Pierre Dulaine has achieved world-wide fame first as a Ballroom Dancer & later as a teacher who uses dance to transform the lives of troubled kids. Who knows why this works, but it seems to: Dulaine appeared as himself in a 2005 doc called Mad Hot Ballroom, and he was played by Antonio Bandaras (yowza!) in the 2006 BioPic Take the Lead.
In 1994, long before ballroom dancing received mainstream acclaim through the wildly popular TV show Dancing With The Stars, Dulaine created the “Dancing Classrooms” program which has become his life’s work and lasting legacy.
Dulaine was born in the city of Jaffa – then part of Mandate Palestine — in April 1944. As he tells us in Dancing in Jaffa, his mother was part Palestinian and part French, and his father was a British soldier of Irish descent. These were complicated times and Dulaine’s heritage magnified the complexity considerably: Palestinian, French, British, Irish… Oy!
The one thing Dulaine clearly was not was Jewish, and in 1948, after Jaffa became part of the new state of Israel, his family began wandering, living for a time in Amman, Jordan and eventually settling in Birmingham, England.
Decades later, after the huge success of the “Dancing Classrooms” program — which now serves thousands of children all around the world — Dulaine has returned to his birthplace to sprinkle magic dust over a set of selected schools in Jaffa, intending to heal all the conflicts in the Middle East with a one and a two and a cha-cha-cha. And yet somehow, once again, Pierre pulls the rabbits out of his hat. Forget about Israeli kids dancing with Palestinian kids… the Palestinian kids are dancing with each other… Double Oy!!
By the time of the final competition, Hebrew-speaking children are dancing with children who mostly speak Arabic, and Palestinian mothers in hijab are sitting next to Israeli mothers in tee shirts. The boys and girls on the dance floor — arrayed as couples — are poised and graceful, their teachers are beaming, and everyone in the bleachers is cheering them on.
Amazingly Israeli filmmaker Hilla Medalia is saved from her own treacle by an ungainly girl named Noor. Whenever Noor was at the center of the film, my heart was on my sleeve. (JLH: 3.5/5)
Click HERE for our FF2 Haiku.
To read more more about Dancing in Jaffa from the Jewish POV, click HERE to read my review for the JUF News.
Top Photo: Noor Gabai.
Bottom Photo: Pierre Dulaine surrounded by kids.
Photo Credits: Hilla Medalia courtesy of IFC.
There are many little scenes between students (half of whom are girls), between teachers (most of whom are women), & between students & teachers (including a critical scene in which a female teacher asks the girls in Noor’s class to tell her — face-to-face — why they don’t like her).
That scene was painful to watch, but the reward is seeing the beautiful relationship Noor has with her mother. Their scenes together are beyond compare!
BONUS: At the Q&A
Members of the Dancing in Jaffa team did a world-wide PR tour which included Paris (see above) & NYC. Richard & I went to the screening at IFC Center on April 12th. Here are some of the things I learned…