started.

    See under Events: August 3, unfold by clicking the “/+/” mark.
    link to zvidance.com

    • tokyobk
      August 5, 2013, 5:42 pm

      eGuard, so Jews and Muslims coming together to make Music is “turning chaabi into ‘Jewish’.”?

      What is One State of equal citizens regardless of religion or ethnicity supposed to look like in your mind?

      The point this troop (I hope) is making is that normalizing relations on the stage while they are not normal in real life is unacceptable. PS I have seen the dance (or a version of it) at a Jewish Persian wedding as well.

      The idea that Jews need to keep their meddling hands off of the other pure cultures (and the concomitant: just who do those Jews think they are by separating from humanity) is something quite different than liberation.

      This line should be bright.

      • eljay
        August 5, 2013, 6:26 pm

        tokyobk, I continue to have tremendous respect for most of the things you write, including your above post. Thank you.

      • tokyobk
        August 6, 2013, 7:55 am

        Appreciated.

      • eGuard
        August 5, 2013, 7:08 pm

        No. Chaabi is Algerian culture. Not religious.

        And, of course, keep boycotting.

  2. Dutch
    August 5, 2013, 12:31 pm

    Bravo!

    • just
      August 5, 2013, 5:17 pm

      Ditto, Dutch!

      First it was hummus, now the cultural appropriation is Dabke.

      Stomp on, brave dancers!

  3. Citizen
    August 6, 2013, 10:13 am

    From Wikipedia on Israeli Dance:
    “Major folk influences include the Hora, which is originally a Romanian folk dance form, the Yemenite Jewish dance tradition, the Hasidic (Eastern European Jewish) dance tradition, and other Eastern European folk dance traditions. There are many debka-type Israeli folk dances; the debka is originally a Bedouin folk dance form.”

  4. Citizen
    August 6, 2013, 10:18 am

    Dabke (also spelt dabka and dabkeh, pronouced dab-k’ mening, ‘stamping of the feet’) is the national dance of Lebanon, but also is popular in Iraq, Palestine and Syria. It’s a folk dance which is usually performed in lines.

  5. Citizen
    August 6, 2013, 10:55 am

    Origin of Lebanonese dabke: link to ulcm.org

  6. Ringo Kid
    August 8, 2013, 10:28 am

    This utter stupidity about cultural appropriation, The next thing these moaners are going to do is accuse the Jews of breach of patent!
    Debkas have been a part of Israeli folk dance since before the state of Israel was established.
    To be bringing this up as an issue now is cynical, disingenous opportunism – the action of desperate fools.

    • Annie Robbins
      August 8, 2013, 11:14 am

      Debkas have been a part of Israeli folk dance since before the state of Israel was established.

      somebody should tell wiki: link to en.wikipedia.org

      you don’t happen to have an early pre/non-hasbara source for your allegation do you? something last century perhaps?

      • Ringo Kid
        August 8, 2013, 6:43 pm

        If you follow this dimwitted logic the Jews would be entitled to sue the Christians and Muslims for religious appropriation.

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