One can imagine what was going on in the minds of the twenty or so Seth Boyden fifth graders when they entered the stage Thursday morning, Feb. 10.
In front of parents, principals, executives and photographers, these boys and girls were going to learn how to dance.
With each other.
One would be forgiven for thinking that in less than an hour these kids were not going to learn much about manners, respect or even much about dancing. But Pierre Dulaine is not your average teacher. The inspiration for the movie Take The Lead — which starred Antonio Banderas — Dulaine is a charismatic and charming man who knows the secret to teaching children. His "Dancing Classrooms" program is based on respect, compassion and humor. "You have to respect the children at their level," he says. "What is important is that one does not abuse the power of an adult" when teaching.
So Dulaine joked and danced and in no time had boys politely asking girls to dance. And the children danced, ballroom style, and even seemed to enjoy it. For a finale, each student asked an adult to dance, turning an ordinary school auditorium into a swinging dancehall.
Anthony Mazzocchi, South Orange Maplewood Director of Music and Arts, noted, "Bringing a program like this to the schools is important because, while academics are obviously important, art forms like this give students a way to process data in a creative way."
Justin, one of the students, had no trouble summing up how he felt about Dulaine. "You're awesome!" he said.
NJPAC is the licensed New Jersey provider of Dancing Classrooms, which is just one of many offerings from NJPAC Arts Education In-School programs. Dancing Classrooms is generously supported by Victoria Foundation, David and Marian Rocker, Merck Company Foundation, The Prudential Foundation, Jennifer Chalsty, Turrell Fund, TD Charitable Foundation, Walmart Foundation, and The George A. Ohl, Jr. Foundation.
The program was also profiled in the award-winning 2005 documentary film Mad Hot Ballroom.