Cha cha cha changing lives through dance

By on 07/04/2010 in News

A world-famous ballroom dancer whose inspirational story was portrayed by Hollywood heart-throb Antonio Banderas is in Birmingham teaching schoolchildren how to dance.

Pierre Dulaine was the inspiration for the 2006 film Take the Lead in which Banderas depicts Pierre's efforts to help inner city children in New York gain a sense of self-respect, pride and elegance through ball room dancing.

The award-winning dancer is currently working with 72 ten-year-olds at four primary schools in conjunction with Birmingham City Council's Children's Services.

Pierre believes the increasingly popular dance form can pass on vital life skills to children.

 “We are teaching life lessons wrapped around ballroom dancing,” said the former British champion show dancer.

“It is not a dance programme like Strictly Come Dancing. It is ten-year-olds learning to be ladies and gentlemen. They are learning to treat each other with respect, to have confidence in themselves and have elegance.”

Year five pupils from Turves Green Primary in Northfield, Chad Vale and St George's both in Edgbaston and Chandos Primary in Highgate are currently on the 10-week programme.

Teams of six girls and six boys are taking part from each school and will compete in a final championship on May 5th.

Pierre, who currently lives in New York, has launched the programme in Birmingham because of his teenage connection with the city.

Originally of Palestinian descent, his family moved to Birmingham when he was 13 where his love of ballroom dancing developed.

“I was an immigrant and spoke with an accent. I had no confidence and kids made fun of me at school.

“A friend suggested I go ballroom dancing on Coventry Road so I started dancing at the Jean Johnson school of Ballroom Dancing and that changed my life.”

A successful career followed that took him all over the world and saw him appear on Broadway and the West End.

After experiencing the benefits of ballroom dancing personally, Pierre decided it could be used to teach vital life lessons to children in some of the most challenging circumstances. So, 16 years ago at the age of 50, he set up a not-for-profit organisation called Dancing Classrooms to work in schools.

“In Harlem teachers said what are our children going to do with Ballroom dancing? But when I work with these children you see good things happen. When you put a boy and a girl together and teach them to treat each other like ladies and gentlemen, they become elegant. They learn how to respect one another. It transforms their outlook on life and makes them better human beings.”

Pierre believes what worked in New York can be equally successful in Birmingham.

“Like New York, there are a lot of nationalities and cultures in Birmingham. But ballroom dancing can help breakdown barriers and treats everyone as equal.”

Pierre's dance programme is now taught in more than 400 schools in five countries and 23 cities. Next year, he plans to go back to his roots and get Palestinian and Israeli children dancing together.

So powerful is the civilising power of ballroom dancing according to Pierre, he believes politicians could learn a thing or two from it.

“If the Conservatives and Labour danced together they would have less problems. I think leaders around the world should have a dance with each other.

“The world has become less civilised than ever before. Ballroom dancing is all about control, discipline, respect and building confidence. That is something that can be translated not only into academic life but life beyond the classroom.”

Tony Howell, Strategic Director for Children, Young People and Families, said: “This is a fantastic way of encouraging young children to have more respect for themselves and each other.

“Creative an imaginative projects such as this can have a really positive impact on learning and I fully support Pierre's work.”

ENDS
Further information from Shahid Naqvi 0121 303 3635.

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