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2019 Dancing Classrooms “Mad Hot Ball” Gala – Celebrating 25 Years of Making the World a Better Place



The “Mad Hot Ball” Gala 2019 will be a special year. It’s the 25th. Anniversary and will be held at The Pierre Hotel in New York City on April 10th…another unforgettable heart-warming event.

The Start of the Dancing Classrooms Benefit Gala

Pierre Dulaine, along with the team behind Dancing Classrooms, have been holding galas and bringing together people from all over the world. Those who believe in his vision come to celebrate and raise funds to ensure that all the children can participate in their Dancing Classrooms program.

In the past years, Dr. David Osher, Vice President of American Institutes for Research, held a speech at The Gala, emphasizing the importance of giving everyone a chance, independent of their social status.

Why should it be for people who can afford to come to The Pierre? It ought to be for everybody.”
Dr. David Osher, Vice President of American Institutes for Research

The “Mad Hot Ball” Gala has been around for a quarter of a century already and it has been held in places like The University Club, The Roosevelt Hotel, and The Plaza Hotel. In the last few years, the location moved to The Pierre Hotel, a high end and one of the top ten hotels in New York City

The “Mad Hot Ball” Gala is an annual fundraiser dance party. What differs from the other galas is that the people attending love to dance and actually dance to a live orchestra.

They celebrate the young people and the love of dancing while ensuring that their mission continues to thrive.

Find more about Pierre Dulaine here.

The founding of Dancing Classrooms by Pierre Dulaine

We all know that from time to time, our world gets to be called home by some of the most lovely people. They are the people that actively engage in making it better than it was before they arrived and that is why their story needs to be told out loud.

Peter Gordon Heney, also known as Pierre Dulaine, is no different. He was born in Jaffa and started dancing in Birmingham when he was 14 years old. In 1994 he founded Dancing Classrooms, the Social and Emotional Development Arts in Education Program, designed to cultivate essential life skills. Dancing Classrooms is a non-profit organization that teaches ballroom dancing to the upper elementary and middle school students.

Pierre Dulaine found a way to unfold his vision about a world that is more open and connected through what he calls a celebration where all the children have the opportunity to experience the gift of ballroom dance and the social confidence that results from it”.

How can we improve the society that we live in, if not by educating our children so they can grow into confident and respectful adults that have the power to create and sustain healthy communities?

Social dancing is a form of art where two people come together to form a connection and act as one. This is what Dancing Classrooms believes and why it encourages people to bring their children to take part in their ten-week program.

“The music was so good, I forgot I was dancing with a girl”

Henry, 5th grader New York City Public School

In 25 years of activity, they’ve trained around 600,000 children.
Can you begin to imagine the social impact they’ve had so far? Those kids develop incredible skills that, Pierre believes, will help them take risks that are necessary to learn and grow in other areas also, not just dancing.

Get familiar with Pierre Dulaine by listening to his TEDxHollywood talk.

The Dulaine Method

Now that we’ve come close to who they are and their vision, we want to introduce you to what they call The Dulaine Method. It’s their own unique way of approaching the process of teaching.

The dancing artists that teach, are trained to understand how to use the group to help the individual. Creating a safe space where everyone’s feelings are respected is very important. They are advocates of equality in order to foster the same qualities in their students.

If you want to see how a reunion of some of the alumni ambassadors feels like and hear some words from Pierre Dulaine himself, there is a short video here. It seems like many of their students went to performing arts schools. Because the Dulaine Method focuses a lot on creativity and freedom of expression, it’s easy to see why people went on to nourish creative lives.

You can discover more about Pierre Dulaine beautiful past and future projects here.  

Making the world a better place one dance step at a time

After getting to know more about these extraordinary people, we found out that Sir Ken Robinson wrote an article on Why dance is just as important as math in school. He is documenting, step by step, the power of dancing to change the behavior of a human being and how Dancing Classrooms is improving the way we teach.

”Dance can help restore joy and stability in troubled lives and ease the tensions in schools that are disrupted by violence and bullying.”

Sir Ken Robinson

Children that go to social dancing from a young age are much more likely to develop a strong sense of empathy, thus having a capacity for creating strong bonds with others. This leads to healthy and self-sufficient communities.

What have you missed from “Mad Hot Ball” Gala 2018?

If you have never attended The Gala before, get ready to dance!

Rodney Lopez, the executive director of Dancing Classrooms, told us that, unlike other similar events, they try to keep speeches to a minimum so they can leave as much time as possible for socializing and dancing. Besides this, the guests get to enjoy the performances of the current year’s class of fifth-graders and the amazing Youth Dance Company.

Fundraising being one of the key moments, you get to participate in a Live Auction and Paddle Raise where you can bid for some interesting prizes and contribute to their program. There is also a portion of the ticket and table sales that go directly to Dancing Classrooms.

In other words, you make sure that those kids will have a place to nurture human qualities that will continue to positively leave their mark on this world.

If you’re curious to find out more about the “Mad Hot Ball” Gala 2018, read our previous article.

If you have never attended The Gala before, get ready to dance!

2019 Dancing Classrooms “Mad Hot Ball” Gala

The next “Mad Hot Ball” Gala is set to take place on 10th April 2019 at the historical Pierre Hotel, Manhattan, New York.

It is going to be an amazing event because they will celebrate their 25th anniversary! This a good opportunity to honor all the amazing people who changed so many lives through their love for dancing and humankind.

Amongst all the former students and friends who supported the project along so many years, you will be able to raise a glass of champagne to Founders of DANCING CLASSROOMS who are being honored at the event: Pierre Dulaine himself, his talented dance partner Yvonne Marceau, along with the former Executive Director Otto Cappel and the longest serving Board Member Sheila A. Hoerle.

You will be enchanted by the Youth Dance Company, 24 ladies and gentlemen between the ages of 14 to 16. They are former students of the program and are currently part of the Weekend Dance Academy. They will perform a beautiful Ballroom & Latin medley choreographed by their Artistic Director, Ms. Alee Reed.  

If you’re not able to make it to the event, not to worry, you can still support their mission and donate. You will receive special recognition at the Gala and on the Dancing Classrooms website.

“Mad Hot Ball” Gala, 10th April 2019, The Pierre Hotel, New York.

 Be there to share with them your love and appreciation for dance!

Dancing Classrooms Website

Dancing Classrooms Facebook Page

Dancing Classrooms Instagram Page

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Foxtrot Music Theory: Is The Accent On 1-3 Or On 2-4?



Giacomo Pasutto, a professional drummer from Italy, will explain the music structure of this dance.

Matteo: What is the difference between straight tempo, swing, and shuffle?

Giacomo: Trying to write down the differences of the swing and shuffle as rhythmic style is a challenge because this kind of style has been passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. We should keep in mind that every theoretical approach is something that comes close, but not exactly where the definition of swing and shuffle should be. As Marco Di Battista says in his book Improvvisazione jazz consapevole this is also because “we use a European Approach, called Divisive, of the theory to explain styles that find their roots in the African Culture which is based on Additive conception”.

Every transcription, score, or music can also be played with more or less swing or shuffle “feel” that we can’t write down. For example, modern shuffle comping is different from the oldest one in terms of interpretation of the subdivision. It depends also on the musician’s choice and background.

To understand and explain which are the differences between these tempos in indications  I’ll offer some examples.

The Straight Tempo

The straight tempo is simply the exact interpretation of a regular beat in terms of feeling and playing a score or music. Imagine that we have a measure of 4/4 and 1 quarter note per beat so if we clap the hands on every quarter note, we will have 4 Claps/Notes in one measure that takes the downbeat and upbeat.

Foxtrot Music Theory: Is The Accent On 1-3 Or On 2-4?

Now, what happens if we want to clap the hands two times at the same distance, in one beat? We will have one clap on downbeat and one clap on upbeat. These are called “eighth notes” so 8 notes/claps in one measure.

We can check how the notes are regularly subdivided between the downbeat (numbers) and the upbeat (e). So, paying attention to the regular pulsation we can hear the “Straight feel”, a perfect subdivision of the beats that can be also played in quadruplet (per beat) so, 16 notes in one measure.  

Swing and Shuffle

Now imagine playing 3 eighth notes in one beat. We will have an “Eighth Notes Triplet” – an irregular group/subdivision placed between the downbeat and the upbeat.

If we place a rest on the second note of the triplet we can see the “basic” of the swing/shuffle triplet feel. The shuffle often is written in 12/8.

The regularity and the shuffle feel

Now comes the hardest part!

We should first say that the terms swing and shuffle can also be used to indicate a musical genre. But, here we are talking about swing and shuffle as rhythmic styles, so the differences in drumming are in the comping.

In swing and in shuffle, the strong pulsation is always on 2 and 4 of the measure.

For example, when playing the drums in the shuffle, this pulsation is strongly accented on the snare and the duration of the first note is something like two times of the third note. Nevertheless, it depends on genres: for example, in modern shuffle rock/blues the pulsation is more “regular”.

In the swing comping, instead, the 2 and 4 are accented on the Hi-Hat while snare keeps the “suspended feel” with free comping improvisation.

Foxtrot Music Theory: Is The Accent On 1-3 Or On 2-4?

And also in swing rhythm, the pulse is divided unequally. Therefore, certain subdivisions, typically either the eighth note or the sixteenth note subdivisions, alternate between long and short durations.

The “regularity” of the subdivision depends on the musician’s background, style, and musical genre. It can be changed by delaying the 3rd note of the triplet (the upbeat) close to the next downbeat. Here is a link where you can see all the differences in terms of ratio between the notes.

Here are two examples of “regular” triplet pulsation of the shuffle/rock comping:

In terms of musician’s choice, in “Pride and Joy”, you can hear how Stevie tries to “rag” the time while he’s singing, just playing a delayed chord on the upbeat with the guitar.

Now, if we take a look at this Jazz Shuffle record of 1961 we can easily listen how the 3rd note of the triplet (the upbeat) is much more delayed, close to the next downbeat. We can also observe how the swinging feel of soloists can coexist with the shuffle comping played by the drummer Philly Joe Jones.

Heads Up For Music Nerds: At min 2:50 something happens. Philly starts to play the Ride Cymbal on every quarter notes and the snare only on the 4th beat leaving more space for the Wynton Kelly’s solo and you can easily check how the pulsation becomes less “ragged”, and more of a  “regular” triplet.

Here’s another example of Jazz Shuffle played by the Roy Hargrove’s Big Band where you can hear the 3d notes delayed and the strong 2 and 4 accents on the snare.

The pulse perception

Often in the traditional swing, the Rhythm Section – the core group of instruments that plays the accompaniment – in the introduction of the theme does what we call “plays in 2” or half bass, a kind of halved time where the accent seems to be on the 1 and 3.

Let me give some definitions here:

  • Playing in 4 or Walking Bass = to play every beat of the measure;
  • Playing in 2 or Half Bass = to play half beat of the measures (example: 1 and 3 or 2 and 4, in a 4/4 time signature).

In the following example, you will listen to how in the first minute the bass movement is on 1 and 3 (plays in 2) but the left-hand piano plays the 2 and 4. At the minute 1:14 starts the B Section where the bass plays on all 4 beats and after that, they repeat again Section A with the bass on 1 and 3. But you should keep in mind that the pulsation is again on 2 and 4. After that, they will repeat the chorus all in 4 till the end, also on the trombone solo.

Matteo: What is the accent in music?

Giacomo: The accent, also called stress, is a momentary emphasis on a particular rhythmic or melodic detail. In metrically organized music, accents serve to articulate rhythmic groupings. This happens especially in music used in dancing, where the regular accentuation facilitates the patterning of steps. Usually, the heaviest accent falls on the first beat of the measure. The matter of fact, it is the accent that determines where the measure begins.

Matteo: These are some examples of the music we use to dance the foxtrot. The first is a more “classic style” and the other derives from modern popular music:

Is there any difference in terms of foxtrot music theory between the “big band swing” music and the modern one?

Giacomo: The first differences I noticed between traditional and the modern one are in the harmonic progression.

In other words, the modern one has pop melody and pop harmonic progression rearranged and played in “jazz” style. There are a lot of different music elements mashed up, that recall the second line style, the ragtime, and dixieland. The traditional ones are standard jazz songs, more complex in terms of arrangement, harmony, and structure. It also has articulated movement of the brass section in a perfect Big Band Style.

One of the most important things that I noticed is that the modern song is “played in 2” and doesn’t go in 4 so the bass plays on every beat of the measure.

Here is another example of the differences about the half bass and walking bass:

We can see how John Clayton plays in 2 (half bass) at min 0:42 when Clayton says “I get my bass and we went for a walk” and starts to play in 4 (walking bass) and you can feel the strongest 2 and 4 pulsation.

Matteo: As a musician, do you think we should dance in two different ways, placing the accent in different moments if we are dancing the classical swing or the modern one?

Giacomo: Honestly, I think I can not say what is best for a dancer to do. Nevertheless, in my experience as a musician in the ballrooms, I have always noticed that it is important to know a little about the basis of the dance and try to understand what the dancers need. At the same time, I think that even the dancers should try to get a little closer to the world of musicians and to the origins of the music they are dancing to.

I believe that “the end justifies the means.” For example, to facilitate reading of the scores for big bands, when I was at the Conservatory, the director said to visualize the groups of notes in blocks on one and three, but this does not mean that the strong pulsation is on the one and the three.

So, if you feel the need to “visualize” the one and three in order to count the steps or teach, I don’t think it is entirely wrong. Try to remember though that the natural pulsation of that kind of music is on the two and four, therefore it would be appropriate to emphasize the nature of that style.

I think any kind of music-related activity should pay attention to what the musicians are playing and the musicians should pay attention to the needs of those who are interacting.

Music, as we know, is a language just like dance is. Therefore, communication is essential and for good communication, it’s better to talk the same language.


Reference list:

  • Marco Di Battista, (2014) Improvvisazione jazz consapevole (volume 1) Jazz Convention


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Cancer Saved My Life – A Ballroom Dance Story by Emilee Garfield



In our world of dancesport, we sometimes can get really caught up in our work and forget about how inspiring real-life stories are. In this article, I am sharing the story of Emilee Garfield, a cancer thriver, who discovered a real passion and love for ballroom dancing.

About Emilee Garfield

Emilee has recovered from cancer twice and it is her mission to help other cancer survivors live with hope and joy.

She was first diagnosed at age 4 with a rare cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma. After two years of grueling radiation and chemotherapy, she survived.

In 2015, she was diagnosed with stage 3c ovarian cancer.

Recovering and exercising

At the time of her recovery from ovarian cancer, Emilee was a single mom with three children. She had no choice but to return to work as a Yoga/Pilates instructor as soon as possible, with her ileostomy. There were no exercise resources available to help her safely rebuild her core muscles, but she knew movement was medicine and that she would heal faster by gently moving her body.

Creating resources

While recovering, Emilee wrote her book Reclaim Your Strength and Hope: Exercises for Cancer Core Recovery. She researched and taught herself how to rebuild her strength and flexibility. Emilee created a volume of over 200 gentle movement exercises and stretches to help cancer survivors feel better in their bodies during a time when everything seems like it’s falling apart.

In 2016, Emilee founded The Cancer Core Recovery® Project, a non-profit foundation that provides educational exercise programs, workout videos, and instructional training manuals to help survivors of ovarian cancer enjoy a better quality of life.

Emilee has been teaching Yoga and Pilates for the past 18 years at her studio, The Loft, in Santa Barbara, California. She is a certified New Life Story® coach and her passion is teaching people of all shapes and sizes how to love and honor their bodies, no matter what.

Let’s discover more about how ballroom dancing helped Emilee Garfield recover from ovarian cancer.

Cancer Saved My Life - A Ballroom Dance Story by Emilee Garfield

Bianca: When did you start dancing and why? What do you love most about ballroom dancing?

Emilee Garfield: One day I walked by a new dance studio in my town and it was a ballroom studio. I had never danced ballroom before and I had always wanted to dance like those beautiful women on Dancing With The Stars. My body was weak and my hair was just growing back in. I was only four months post-chemotherapy. I told my daughter that I am going to start dance lessons and one day maybe compete on the show, Dancing With The Stars. She told me I would embarrass myself and that I was too old. HA! I was forty years old. It became a dare and I wanted to show my kids that it doesn’t matter if you are a dancer or not, not if you put your time and effort into anything, you will succeed. I was not a trained ballroom dancer. I had danced in high school and college, but I was just average. I was never the star of the show. I was very shy and insecure about my body. I was struggling with depression and memory loss from chemotherapy. And to be honest, I needed to feel ALIVE again.

Bianca: How did ballroom dancing help you in your recovery? What is the most valuable lesson that ballroom dancing has taught you?

Emilee Garfield: I was just beginning to rebuild my life. My motto became GO BIG or GO HOME! So, I started to train with a private instructor named Vasily Goslin. He was from Russia. The first lesson I learned was the cha-cha. It was so fun and I wanted more. I was addicted from the first class. My body had to be trained in this new style. My body was really stiff and I was recovering by having an Ileostomy, colon bag on my tummy. I had a lot of scar tissue in my core and if you do ballroom, you know it’s all about your core.

Before I knew it, I was training for my first ballroom competition at Emerald Ball. I couldn’t believe it. It was like everything I had been dreaming of was coming true. Karina Smirnoff was in my studio and I had a few private lessons with her. She taught me one thing that I took away from dance and it is what helped me win five 1st place prizes in my first competition! She told me to smile. Have fun. That is what people notice. Maybe I am not the best ballroom dancer, but I can guarantee you that when I am on the dance floor I am one of the happiest and most grateful people out there.

I remember my first time on the floor I was so nervous. I couldn’t afford a new fancy dress or wear high heels. I was in a friend’s used orange dress with my flat beginner shoes on. It didn’t matter. I danced my heart out.

It wasn’t about ever winning for me, it was challenging myself that I can do anything I put my mind too. I put myself in the most uncomfortable situation, learning how to dance with a partner. What it taught me was trust. I created a life-long friendship with my teacher. He helped me through a very difficult time in my life, cancer and a divorce. He gave me back the confidence I had been lacking. Danced helped me believe in myself again. It was my medicine. I never took any drugs for my depression. I just danced.

Learning to dance ballroom was and still is a challenge and that is why I love it. It pushes me out of my comfort zone. It teaches me how to overcome obstacles. Some days I get mad at my teacher and frustrated because I want it to be perfect. What I’ve learned is that life is not perfect and that is ok. Make the best of your life every day! Dancing helps me remember this.

The most valuable lesson that dance has taught me is that you can achieve anything you put your mind to. It just takes determination and literally taking that first step. It has taught me to not let fear hold me back. You will never know what you are capable of unless you just go for it. And I did.

Bianca: How did you move pass difficult moments as a dancer?

Emilee Garfield: There were many times when I would get frustrated and want to give up. I would tell myself, “I suck,” and tell my teacher that I can’t do this. My teacher always told me that I could do it because he truly believed in me. He told me that I had a natural talent, and the gift of dance, and to please not give up. I owe it to my teacher.

On the days when I would cry and feel bad that I couldn’t get a dance step, I would have to take a little break, talk to myself and use mantras like, “You can do this”, “Get back up”. I looked back at my life and reminded myself of the huge obstacles that I just overcame: battling cancer and recovering from major surgery. I knew if I could survive cancer and fight back, that I could learn the cha-cha. I would train my brain to tell myself that I was unstoppable and that I would go the distance and do what it took to make it to my first ballroom competition. Basically, it was all a mindset for me.

Bianca: What advice would you give to dancers in terms of body positivity?

Emilee Garfield: This is so important. I have had body shame all of my life. I have scars all over my body that nobody can see. I have been the worst critic of my own life and body. What I have learned from almost dying of cancer is that we are all beautiful in our own way. We are not supposed to be like others because God made us different. We all have scars. Maybe they are not physical, but we all have something inside of us that tells us that we are not good enough.

I am working on this myself and would love to see all women embrace their bodies with respect. It doesn’t matter what color we are, what shape we are, we are all beautiful. Learning to let go of my own body shame has opened me up to so much more happiness. When I catch myself, that inner negative voice, telling me, “You are not pretty,” or “You are not good enough,” I have to remind myself that these are just lies. We all do it, so let’s begin to change the story of body positivity. You are what you think. Think positively about yourself!

Cancer Saved My Life - A Ballroom Dance Story by Emilee Garfield

Bianca: What is the most important thing you learned by fighting cancer?

Emilee Garfield: The most important thing that I learned fighting cancer is that life is short. DO NOT waste your time on negativity. That means negative people too. Find people that lift you up and stick close to them. Chase your dreams and never give up because anything is possible. Trust me, if I did it so can anybody else. Create a plan and take action steps to get to where you want to go. That is my advice. Life is what you make of it, so make it a good one. That is a choice only you can make.

You can learn more about how to work with Emilee on her website:

To donate to her foundation or to learn more about her mission to help cancer survivors in recovery, visit:

Connect with Emilee on Facebook and Instagram.

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Becoming a Dance Teacher – When Dancesport Becomes Your Job



There comes a moment in the life of a ballroom dancer when they must decide if they want to start teaching.. Your consistent training took you up to the point where you realize this is your life now and it can be your everyday job. Or perhaps it’s not you who chooses to become a teacher and is just a mere result of your hard work. Being a good dancer and having great results will automatically make people want to have lessons with you.

In one way or the other, that moment is significantly going to change your relationship with dancesport. Not only will you take lessons to be a better dancer but to become a better teacher. You’ll start to see competitions with a different eye: you’ll look around and watch the other couples from a different perspective. Somehow you’ll see things in a more mature and clear way.

Understanding when is the right moment to start teaching

Clearly, there are a lot of different possible situations when the idea of becoming a teacher really takes hold. Nevertheless, you will feel that you need something more in your dancer’s life.

All the other reasons that might pop into your mind could be too personal and too specific. Some do it for the money, some because they have been asked and others do it for fun or as a second job.In any of these cases, the common reason is that being just a dancer is not enough anymore.

I can safely say that being a teacher completes you as a dancer. It teaches you things you didn’t know about right until you started giving lessons.

Thinking you are not ready for becoming a dance teacher

At any level or age, you can be a good teacher or the contrary, an ungifted one. It’s just a matter of relation between you and your student: you should always be much more experienced than the one you’re teaching.

If you are young and not highly skilled yet, you should better start with a beginner group, maybe a children class in a school. In their eyes, express authority, even though you’re not an adult.

As an adult but not very experienced yet, you should start teaching some social-dance groups. There, people attending your class will trust you because of the big difference in knowledge between you and them.

If you are an experienced young dancer, you may fear that teaching to older dancers will not work well. I am encouraging you not to be afraid at all. Just make sure that they know how good you are and the results will speak for themselves.

Going all in or thinking of other alternatives as well

There’s no guarantee that you will become successful at being a teacher. Maybe if you start teaching in your coach’s studio where there is already a good amount of students that trust you and know who you are, you can be more free minded.

But if you’re starting from zero, better to do it little by little. For example, if you are still a student, keep going to university but also start giving some lessons to gain more experience. Or if you already have a job and you want to switch to becoming a dance teacher, try to do this transition gradually. Quit your job only when you already have a considerable number of students and your yearly schedule is pretty stable.

If you don’t have a choice and you must go all in, then invest all your skills to grow both the number of students and your reputation in the dancesport world in the shortest and healthiest way possible. Every decision you make today will affect your future in this industry.

If you want to find out more about what it means to be a teacher, especially for children, make sure to check my other article. 

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