There is so much more to it than just dancing.
An upcoming film screening at the Central Queens YM & YWHA in Forest Hills will take viewers overseas into Jaffa, Israel and show how the simple act of dancing managed to bridge sworn enemies into trusted companions.
The award-winning “Dancing in Jaffa” asks the question: Is it possible to use the medium of dance to foster understanding between Jewish and Palestinian Israeli youths raised in distrust of one another? The story follows world famous dancer Pierre Dulaine as he returns home to his birthplace in Jaffa to prove the power of dance and how barrier breaking it could be, even between people with such drastically different backgrounds.
Award-winning ballroom dancer, choreographer and instructor Yvonne Marceau, who has worked alongside Dulaine for decades, will also be on hand to speak with the audience and answer questions. She played a key role in the film, modeling grace and pride for the Israeli and Palestinian children and helping them prepare for a final dance competition that demands teamwork.
“It was great getting to know some of the children. They wanted to learn. They’re good at the soul,” Marceau said. “Children don’t see color or race or religion. I think this film offers the opportunity for conversations about how difficult the situation is there, why it is the way it is there and how the human element can make a difference. Kids are kids everywhere.”
Diane Nabatoff produced the film and referred to it as a labor of love and watching Dulaine break down the barriers of hate and anger over 10 weeks with his 30 reluctant students. She oversaw more than 400 hours of filming with her small team in Israel with the goal of teaching the kids the underlying life lessons of ballroom dancing like discipline, self esteem, self respect and respect for others.
“This area of the world we showed is very dramatic in terms of conflict,” Nabatoff said. “But these are global issues. They happen everywhere. You see it here, but if we can get this program into every school in every city and every country, we might be able to make a real impact.”
Nabatoff also produced the 2006 film “Take the Lead” starring Antonio Banderas, showcasing the true story of Dulaine when he went to public schools in New York in 1994 to teach ballroom dancing.
“Hatred, prejudice and segregation are global issues,” she said. “If you change the children, you change the future.”
Marceau said the act of holding someone, or simply touching his or her hands, can do wonders between different people. She and Dulaine helped launch a program called Dancing Classrooms that is now in nearly 200 schools throughout New York City and in 25 sites across the country hoping to do just that.
“The program that you see on the screen has continued on in Jaffa and beyond and I’ve heard it was really wonderful,” she said. “It’s so nice to see it was not a one-shot deal. This film laid a foundation and planted seeds for something that is continuing on.”
The screening was scheduled for Monday, June 2 at 12:30 p.m. inside the Central Queens YM & YWHA at 67-09 108th St. with a suggested donation of $7.
By Phil Corso