Dancing in Jaffa

Last Updated: January 20, 2015By Tags: , ,

The name Pierre Dulaine might ring familiar to film lovers. His years spent teaching ballroom dancing inspired the screenplay for the feature film “Take the Lead,” (2006) starring Antonio Banderas and Liz Friedlander. In that film Dulaine, who is a quadruple-ballroom dancing world champion, launched several schools in New York and encouraged social diversity and bridging communities together.

“Take The Lead” on IMDB

Born in Jaffa of Palestinian parents, Dulaine had been thinking of returning to his birth city to create a dance school that would encourages Palestinian children to dance with Jewish kids. Documentary filmmaker Hilla Medalia followed this demanding experiment over a fifteen week-period with “Dancing in Jaffa” (IFC Distribution).

We quickly discover that the difficulties faced by Delaine are legion: first and foremost, bias is rampant. The youngsters who signed up are terribly prejudiced toward those they see as their natural foes, this without even knowing them. If the director highlights Israelis’ reticence towards Palestinians, who they consider of marginal relevance and living in an occupied territory, she easily reveals Palestinians’ uncommunicativeness to us, also.

Delaine is faced with a double-challenge: to overcome the reluctance of people who have been locked in a cold war for seventy years, but also their resisting the idea that a boy can dance with a girl (and therefore touch her) without necessarily having to marry her. The director shows perfectly the edgy reactions of the children, revealing how fundamental the misunderstandings are between the two communities. As she leaves the school grounds, we see the endless stream of Palestinian demonstrators demanding equal treatment, under the strict glare of an Israeli army on edge.

It is in this terrible context that Dulaine’s school, a brick-and-mortar haven of hope held together only by his sheer power of persuasion, is brought into existence. Dulaine, a warm but demanding man, struggles to win the approval of others for a project that’s got D.O.A. written all over it.  And yet, his frenzied optimism will ultimately knock down the walls that had been erected between the divided communities.

Follow Ali Naderzad on Twitter @alinaderzad

Dancing in Jaffa (official site)

“Pierre Dulaine, Dance Instructor” (BBC interview)