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Dancing Classrooms: Learning from legendary New York dance teacher

Dancing Classrooms : Learning from legendary New York dance teacher

World-class dancer and teacher Pierre Dulaine is starting a nationwide pilot project at the Karl-Simrock School, encouraging mutual respect and trust through dance.

On Monday morning, the sport class for the fifth grade at Karl-Simrock School looks a little different: music echoes through the sports hall as well as strict instructions from the world-class dancer Pierre Dulaine, and everyone is fully concentrating on dancing. Foxtrot, Merengue, Chachacha or the Macarena – all this awaits schoolgirls and boys at three Bonn schools in the coming weeks as part of the pilot project “Dancing Classrooms” with Dulaine.

The New York dance teacher has been running his “Dancing Classrooms” since 1994, first in America, then in Israel and now the project is also to be run in Germany. Over ten weeks, the schoolgirls and boys will get instruction in ballroom dancing from Dulaine twice a week. What is important is not only the joy of dancing but above all respect, tolerance and manners that may seem old-fashioned but which provide a ray of hope in an increasingly brutal society.

Pierre Dulaine always undertakes the project with children from the fifth grade. At age eleven and twelve, they still have not reached puberty, making it a sort of role play if they can play gentlemen, explains Arndt Hilse, Karl-Simrock School’s director. Alongside Hardtberg Secondary School and the Nicolaus-Cusanus Gymnasium, Karl-Simrock School is part of the pilot project in Bonn, supported by the Bonn Culture Office, because of its close contacts with the General German Dancing Teachers Association (ADTV). It was looking for cooperating schools to bring the project, which has already been a great success in America and Israel, to Germany. Pierre Dulaine goes to social and political flashpoints with his “Dancing Classrooms” and uses ballroom dancing to help convey respect and tolerance to the children.

The Dancing Classroom in Jaffa, Dulaine’s birthplace, was a very special and very personal project. He worked there with Jewish and Muslim Israelis and removed prejudices and hatred through dancing together. The start in Bonn is much easier. “In Jaffa, enemies danced with each other, but in the end, children are the same all over the world: no ten-year-old wants to dance with a ten-year-old. But we take very small steps and look at the results of the third lesson – they are already dancing in the proper dance hold!” says Dulaine, thrilled about the first lessons in Bonn.

There is a special reason why he is teaching in Bonn for a complete ten weeks although he has already been retired for several years. The ADTV set up a course for dance teachers from all over Germany in October to be able to offer the “Dancing Classrooms” nationwide in future. “We have known Pierre Dulaine for 30 years and have always followed what he does,” says Jürgen Ball from the ADTV. “The sustainability of the project is very important to us so we asked him to present the “Dancing Classrooms” at our congress last April and to personally come to Bonn to train the teachers.”

Dulaine’s message is getting through to children in Bonn, who themselves talk of different manners they are taking home with them, the joy of dancing with each other and the different way of teaching sport. School director Hilse is looking forward to the coming weeks: “I don’t think that as director I will be able to implement such a wonderful project again!”

(Original text: Verena Düren. Translation: kc)