Debka Uriah

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Hebrew: דבקה אוריה. Alternative spellings: Debka Uriya, Debka Uriyah.

Circle dance by Moshiko HaLevy, his first folkdance, introduced in 1959. Named for his firstborn son.

The music to Debka Uriah is known as Debkat HaAbir (דבקת האביר). Here is the story of the origin of the dance and music, as told by Moshiko[1]:

The idea of the dance happened because one day, when I was a member of Inbal, Sara Levi-Tanai invited Gurit Kadman to give a lecture about traditional and ethnic style of dances of different communities in the Mediterranean. I was so fascinated by the lecture that at the end I jumped onto the special wood floor of the studio and started making improvisations. I never before did any improvisations in my career. I jumped to the space and started to doing all sorts of movements. I was awakened by the members of Inbal applauding what I did! They said "Where did these elements come from? We never saw anything like it!" I said I don't know, it will take me a little time to bring them back.

So then every day I went to the lobby and tried to remember and practice the elements that I had done. After a week, I found that I had choreographed six different parts. At the beginning I used drums to accompany the dance since I didn't have music. I didn't know where I could find music to accompany the dance. After two or three weeks, a member of Inbal (Tsifyon, the flute player, who passed away many years ago) came to me and said "I think I have a melody to match your dance." I was surprised to see how well this melody matched the dance. I asked if it was OK to use this music. He said not to worry, that he got it from the person who composed it, who said to do whatever you want. I then found out that the music had been composed specially for the dance. The music was composed by Nechamya Sharabi, brother of Boaz Sharabi.

When I finished composing the basic elements, I was asked to come and choreograph this dance for a performing group that belonged to the kibbutzim. They had been invited to perform in a festival in Vienna in 1959, a festival of all the socialistic countries, each of which sent groups to perform. I did this choreography for the group that had been organized for this festival. It didn't have a particular name, dancers were selected from different kibbutzim. I worked with them every day for a month, on Kibbutz Shefayim (just before the Wingate Institute, on the left as you come from Tel Aviv).

Since the group had been hosted by the kibbutz, and were given facilities to practice, they in return gave a performance for the kibbutz and other nearby kibbutzim. The brothers Sharabi came to this performance. The emcee announced that Moshiko choreographed the dance, but didn't mention Nechamya as composer. Nechamya was offended, and when the festival was over, he came to me near the stage, and said "I don't want you to use the melody. I'm going to write a song and call it Debkat HaAbir." I said, why do you react like this? I didn't know what the emcee would do. We're at the beginning of our careers, let's put this aside and maybe some day we will profit from it. But he wouldn't give up, he wrote lyrics and called it Debkat HaAbir.

Meantime, Nechamya emigrated to the US. Fred Berk wanted to record the music because he wanted to teach the dance. Nechamya told him that since he asked permission, he could do it, under the condition that he call it Debkat HaAbir. When the recording was finished and the record came out, everyone saw Debkat HaAbir as the name, even though Fred Berk taught the dance as Debka Uriah. After several years Nechamya returned to Israel and I came to the US and started giving workshops. People asked about the names, and I said if you want to sing the song, call it Debkat HaAbir, and if you want to dance the dance, call it Debka Uriah. I dedicated it to my son on his second birthday. I travelled all over the US and explained what happened, why some people called it HaAbir and some Uriah, saying if you want to sing the song, call it Debkat HaAbir, because the lyrics talk about abir, a warrior. So when I had been sixteen years in US, people now understood and called the dance Debka Uriah.

The original stage choreography (though not the folkdance) ends with the performers taking sliding steps to the right to exit the stage. These same sliding steps form the beginning of Moshiko's dance Bosmat, named for Uriah's daughter, Moshiko's first grandchild.

Fine Points of Choreography

  • In the fourth part, the head faces always front, not turning right and left as in Debka Rafiach.
  • The final part does not consist of an eight count phrase repeated four times. In the first and third repetitions, the steps are R, hold, brush L, fall on L, come back on R, hold, up on both, down on both. In the second and fourth repetitions, the steps are R, hold, brush L, hop on R, forward on L, back on R, up on both, down on both.

Links

  1. Edited transcription of interview with Moshiko, November 2014

A performance of the original stage choreography of Debka Uriah.

Debka Uriah at israelidances.com

Video at Rokdim