Pierre Dulaine and his students prove hatred between Israelis and Palestinians is not innate and can be overcome in this beautiful film, Dancing in Jaffa.
In Dancing in Jaffa, dance instructor Pierre Dulaine travels to Israel to teach 150 Jewish and Palestinian children in a ten-week course on Latin dance. The teacher and four-time ballroom dance champion is the founder of his non-profit organization called Dancing Classrooms. He takes his tutoring program to Jaffa, Israel, the city of his birth, to instill mutual respect between 10 and 11 year-old Jewish and Palestinian youth by having them dance and compete with one another.
The film focuses heavily on three children and their ten-week journey through the program. Throughout the film, the kids learn to respect each other, and confront issues such as group identity, racial segregation, and religious prejudice. The challenges that Dulaine encounters don’t just stem from the children, however, but also from outside forces, such as the youth’s parents and Islamic religious rules regarding dance. The ten-week dance program is also set against the backdrop of increasing religions and ethnic tensions between Jews and Palestinians, for which Dulaine’s hometown of Jaffa has been an active front.
The filmmakers have stated that although Dancing in Jaffa is set in Israel, they hope the message of respect and healing transcends geographical, national, ethnic, and religious boundaries. The film’s vision is to teach people about prejudice and hatred, and show that even through something as seemingly innocuous as dance classes, enemies can be brought close and learn to set aside their differences – even while living in the shadow of recent conflict.
Following current events in Gaza, Dancing in Jaffa seems more important than ever. The dust is now settling following a seven-week Israeli offensive into Palestinian territory, and tensions between Jewish and Palestinian Israelis are higher than they have been in years. In the face of recent hostilities, perhaps now is the time for Jewish and Palestinian youth to come together and close the rift between the two communities which seem to be drifting farther and farther apart. Dancing Classrooms exists to do just that.
Pierre Dulaine hopes that his message and methods can be brought to other parts of the world torn by racial and religious violence, believing that dance has the power to heal rifts and teach co-existence and respect. The ultimate goal of Dulaine’s organization “is to have Dancing Classrooms in every school, in every city, in every country and bring change worldwide. Our film happens to take place in Jaffa but both the film and the program transcend geographic boundaries and can be utilized worldwide.”