Movie review by Andrea Karen Hammer
Mad Hot Ballroom is an award-winning documentary following fourth and fifth graders in a citywide ballroom competition in New York. In a remarkable program for 6,000 children at 60 schools during 10 weeks, the film shows how dance, discipline and shared goals can transform even the youngest lives.
Children’s Wise Perspective and Growing Confidence
One highly effective aspect of this award-winning documentary is telling this compelling story from the children’s perspective. With an irresistible blend of innocence and wisdom, some members of various teams talk openly about their thoughts and experiences in the program–and life. As they learn the tango, rumba and their all-time favorite merengue from the Dominican Republic, many of the impoverished children gain confidence and express observations beyond their years.
Dedicated Dance Teachers and Educational Leaders
The dance teachers deserve major credit for their spirited and passionate yet consistently structured lessons. A few are clearly driven to help the children succeed and share their pain when some of the competitors’ hopes are dashed. These dedicated educational leaders honor their ultimate role of helping the students process disappointments, which they will need to handle throughout their lives.
Connections Through Dance & Competition Pressure
Even more inspiring is the way that both groups connect on a deeper level through the shared joy of dance. Interspersed scenes of teachers and students dancing in their respective groups as well as with each other flow seamlessly. As the weeks to the ballroom competition in New York are counted down, viewers feel the pressure build and watch everyone involved literally rise to the occasion.
Captivating Natural Performers With the “X Factor”
A few children with the “X factor” are especially captivating as natural performers. Like others with inborn talent who shine the moment that they appear on stage, these young dancers show how dancing and moving in sync with well-matched partners can tap into the beat of supremely joyful moments in life.
Questions for Artsphoria’s Online Film Forum
Can you describe the way a formative dance teacher or class had a major impact in your development? What do you think about the pressure involved for young children in dance or other competitions?
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