Monsieur Pierre

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Monsieur Pierre, or simply Pierre, was the professional name of Pierre Jean Phillipe Zurcher-Margolle, (born Toulon, FranceLondon, 1963).[1] Pierre was a professional dancer and dance teacher; he was a Fellow, Examiner and committee member of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD) and a Member of the Official Board of Ballroom Dancing (OBBD).[2]

Pierre was the main person responsible for introducing the Latin American dances to England. He set them up for use in competitions and in social dance. The system he and his colleagues developed became the basis for all Latin American competitions held under the World Dance Council (WDC).

After World War I ended in 1918 he started on a career as a professional ballroom dancer in London.[3] Although he spent the rest of his life resident in London, Pierre never gave up his French citizenship.

Latin dance in England[change | change source]

The rhythms which make Latin American dance popular were brought to Britain between the two World Wars. Pierre was already an accomplished dancer and teacher in the English ballroom style. In Latin dances, his repertoire first consisted of the Argentine tango, the Paso doble and the Samba.

"The tango was always his speciality in demonstrations and as a result many teachers were attracted to it and first learnt it from him".[3]
"Pierre had been a celebrated exponent and teacher of tango. He had established a reputation as the leading specialist for all Latin dances".[4]

By the 1930s Pierre had moved more towards the Latin American dances, and in 1934 his full-page trade adverts featured the rumba.[5] The studio stayed open all through World War II, and was a popular meeting place for the Free French fighters on leave in London. Pierre's studio always played authentic music for its LA dance instruction.

The rumba arrives in London[change | change source]

Originally, Pierre had visited Paris to find out how their dancers and teachers dealt with the rumba. But after the war, in 1947, Pierre visited Cuba, where he discovered to his surprise that the Cubans danced it differently. When he was there,[6] he danced at the acadamias every night. After this he returned to London determined to teach the Cuban rumba, sistema cubano.[7] To this end, Pierre wrote the first account of his ideas on the rumba as a dance.[8][9]

One of the characteristics of Cuban dance to the Son, and other similar rhythms, was, and still is, their method of taking three steps to four beats of music (whether 2/4 or 4/4). The Cuban rumba figure starts on beat 2, counting (pause) 2, 3, 4-1 as (pause) quick, quick, slow with the hip settling over the standing foot on 4-1.

All social dances in Cuba involve a hip-sway over the standing leg and, though this is scarcely noticeable in fast salsa, it is more pronounced in the slow ballroom rumba.[10] In general, steps are kept compact and the dance is without any rise and fall. The argument in favour of this method was authenticity, and also satisfaction at the dance effect the Cuban style achieved.

The Latin and American section of the ISTD Ballroom Branch was formed in 1947 by Monsieur Pierre as Chairman. The syllabus finally agreed in 1955 has been the foundation of teaching and competition in the Latin American dances ever since. This work naturally included the Samba, Paso doble and Jive as well. After further visits to Cuba in the early 1950s, when Doris Lavelle and James Arnell accompanied Pierre, the Cha-cha-cha was added to make the five Latin American dances which are still the basis of teaching and competition today.[9]

On Pierre's death in 1963, his colleague Doris Nichols commented: "The Latin American dancing world was so influenced, fostered and built up by him that the names of 'Pierre' and 'Latin American' became virtually synonymous".[3]

Notes[change | change source]

  1. date of birth unknown, but about 1890.
  2. The OBBD was a precursor of the later World Dance Council.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing 2004. 100 years of dance: a history of the ISTD Examinations Board. London. p62
  4. Wainwright, Lyndon 1997. The story of British popular dance. International Dance Publications, Brighton.
  5. Richardson PJS (ed) 1934. The Dancing Times: Double Xmas issue. December.
  6. Evans, Irene 1992. A concise history of Latin American dancing in the UK Part II. web-site of ISTD LA Faculty.
  7. 'Sistema' is a masculine word in Spanish.
  8. Pierre 1948. Latin & American dances for students and teachers. Self-published, London. In this short book, Pierre gives the square rumba at the start of the book, and the first published account of the Cuban 'rumba' in Chapter 7. This latter was substantially the same as in the finally agreed syllabus of 1955.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Evans, Irene 1992. A concise history of Latin American dancing in the UK UK Alliance of Professional Teachers of Dancing; also web-site of ISTD LA Faculty.
  10. Laird, Walter 2003. The Laird Technique of Latin Dancing. International Dance Publications Ltd. p9, puts it like this (after taking a step to side) "Transfer full weight to this foot allowing the pelvis to move sideways and back so that the weight is felt to be near the heel of the standing foot. The knee of the supporting leg is locked back". This description incidentally illustrates the difficulty of describing body movements in print.