Mad Hot Ballroom (2005)

by | Nov 2, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Mad Hot Ballroom (2005)

Director: Marilyn Agrelo
Studio: Paramount
Video: Enhanced for 16:9 widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital Surround
Language: English
Subtitles: English
Length: 105 minutes
Rating: ****

Mad Hot Ballroom is an exhilarating, passionate documentary account of
some great New York City kids and their involvement with competitive
ballroom dance. What began in 1994 at two public schools has evolved to
include 6000 5th and 6th graders from schools in Manhattan, Brooklyn,
Queens, the Bronx, and Queens.

The filmmakers concentrate primarily on the dance students in
Washington Heights, Tribeca and Bensonhurst within Manhattan and
Brooklyn. The kids from the Washington Heights school are mostly from
the Dominican Republic and there’s a 97% poverty rate within the
student body. Dance classes are available to all at no charge.

As one teacher says, this program provides an avenue for future
pursuits for any interested students willing to put energy into 
ballroom dancing. And they do! That energy and drive is around what
this documentary revolves. We see them dancing in class, outside
sometimes and at home in front of the mirror. We are privy to their
remarks about themselves and each other and some of their hopes and
dreams and fears. We watch them interact with their dance teachers and
their partners as they become more proficient at the Meringue, the
tango, the rhumba, the swing and gain in poise and self confidence. One
young man described as at particular risk for becoming a street thug,
blossoms into a positive role model and leader. A similar touching
story is revealed about a young girl who was a behavior problem.

Watching these kids dance is a treat as well as observing them develop
in personal strength. Also entertaining is hearing their touching and
often hilarious remarks and seeing them relate to their teachers and
partners and everyone’s  enthusiasm and excitement as the big city
wide competition approaches. They get better and better. Five couples
and one substitute from each school are chosen to compete.

The dance teachers come across as filled with enthusiasm both for 
the dancing and their students’ progress. One says “Look at that
attitude on that face. I love this attitude!” Another cleverly remarks
in teaching the tango, “Make believe you are imitating some cat moves.”
A young woman teacher begins to cry a little:  “I see them
changing into these ladies and gentlemen.” When some of the teachers
convene to deal with some issues of the competition, we get to see them
dance too, to observe the personal enthusiasm they feel for their work.

Mad Hot Ballroom is a thoroughly engaging film throughout. By the time
of the final grand competition, I guarantee you’ll be on the edge of
your seat to know  who the winners will be. Many of these kids
have remained in my heart. Mad Hot Ballroom is a joyful ride I plan to
take again and again! [Unlike many documentaries shot on inferior
videotape, this one is studio quality image-wise, with brilliant color
and excellent resolution, and the exciting Swing and Latin dance music
is appealing via the Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround soundtrack…Ed.]

– Donna Dorsett


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