Building Confidence and Self Esteem by Dancing in Jaffa

I just came home from a screening of Dancing in Jaffa, an authentically beautiful documentary showing how the art of dance contributes to the buidling of confidence, trust and self esteem amongst Jewish and Palestinian Israelis in the mixed city of Jaffa.

Here’s a synopsis:

After decades abroad, renowned ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine returns to his hometown of Jaffa, Israel, nostalgic for the streets of his youth but nervous and dismayed by the strong current of racial animosity that now serves as the norm. Fueled by his belief in dancing’s power to build self-esteem and social awareness, Dulaine brings his popular Dancing Classrooms program to three diverse, Jaffa-based schools where he teaches ballroom basics to the ethnically mixed population of children. Dulaine selects the most focused dancers to train for a citywide competition, pairing Palestinians with Jews, putting many of the children’s and, more pointedly, their families’ beliefs to the test.

As Dulaine’s passion for dance and no-nonsense style of teaching rubs off on the reluctant children, the competition offers the perfect window into their lives. Hilla Medalia’s story beautifully shows these historical archenemies forging an innocent but ultimately meaningful relationship that quickly takes on a much larger significance than what initially meets the eye. Dancing in Jaffa is a sweet and incredibly moving tale filled with moments of truth, poignancy and humor, offering a glimmer of hope in the intractable conflict.

The director, one of the teachers and two of the girls from the film were present to speak with the audience and answer questions following the show.

Dancing in Jaffa

Two and a half years later, Nour and Lois are still friends and have grown even closer. I asked each of them how their experience during the film’s production and dancing contributed to their self esteem and confidence:

Lois and Nour - Dancing in Jaffa

Lois and Nour – Dancing in Jaffa

Lois answered that she had heard that dancing helps you in school. Her grades improved and she gained more confidence to participate in class. She is now on the honor roll studies program. Nour said that because of “Mr. Pierre”, she wants to teach dancing, both Oriental and Ballroom, when she grows up. Having lost her father at an early age, Pierre served as a positive figure for her.

My own youth was filled with dancing and teaching dancing to others through my college years. It made a huge impact upon my coming to Israel many years later.

Art is important. It’s not frivolous. It is not only food for the soul, but powerful enough to transform sorrow into serenity, pain into pleasure and swords into plowshares.

How has art – whether film, dancing, or music contributed to building your own confidence, trust and self esteem? Please comment below.

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