Turning Lebanese

So you won the disco-dance contest at your best friend's bar mitzvah, you electric slide in your sleep, and you can salsa and merengue with every Hispanic around. Are you a dancing fool searching for a new groove to master? How about a little dabkeh?

Dabkeh, you ask? That's right. Dabkeh, the number-one dance of Lebanon, known to spark frenzied chains of stomping revelers to jump and turn arm in arm to the throbbing wail of lutes, drums, and singers. Polyrhythmic Middle Eastern vibes that might drive you to dabkeh will emanate for three days this weekend at Our Lady of Lebanon Catholic Church's annual Lebanese Festival.

Fadi Hardan, the church choir director, will get the party going at night via a four-man combo of Lebanese musicians. But don't fret: This isn't church music. Fadi mixes up the more traditional Lebanese tunes with a variety of musical styles from around the Arab world. And he knows how to make the masses boogie: As a studio musician, Fadi worked on the Lebanese-tinged tracks on Colombian/Lebanese pop goddess Shakira's records.

With Fadi as musical director for almost twenty years, the festival has morphed into one of Miami's hottest events for those in the know. Last year thousands of revelers crowded the church's halls to dance and eat. An alternative to the bloated Art Deco Weekend, this gathering promises a buffet full of the freshest and zestiest Middle Eastern treats (kibbe, kebabs, hummus, and tabbouleh) as well as a bazaar hawking Lebanese clothing, costumes, and trinkets.

The bad rap Middle Easterners were getting in the wake of the September 11 attacks led the parishioners to consider canceling this year's festival. Instead they united to make this particular bash symbolic of the thousands of Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian-American families who have a stake in our area. And like the fast-stomping footwork of the dabkeh, the event is the church community's sign of strength.


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