Mad Hot Ballroom - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Mad Hot Ballroom Reviews

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February 11, 2017
Charming if slightly overlong.
½ January 25, 2013
There's nothing groundbreaking about the style or content in this documentary, the latter of which is no more than a cultural aspect of New York school system. It's probably more of interest to those who are in this documentary or those that enjoy ballroom dancing.
January 8, 2013
In Which Most of the Teams Are Shorter Than the Trophy

I did a lot of competitions in grade school. Mostly high school, though some even younger than that. And, yeah, it's really hard at times. Losing can break your heart, especially if you think you're as good as people who beat you, and you almost always do. (Not when I did Academic Decathlon, which is almost all objectively scored tests, but Odyssey of the Mind? Oh, yeah.) I have to say, if I had been on a team that lost to one of the teams that made the finals in this documentary, I would have been furious; they just weren't very good. Oh, they were better than I am, but I don't know how to do any of these dances, and these kids have been practicing for months. There's something disheartening about watching these kids who are supposed to be among the best in the city move so stiffly and think of all the kids who cried themselves to sleep over losing to that team.

Strange as it seems, New York City now has a ballroom dancing competition for eleven-year-olds. Has for some time, it seems. This documentary takes a closer look at it, starting with the early part, when all the children of the right age are learning how to dance. (In one of the schools we see, there are two boys for whom it's against their religion to dance, so the boys are made DJs. One of them still manages to pick up enough to give his classmates tips.) From there, they are selected to be on their school's team. Twelve children are chosen--one couple will be alternates, and have to know every dance, but each of the other five pairs is allowed to specialize. The dances are merengue, foxtrot, tango, rumba, and swing. We follow three schools from three very different New York neighbourhoods, seeing the children's hope and disappointment. Through it all, the kids are still ordinary kids who just happen to be very good at dancing. In some cases, it seems to be the first time they've ever been told they were good at anything.

I can't help feeling that the kids selected to do the foxtrot were lucky, far luckier than the kids doing swing. I mean, winning a dance competition isn't easy no matter what dance you're doing, but it strikes me that the foxtrot is just an easier dance. It's smooth and gliding and doesn't have a lot of complicated footwork. Both the swing and tango kids have a lot more to do, and what's impressive is most of the pairs in the finals, who make it look effortless. Most of them, at least in the swing competition, even look like they're having a good time. (You're not supposed to look like you're having a good time when you tango!) They must be incredibly nervous, but even after they lose, kids keep repeating how much fun they were having, a thing I'm not sure I ever said after most of my academic competitions, true though it was in most cases. Then again, having fun while dancing is easier to explain than having fun while taking tests.

Mostly, the documentary lets the kids, and to a lesser extent their teachers, speak for themselves. Most of our focus is on PS 115, a poor school in Washington Heights. Many of the students are immigrants, primarily Dominican; almost all of them are below the poverty line. Statistically, the kids don't have much chance of graduating from high school, much less college. Most of them can be expected to lead the same life their parents lead, though most of them also appear to be too young to realize that. They've started out thinking that the dancing is a bit silly, I think, but it gives them something to do. Some of the kids talk about the problems dealing with drugs in their neighbourhood, and those who do seem relieved at the thought that the dancing keeps them off the streets, if nothing else. They have an accomplishment. They are good at something. They've also learned poise and something about interacting with the opposite sex, which is definitely a positive.

I doubt ballroom dancing lessons are suddenly going to sweep the nation as a way to teach kids poise, dignity, and physical fitness. For one thing, you'd have to get instructors who knew how to merengue themselves. While swing has become fashionable, ballroom dancing as a whole has not. The closest I've ever come myself is watching [i]Strictly Ballroom[/i] so often I just about memorized it. (These kids don't appear to know any new steps, either, but give them a break; they haven't been dancing long.) That's okay. I don't think ballroom dancing is a universal solution anyway. I think it works not because the kids were given anything in particular but because they were given [i]anything[/i]. One of the kids speaks disdainfully of his school's basketball team, but that's a focus, too, provided the team isn't allowed to let schoolwork slip in favour of sports. School doesn't have to be boring, and while I was furious at the teacher who said the competition wasn't about winning, there is something to be said for just being given the chance.
October 19, 2012
While ballroom dancing doesn't really interest me that much, this documentary simply brims with energy and left me very satisfied by the time its credits roled.
½ June 14, 2012
Not nearly as entertaining or compelling as other documentaries about kids. Namely Spellbound. Kinda boring really.
June 11, 2012
this is my favorite movie I did this program this year sadly we lost in the danceoff at the grand finals
½ May 17, 2012
Solid documentary on a ballroom dance program for NY public schools. There is an annual competition pitting 5th graders from every school against one another in foxtrots, salsas, and tangos. The film follows a couple different schools, one perennially excellent thanks to a hard-driving dictatorial and passionate teacher/coach, as they progress through the competition or falter. The kids are kids, awkward and surprising in equal measure, and it all makes for a good documentary.
May 16, 2012
The only other thing more prevalent on primetime television now than singing is dancing. This doc from Marilyn Agrelo goes deeper into that topic than say, Dancing With The Stars, and it's a pleasure and tremendously entertaining. Her doc follows a school of fifth graders from New York City, all of them representing different income levels and all of them learning to bust a ballroom move during a ten week course. It's swinging and inspiring, especially listening to the kids themselves and watching them stut their movies.
May 15, 2012
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actress got red carpet ready time jennifer rios love ruth rios
½ January 31, 2012
I Love this movie its so inspiring
January 14, 2012
Wonderful documentary--subtle, moving, and surprising. The teachers and children are an utter joy to watch. You'll like this more than you would think!
December 29, 2011
I just don't understand the appeal of a reality show about little kids dancing. I just don't getit.
December 10, 2011
heard it was good, but doesn't interest me.
November 1, 2011
The subject matter was really interesting. And it was super cute to see these kids dance together and hear bits of their stories. However, the documentary style didn't do a whole lot for me. I found it to be slow-moving and unnecssarily long.
½ October 8, 2011
A cute, funny, energetic documentary. There's nothing wrong with Mad Hot Ballroom.
May 22, 2011
Teaching boys and girls to partner to achieve a goal at an early age!
April 9, 2011
cldn't get into it like, I thought, I would, on the + side, the kids were so cute, bio. clock, ticked a little more :). this, has been on my netflix queue, so, long thou. that the kids are grown by now, ha, oh, well, @ least, it's finally off the queue, I guess, it's 1 of them, that's been on so long, I added it when my hubby was still just my boyfriend. started watching it last night & finished it earlier tonight, just had a little bit left to watch
½ March 28, 2011
a little long but very well done. these movies make me want to take dance lessons again. and the kids were cute; it was like watching "kids say the darndest things"
March 9, 2011
For everyone who enjoys ballroom, has a kid or once was a kid, I suggest watching this. More than the competition or how the kids develop, what struck me in this movie is how much pressure adults put on kids!! It's a massacre at some point! They're strong as hell to be able to live through it and make something of it, but then we see the effects in adulthood. Yes, competition is important, but some teachers just put waaaay too much expectation on the kids.
That aside, it's a beautiful report on the dance program, with statements from the kids and teachers about how it affects their lives, how their interactions with other kids have changed. However, I still believe an 11 y.o. is too young to start with ballroom. There's too many implicit gestures and looks and moves that just doesn't fit children's bodies. What's the ideal age? Don't know. Maybe we should just monitor it really well and make the best we can, for the children's sakes.
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