Pierre Dulaine

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Pierre Dulaine
BornJaffa, Israel
Known forDancing Classrooms
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Pierre Dulaine
BornJaffa, Israel
Known forDancing Classrooms

Pierre Dulaine (born 1944) is a well-known ballroom dancer and dance instructor. He invented the Dulaine method of teaching dance. He also developed Dancing Classrooms, a social development program for 5th grade children that uses ballroom dancing as a vehicle to change the lives of the children and their families.

Notably, his early works with children was fictionalised in the film Take the Lead, starring Antonio Banderas as Pierre Dulaine.


Early life

Pierre Dulaine was born in Jaffa, Palestine in 1944. His Irish father was serving with the British Army stationed in Palestine; his mother is part Palestinian and part French. In 1948 his parents left Palestine. After eight months of wandering around first in Cyprus, then in England and Ireland, Pierre's family settled in Amman, Jordan. Growing up in Amman, Pierre learned to speak French at school, Arabic on the street and English at home. In 1956, because of the problems in Egypt and the Suez Canal (see Suez Crisis), Pierre's parents had to flee yet again, leaving everything behind. With a stop in Beirut the family resettled in Birmingham, England, where one year later at age 14, Pierre began his dancing career.

By the time Dulaine was 18 he took his Associate Degree as a professional dancer. And at 21, he took his three majors exams in Ballroom, Latin dance and Olde Tyme (dances that fall under the Sequence Faculty of the ISTD, generally dances that pre-date WWI) all in one day, a feat that had not been accomplished before[citation needed] Not only did Pierre pass the exams, but he passed with Highly Commended[clarification needed] and became a full member of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing.

With this early success under his belt, Dulaine soon went on to twice win the "Duel of the Giants" at the Royal Albert Hall in London and captured the "All England Professional Latin American Championship". In 1971 he worked as a solo dancer at the famous Talk of the Town in London's West End, as well as at a late, late Night Club called L'Hirondelle where he made friends with many interesting 'artistes'. Pierre next went to Nairobi, Kenya and worked in Cabaret with the world renowned Bluebell Troupe from Paris at the Nairobi Casino for a year. Finally, Pierre signed on as a cruise director on a ship sailing out of New York City to the Caribbean Islands. In 1972, "I got off of the cruise ship thinking I would be in New York City for a two-week holiday but I got a job at an Arthur Murray dance studio and I have been in New York ever since."

In 1973, with a background in ballet, Yvonne Marceau came into Arthur Murray's for a teacher's job and in January 1976 Pierre and Yvonne became dance partners. They went to England to study for three months with John DelRoy and emerged as a dance team that won numerous awards and accolades, including the 1977, 1978, 1979 and 1982 British Exhibition Championships, Dance Magazine's award for excellence, the National Dance Council of America award, the Dance Educators of America Award, and the Americans for the Arts "Arts in Education" 2005 award.

In 1984, Pierre and Yvonne started the American Ballroom Theater Company. They made their company debut at the Dance Theatre Workshop in October 1984 and in March 1986 did a two-week engagement at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. After that start, their company traveled all over the US, Europe and the Far East. In July 1989 Pierre and Yvonne joined the workshop for Tommy Tune's Broadway show Grand Hotel and danced on Broadway for 2½ years, finishing with a five month run in London's West End.

Pierre has been called a "Dancer and Teacher extraordinaire" by the New York Times and (with Yvonne) has received the Astaire Award for "Best Dancing on Broadway" in Grand Hotel. He has been a faculty member of the School of American Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and the Juilliard School.

In recognition of his achievements, Dulaine received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in May 2011.

The Dulaine Method: Changing Lives Through Dance

Over the past century, there have been numerous attempts to develop educational techniques that help children acquire the skills they need to become successful adults. The Montessori method, Waldorf Education and the Suzuki method are three of the most thorough, and successful, of those efforts.

What makes these methods so successful is that they combine a clear and compelling philosophy, a systematic training for those adults who will instruct the children, a program design that inherently coincides with the developmental needs of the children to be trained, and the ability to replicate the program on a large scale.

  1. The Montessori method, with a philosophy grounded in guiding a child's inner self to perfection, is completely focused on the emerging developmental needs of the child informing the Teacher about when to introduce certain learning experiences.
  2. Waldorf education is based on a holistic view of human development, providing a detailed, artistic curriculum that responds to and enhances the child's developmental phases, from early childhood through high school, enhancing academic learning through music, movement and art.
  3. The Suzuki method functions similarly: with a philosophical goal of bringing beauty to the spirit of the young child, it builds on the essential developmental drive within young children for language acquisition.

Dancing classrooms shares elements of these educational philosophies, combining a clear and compelling philosophy with a rigorous and systematic adult training model that dramatically coincides with the developmental need within 10-11 year old children to reinforce their social skills just prior to the onset of puberty. And Dancing Classrooms is now being replicated throughout the US and Canada with requests from several other international sites. As with the Montessori and Suzuki programs, at the heart of Dancing Classrooms is a method – the Dulaine Method.

The Dulaine Method philosophy

Respect & Compassion: At the very core of the Dulaine Method philosophy is the essential respect that goes into being a Lady and being a Gentleman. Dancing Classrooms is a program that demands that the children not only treat others with respect but also encourages the children to respect themselves.

Coupled with respect is compassion. Perhaps it is Pierre's own childhood that predisposes him to walk into a classroom full of children who struggle to believe in themselves, open his arms and heart to them, and then guide them gently along a journey that leads these young people to joy and accomplishment.

Respect and compassion are the foundational elements of the Dulaine Method. Unfortunately, very few adults know how to genuinely treat children with respect. And even fewer adults seem to remember what it was like being a child.

Being Present: Probably the most difficult skill for any teacher to learn is the ability to be completely in the moment when they are teaching. Children in particular are extremely aware of when the adult in charge (parent, teacher, coach) is not really there; and when a child senses that distance, woe be unto that adult.

Pierre's ability to "be here now" enables him to observe every subtle nuance of student, and group, behavior. He can see when a child is nervous, not paying attention, when the group is becoming antsy and he can respond to those issues immediately, thus keeping the classroom experience flowing. Being present also allows Pierre to express his own positive emotions towards the children at precisely the moment the children need that affirmation.

Creating a Safe Place: Asking children to take the extraordinary risk of embarrassing themselves in front of their peers is precisely what Dancing Classrooms does. And the only reason that the children are willing to take this risk is because Pierre has perfected a way to make that experience safe.

A Dancing Classrooms class is a place in which everyone is equal: the students, the Teaching Artist, and the elementary school staff that are participating. In modern jargon we call this creating a therapeutic milieu, an environment so different from these children's normal daily environment that simply being in that room and being part of that collective group experience changes that child.

Command & Control: Clearly, if you are going to move 25 children through twenty 45 minute classes and have them successfully learn seven dances, you need order and discipline. Pierre is in command of the class from the moment he begins until the moment the children leave the room.

An essential part of the Dulaine Method is developing the craft of managing the Group. When teachers are being taught how to work with children their training is invariably focused on individual child development. Rarely, if ever, are student teachers taught about group dynamics and how to manage a group of children.

Language: Body & Verbal Language, both body and verbal, are the great connectors in Dancing Classrooms. Pierre's entire physical affect is one of openness, warmth, and genuine affection for the children. His verbal repertoire is a consistent barrage of positive comments. There is no denying that when Pierre combines his body and verbal language he is a force the children simply cannot resist.

Humor & Joy: Dulaine has been commended for bringing humor to the classroom. Gentle humor can help a shy child become less self-conscious; humor with that same child handled poorly can make him retreat and never come back out. He is playful, he is present, and the children can sense that he is just plain happy to be with them. He also has this little habit of playfully slapping the students at Dancing Classrooms with his tie.

Being in such a safe place, where the boundaries are clear, the teacher is fully present, where respect and compassion reign – these are the elements that bring joy into the lives of the Dancing Classrooms children. And, as one Teaching Artist states:

Dancing Classrooms is not about teaching ballroom dancing. The dance is a tool for getting the children to break down social barriers, learn about honor and respect, treat others carefully, improve self-confidence, communicate and cooperate, and accept others even if they are different.


"Nowadays, I don't say that the world is uncivil, but I believe we don't have enough civility in life and this is what this program teaches. If we can instill civility into children at the age of 10 or 11 - early enough in life - we can nurture it and have it grow with them. It will only make them better human beings." – Pierre Dulaine on ballroom dancing in schools.

"The message is still the same. The children learn ballroom dancing, yes; but the real thing they are learning are the transferable skills of decorum, etiquette, being polite with each other, respect, dignity. All of these things they are learning when they really need them, so I had no qualms with it being changed to high school. I don't really care if you're a 10-year old or 17-year old (that) when you're 25 that you remember the steps, but the transferable skills of being polite and knowing how to treat another human being is what my message is all about." – Pierre Dulaine on the message of Take the Lead.

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