Pierre Dulaine – Offering Hope in a Broken World | The Teacher’s Corner
The Teacher’s Corner is a series that is addressed to… Yes, you guessed it right: teachers. Today’s world-known teachers are letting you in on their secret weapons and presenting the roadmap of their inspiring life journeys.
A journey of many destinations
I was born in Jaffa, Palestine in 1944 before the state of Israel was created, coming from a Palestinian and Catholic mother and an Irish and Protestant father. When the state of Israel was created we had to flee with guns to our heads. I was only 4 years old. Ireland was going to be our new home because my father had relatives there. Those hopes were soon shattered, and in only 6 months we were on a plane to Jordan, where my mom’s sister lived.
My childhood reminds me of Amman. There, I attended the College De La Salle. During school hours I spoke French, on the street Arabic and English at home. It was a colorful and multicultural existence. But peace was not there to be found.
The start of my dancing career
In 1956, the Suez Canal crisis in Egypt began and we fled to a new destination: Birmingham, England. There I spent my coming of age years, and at the age of 14, inspired by a school friend of mine, I started doing ballroom dancing.
London was the city of my 20s and it opened up many doors for me. I started making a name for myself. During those years, I won the Duel of the Giants dancing competition in 1967 and 1969 at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Eventually, I got a job as a Cruise Director and after 6 months of cruising the Caribbean, I got off in New York for a two-week holiday. Those two-weeks turned into years. I’ve been in NY since 1971. There I met my dancing partner Yvonne Marceau and together we won the exhibition section four times at the Mecca of Ballroom dancing – the Blackpool Dance Festival.
We hit a home run and we appeared on Broadway, in a musical called Grand Hotel. That’s where things really took off. It lifted the money worry off my shoulders and I decided to make hay while the sun shined. I volunteered as a ballroom teacher at a school. That was the flying start of Dancing Classrooms.
My life turned into film and documentary
CBS television came and filmed children in one of our schools for a six minute news segment. Two weeks later I got a call from the producer Diane Nabatoff, and she told me she wanted to make a movie about my work with underprivileged children in New York. It was called Take the lead and it starred Antonio Banderas.
A year before, we had another experience with a documentary called Mad Hot Ballroom and that was about the children from the Bronx. Later on, I got back to my hometown, Jaffa, where I thought 10-year-old Palestinian-Israeli and Jewish-Israeli children to dance and compete together.
600 000 children from all over the world were in Dancing Classrooms
Everything I did in life was because I wanted to give back to society. I volunteered my way into teaching, I found that I was good at it and I loved the children. Some of the kids did not like it so much at the beginning but it grew on them.
After my performance days were over I segued into the Dancing Classrooms.This is a Nonprofit organization where the schools pay us 50% and we must raise the other 50% by asking people to donate. From then I have traveled to various places. I did Dancing in Berlin, Dancing in Birmingham, I am now doing dancing in Amman.
We use ballroom dance as a medium to nurture positive qualities such as tolerance, confidence, self-esteem. These are skills that will stay with them for life. Funny enough, our best teachers are non ballroom dancers. You might wonder why is that. Well, it’s simply because ballroom dancers want to teach ballroom dancing whereas Dancing Classrooms is a social and emotional arts and education program – that’s the Dulaine Teaching Method into play.
Our program is part of the school day, is not after school. We give them homework: they can write about how they feel when they dance with a boy or a girl; they find out about different dances around the world and geography. So all of that is not just ‘slow, slow, quick, quick’, it’s a social and emotional part that is the key and not just the dancing.
I am now happy to say that the program has reached over 600 000 children around the world in various countries. In NY alone we are in over 240 state schools, where we teach 25 000 children, and 50 000 children every year around the world.
My method of teaching aka The Dulaine method
One day I was asked by our Dancing Classrooms director to write down what is it that I do. I said I don’t know what I do, I’m just doing. So he interviewed all the teachers he was working with, he observed me teach and we wrote down 6 essential things that became the now known Dulaine method:
- Respect and compassion for everyone
- Being present (Stop teaching about what you’re going to eat tonight.)
- Creating a safe place
- Command and control (You might have 30 children who really don’t want to dance.)
- Humor and joy (Make it fun!)
I have opened a goodwill bank account
I came across this expression which I love “I have opened a goodwill bank account”. Essentially, I go around spreading goodness. And that’s what I’m doing here in Jordan. I’m working at schools, volunteering. Also, I am doing a project in January in Stockholm, in Sweden with abused young men and women. I’m working with them through dancing. If there’s a project that touches my mind, I will just go and do it.
I think charitable giving can be at any age, and you can always help someone every day on the street, on the subway, wherever you are there is someone. You can start off with a smile.
I was blessed to have had ballroom dancing in my life, I was blessed to have done something extremely different than other people. I work with autistic children, or children with down syndrome, adults from homeless shelters, and people from psychiatric clinics. With the help of ballroom dancing I have reached and touched all of those people. Therefore, I really believe that if there are other ballroom dancers out there who feel they might be inspired by what am I, I am grateful.
To conclude, I want to offer you my two cents on how you can make yours life and other people’s life more meaningful:
Go and touch someone in an emotional and a respectful way and share a moment with that person. When you touch someone everything leads to other things.
Be grateful for what you’ve got until you can afford what you want.
Open up a goodwill bank account.
If you want to hear more about his story, you can listen to our podcast with Piere Dulaine here.
Pierre Dulaine won the Blackpool exhibition section four times with his partner Yvonne Marceau. He received the Americans for the Arts Award, the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the Carl Alan Award or the United Nations nomination as a Goodwill Ambassador for promoting peace. And more than anything he founded a new teaching method called The Dulaine teaching method which combines the love for humankind with the love for dance. Get to know more of him by accessing one of his most important projects: http://www.dancingclassrooms.org/