Pierre Dulaine, dance instructor

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions

The inspiration for the Hollywood film, Take the Lead, believes "Dedication is working towards what you want to do, but it's not work because you like it so much. It's about staying with it."

Raise Your Game: What does dance mean to you?

Pierre Dulaine: For me, it's about movement and motion. It was not so much about the music at the beginning, because I'd been born in the Middle East and I really did not know about western music.

I once heard someone say "Dancing is four feet pretending to be two," (laughs). I think that is a great analogy. I love working with a partner and moving as one.

RYG: Do you enjoy teaching people to dance?

PD: Yes, I enjoy it very much. What I also do now is teach teachers to teach others. I love the opportunity to work with young people, I have a passion for that and I'm good at it.


Pierre Dulaine

23 April 1944

New York

Ballroom dance


  • Americans for the Arts 'Arts in Education' award (2005)
  • Dance Magazine award for excellence (1993)
  • National Dance Council of America award (1992)
  • Dance Educators of America award (1990)
  • Winner - British Exhibition Championships (1977, 1978, 1979 and 1982)
  • Winner - Duel of the Giants competition (1967 and 1969)

RYG: What's so enjoyable about teaching teachers?

PD: I always believe that there is something new to learn. We are, from my point of view, living in a time when we are not so polite to each other due to the use of technology such as mobile phones, chat rooms and social networking sites. With dancing, you're dancing as one and you can learn to be polite to each other.

For me, it's about making pictures. I take the person's insight into consideration before I tell them what to do. Just like ballroom dancing, it's a two-way conversation. The man is the leader, he shouldn't be a bombastic leader, he should partner the lady, and let there be a language between them.

RYG: I've heard a lot of teachers say 'You should dance with your soul.' What does that mean?

PD: I have no idea. I think, in all honesty, this is a load of rubbish. When people say 'Give me feeling,' I don't think you can tell them that. You should maybe put the music on and ask the student 'How does this music make you feel? What do you think? Do you prefer this music or that music?' These are the steps.

I think the important approach for me is I am not a teacher, I'm a guide. I need to guide you along the way. It's important for me to bring out what's inside of you. Not to tell you what's good for me. I think that's my success. I like to bring what's in the kids, in the children, out of them, and let them feel, let them be themselves. We're all unique.

RYG: What is the starting point for teaching dance?

PD: The starting point depends on who you're talking to and what you're doing. In terms of whether you are working with dancers already or whether you are working for a TV show, Broadway show or a musical.

Dancing is walking, walking to music. So it's teaching people to walk by putting on the music and walking with the beat. You've got to start from the very beginning of the basic character of that dance, and then go from there.

RYG: How important is dedication?

PD: I believe that if you wake up in the morning, thinking of that one thing and nothing else, then that's all you need in life. That's your dream.

When I was 14-years-old, I used to be an athlete and was part of a running club in Birmingham. I used to go six nights a week! I then started dancing and began spending less time running. I no longer wanted to run and woke up each morning wanting to dance more.

Dedication is working towards what you want to do, but it's not work because you like it so much. It's about staying with it.

RYG: You were involved in the 2006 film Take the Lead, which was based on your life teaching dance and starred Antonio Banderas. When you think back to that film now, would you change anything?

PD: In all honesty, I wouldn't have changed anything because Hollywood is Hollywood. It is not the exact story of how I started, but the message was the same. It was during the school day, and not an after school programme. It got young people out of trouble and into something that they enjoyed doing.

RYG: What did you think of Antonio Banderas' dancing?

PD: Well, we knew he wasn't bad because he performed a show called Nine on Broadway, where he sang and danced. He really moves. He did a lot in the sword fighting scenes for The Legend of Zorro 1 & 2. He is an athlete, he really moves. Being Spanish, he feels the music, and tango was his favourite dance.

RYG: What can dance actually teach us?

PD: Ballroom dancing is known as the embrace hold, which means that you are very close to each other. Whenever you put two people so close in front of each other, positive feelings come out. So what we do is nurture these positive feelings and encourage respect for each other and respect for oneself.

It's about team work and enabling young people to have confidence. We talk about the word 'elegant', holding the correct dance frame all the time and moving to the music. You learn about the music, about the culture of the dance, the geography and history of the dance.

I don't care if the children remember the steps or not, I'm not interested in the steps. What I do care about is that they remember the escort hold, meaning the lady is on the man's right side. That's a place of honour, that's a place of respect. So when you dance with a lady, you give her a twirl, you bow and say thank you. Then escort her back to her seat. These are transferrable skills and manners for life.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.