Film: Mad Hot Ballroom

Cast includes: 11-year-old kids from New York City public schools
Genre: Documentary (2005)

In brief: In 1994, an after-school program of ballroom dancing was started in two New York City public schools. Today it has expanded to 60 schools and 6,000 5th graders. It offers an opportunity for inner-city kids to learn more than just dance steps. Many are learning self-esteem, poise, behavior and responsibility for the first time in their lives… going from kids to “ladies and gentlemen.” The film follows three schools over 10 weeks and chronicles their transformation as they prepare to compete in the citywide competition at the end of the year. We get to know all the kids, the families and the teachers… their hopes, talents, flaws and problems. We know how important the competition is for all of them, and we find ourselves rooting for every one of them.

For me, this one was Hoop Dreams, without sports. The kids are wonderful… totally candid. In most cases, this is the first opportunity they’ve had to participate in an activity that challenges them to maximize their potential. The things they say and do will amaze you.

Anyone who’s been an educator, a parent or who can remember being an awkward 11-year-old should relate to this film. The scene when the dance teachers introduce the kids to the concept of eye contact with their partners is so funny it still makes me laugh. You might not expect to see great dancing, but this film is full of surprises. It’s a winner!

popcorn rating

3 popped kernels

Popped kernels for being totally charming. The kids are wonderful and we really care about them.

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