Friday, August 22, 2008

Take the Lead

Pierre Dulaine:  "a man who can dance is the most popular
man in the room"

Antonio Banderas
Take the Lead

The Dulaine Method philosophy
Respect & Compassion: At the very core of the Dulaine Method philosophy is the essential respect that goes into being a Lady and being a Gentleman. In a time when we bemoan the loss of civil discourse and our society seems to become coarser by the day, Dancing Classrooms is a program that demands that the children not only treat others with respect but also encourages the children to respect themselves.
Coupled with respect is compassion. Perhaps it is Pierre’s own childhood that predisposes him to walk into a classroom full of children who struggle to believe in themselves, open his arms and heart to them, and then guide them gently along a journey that leads these young people to joy and accomplishment.
Respect and compassion are the foundational elements of the Dulaine Method. Unfortunately, very few adults know how to genuinely treat children with respect. And even fewer adults seem to remember what it was like being a child.
Being Present: Probably the most difficult skill for any teacher to learn is the ability to be completely in the moment when they are teaching. Children in particular are extremely aware of when the adult in charge (parent, teacher, coach) is not really there; and when a child senses that distance, woe be unto that adult.
Pierre’s ability to “be here now” enables him to observe every subtle nuance of student, and group, behavior. He can see when a child is nervous, not paying attention, when the group is becoming antsy and he can respond to those issues immediately, thus keeping the classroom experience flowing. Being present also allows Pierre to express his own positive emotions towards the children at precisely the moment the children need that affirmation.
Creating a Safe Place: Asking children to take the extraordinary risk of embarrassing themselves in front of their peers is precisely what Dancing Classrooms does. And the only reason that the children are willing to take this risk is because Pierre has perfected a way to make that experience safe.
A Dancing Classrooms class is a place in which everyone is equal: the students, the Teaching Artist, and the elementary school staff that are participating. In modern jargon we call this creating a therapeutic milieu, an environment so different from these children’s normal daily environment that simply being in that room and being part of that collective group experience changes that child.
Command & Control: Clearly, if you are going to move 25 children through twenty 45 minute classes and have them successfully learn seven dances, you need order and discipline. Pierre is in command of the class from the moment he begins until the moment the children leave the room.
An essential part of the Dulaine Method is developing the craft of managing the Group. When teachers are being taught how to work with children their training is invariably focused on individual child development. Rarely, if ever, are student teachers taught about group dynamics and how to manage a group of children. In many ways it is Pierre’s innate understanding of how to use the Group to help the Individual that is the glue that holds the program together. The ability to remain in absolute control of the Group while nurturing the children is one of Pierre’s greatest skills.
Language: Body & Verbal Language, both body and verbal, are the great connectors in Dancing Classrooms. Pierre’s entire physical affect is one of openness, warmth, and genuine affection for the children. His verbal repertoire is a consistent barrage of positive comments. There is no denying that when Pierre combines his body and verbal language he is a force the children simply cannot resist.
Humor & Joy: And last, but by no means least, Pierre brings humor and joy to the teaching experience. Humor is perhaps the most difficult, yet powerful teaching tool for a teacher to master. Gentle humor can help a shy child become less self-conscious; humor with that same child handled poorly can make him retreat and never come back out. As clich├ęd as it sounds, Pierre allows his inner child to fully emerge when he is teaching. He is playful, he is present, and the children can sense that he is just plain happy to be with them. (Wikipedia)