Dances of Dubai - 7 Dance Forms that are Unique to Dubai

When we talk about Dubai and its dance forms, we need to focus upon the United Arab Emirates as a whole. UAE has had a very rich past and the people have always expressed the emotions through the various practices of dance and music. Hence, dance is very important and close to the people of the Gulf region. Dance is used by the local people on the occasions of marriages, festivals and often times, even parties. It is a means of celebration and dates back to the days when the natives were people who lived in the heart of the desert, with nothing substantial to show for, their dance is an act of celebration and rejoice, of what they have achieved in the recent history. With the modernisation of places like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, it becomes ever more important to emphasise on the importance of this culture, and that is exactly what the people have been doing.

Here is a list of Dances of Dubai that will make you start tapping your feet, gather around in a circle for a rhythmic motion and get dancing!

1. The Ayyalah

It is also known as Al Ayala, Iyala or the stick dance. The dance form is one of the most famous traditional dances of Dubai and UAE. Al Ayala is a dance form that simulates war, with a deep beat of the Al Ras (large drum), which sets up a tempo for the Takhamir drums, which are smaller in size. The dance form is organised with two rows of men, who stand in front of one another.

The men in one row stand close to each other, so as to signify their unity and cooperation. These men then hold their spears or sticks, which represent the swords of war, and sway them along with their heads on the beats of the drums. There are additional dancers as well, who run up around or between the two rows and carry sticks, spear or guns.

This dance form is performed only by men and are needed minimum 25 of them, which can go up to 200 at one time. The dance is open to all, which means that people of all classes, castes and races can come and join the event. But, the role of the dance leader is inherited and it is their responsibility to train the other dancers. The more the number of dancers in the group, the more spectacular is the Ayyalah considered. Researches have revealed that this dramatic dance form migrated to the Emirates from Najd, Saudi Arabia during the 19th century.

Women also have a version of this dance for themselves, where they wear vibrant dresses, sway their hair to the beats of the drum and recite their poetry or lyrics to commemorate the victory.

2. Yolla

It is also called Yowla or Yola, this dance of Dubai is quite similar to the Ayyalah in the way that even this is supposed to commemorate victory in wars. This dance form consists of 2 or 4 rows of men facing one another, carrying sticks, spear or guns and move in rhythm to the musical instruments.

The difference begins with the type of instruments used, here, The Doumbek( a drum made of goatskin stretched over a ceramic base) forms the percussion element of the music, and the Oud provides the melody on the strings. The dancers move backwards and forwards, which signify their victory and defeats in the wars.

3. Liwa

Liwa has a history which dates back to the days when the East African traders came into the Arabian region and brought with them this dance form as well. Hence, one can find traces of African influence in this dance form. One can observe the various instrument used by the people for this dance form - a Mizmar(a flute-like instrument, with a wide open mouth) and 3 kinds of drums - the Jabwah, Shindo, and Jasser.

The Liwa dance form is usually carried out in occasions such as wedding processions, and other celebrations. The dance opens with 6 minutes of Mizmar performances which are then followed by the beats of the three drums, and then the 10 singers and dancers join in. After all of them have joined, the procession picks up the pace and reaches its maximum intensity in about 20 minutes when it ends. A large number of males arrange themselves into a circle formation, which is usually directed by one or more drum players. A man stands in the middle of the circle and plays a simple reed instrument. The circle claps and dances, while individuals join a line which rhythmically paces around the inside of the circle.

4. The Haban

The name of this dance in Dubai is derived from the major stringed instrument used for providing the tempo and melody. Haban is an alternative major dance form in Dubai. It is also called Khayali or Khamiri. This dance form is predominant in wedding celebrations and such.

The Haban is performed in groups of three. The first group consists of 8 males, the second group consists of 8 women and the third group has 10 artists who play the melody onto which the men and women dance. There are specific music instruments which go along with this dance, which perform according to the efficiency of the performers. Both teams of male and female, perform a continuous 2-step rhythm moving back and forth. The performance usually has a conductor who is essentially the player of the Haban or Jorba.

5. Mated

It is a popular dance form performed in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It originates from the word “mawlid”, which translates to “birthday of the prophet”. This dance form is different from the others in the sense that it is perfumed purely on religious occasions. Also, this form of dance in Dubai can be traced back to the era of Sufis.

The dance is performed to win two different sections. The first section is called the Mated al-Sira, which consists of reading about the life of the prophet Mohammad. The second section is called Mated al Samaa, which can be understood as the movement of pieces. Thirty people, stand in from of each other in two rows, the first row is called Ahl al Samaa or “the hearing people”, who recite while also playing the tambourines. The second row is called the Al Radida or “the chorus”, which recite the key phrases from the first row’s recitation. The performance is started off by the recitation of the Barda poem, which praises the prophet.

6. Harbiya

This form of dance in Dubai is yet another rendition of the Ayyalah performed on special occasions. In this, two rows of men stand in front of each other, with the recitation based on the repetition of unaccompanied melodic phrases. Between the two rows of men, there is a group of people with rifles, which provide punctuations to the various recitations. If there is an increase in the number of dancers, the row begins to divide itself based on ranks.

7. Nuban

It is one of the most unusual dances of Dubai and UAE in general. This dance form is used to eradicate the presence of jinn, or an evil spirit from the body of an individual. Just like Liwa, this originated in East Africa and was dissipated into the Arabian region by travellers and traders.

The aim of the dance is to drive away from the jinn from the human body. In this, the members of the family surround the possessed body and chant special religious verses, which along with deep-throated drums, set a hypnotic rhythm. An elderly person gestures and dances to drive evil spirits away.

The UAE is a culturally rich place, with a plethora of dances of Dubai to look upon and marvel at, which just demonstrates the rich heritage of the region. And it is quoted surprisingly to see that despite the tremendous amount of modernisation and development happening particularly in places such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the culture has been preserved in a good manner for the future generations as well. So if you catch one of these dances of Dubai on your trip to the beautiful country, do remember to soak it all in!

This post was published by Shivang Uniyal

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