Although I am professionally known as PIERRE DULAINE I was christened Peter Gordon Heney when I was born in Jaffa, Palestine. My Irish Protestant father married my Palestinian Catholic mother while serving in the British army. Being Palestinian meant being uprooted and fleeing with my family in 1948 at the creation of the State of Israel when I was four – and with nowhere else to go we landed in Amman, Jordan where I grew up and then as a teenager we went to the UK.
It was in Birmingham at the age of 14 that I began to dance, and in 1972 ended up in New York City for what was to have been a 2-week vacation. I started my dance partnership with Yvonne Marceau in 1976 winning four World Championship titles in show-dancing and performing in Tommy Tune’s “Grand Hotel” on Broadway for 2½ years, followed by a 5-month run at the Dominion Theatre in London’s West End. I am thrilled to say that the New York Times dubbed me a “Dancer and Teacher Extraordinaire.”
One might have thought that my greatest triumphs would be the world show-dance championships I have won, the Americans for the Arts Award, the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the Carl Alan Award or the United Nations nomination as a Goodwill Ambassador for promoting peace, BUT, my hardest and most important challenge hit closer to home – when I decided to return to Jaffa, where I was born, to give the gift of dance and teach Jewish and Palestinian Israeli children how to “dance with the enemy.” This journey was chronicled in the documentary film, Dancing in Jaffa.
I have also had the privilege of working with Autistic and Down syndrome children here in the USA and with adults in psychiatric clinics in Geneva, where the doctors and caregivers danced with their patients as well as in an Adult Homeless Shelter in Arizona. Patients began to feel normal once again and a high percentage regained their self-esteem and dignity…all because they were treated like ladies and gentlemen through the social graces that go hand in hand with ballroom dancing.
I also have the honor of serving on the American Board of Directors of the Happy Childhood Foundation, "putting a smile on every child's face."
With Yvonne and Otto Cappel, I founded the American Ballroom Theater in 1984 to bring ballroom dancing to a wider audience by putting on full length performances on the legitimate stage. The company’s debut was at the Dance Theatre Workshop in New York City, followed by performances at The Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Joyce Theater, The Kennedy Center, The Herbst Theater in San Francisco, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Akademie der Kunst in Germany, Maison de la Dance and at the Aix en Provence Dance Festival in France, Saddler’s Wells Theatre in London…to name just a few here in the US and overseas.
In 1994 I founded Dancing Classrooms, the Social and Emotional Development Arts in Education Program designed to cultivate essential life skills that include social awareness, confidence, and self-esteem in children through the practice of social dance.