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Mad Hot Ballroom

176 customer reviews

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(Oct 18, 2005)
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Editorial Reviews

Eleven-year-old New York City public school kids journey into the world of ballroom dancing and reveal pieces of themselves and their world along the way. Told from their candid, sometimes hilarious perspectives, these kids are transformed, from reluctant participants to determined competitors, from typical urban kids to "ladies and gentlemen," on their way to try to compete in the final citywide competition. Providing unique insight into the incredible cultural diversity that is New York City, this film profiles several kids from three schools (out of 60) at this dynamic age, when becoming that "cool" teenager vies for position with familiar innocence, while they learn the merengue, rumba, tango, the foxtrot and swing.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Heather Berman, Emma Therese Biegacki, Eva Carrozza, Evangelina Carrozzo, Paul Daggett
  • Directors: Marilyn Agrelo
  • Writers: Amy Sewell
  • Producers: Marilyn Agrelo, Amy Sewell, Brian David Cange, Wilder W. Knight II
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: October 18, 2005
  • Run Time: 105 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (176 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000ADS6DA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,988 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Mad Hot Ballroom" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

103 of 104 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 30, 2005
Ten years ago, two New York City public schools introduced a new program providing professional instruction in ballroom dancing to fifth graders. Now, American Ballroom Theater's Dancing Classrooms are found in over sixty schools. During the intensive ten-week curriculum, the students learn the fox trot, merengue, rumba, tango, and swing dancing. The children put their practice to work in a dance competition with ribbons and a gigantic trophy for the grand prize winning school.

"Mad Hot Ballroom" is a wonderful documentary about this creative and inspiring program. Director Marilyn Agrelo follows a bunch of kids and their teachers as they prepare for the big competition. There are also colorful vignettes of everyday life in the children's neighborhoods, which range from Bensonhurst in Brooklyn to Washington Heights in Manhattan. In addition, Agrelo captures the students chatting among themselves in their homes, at school, or outside playing; their candid comments are poignant, hilarious, and sometimes heartbreaking.

A documentary like this works for the same reason that "Spellbound," the documentary about spelling bee competitors, worked so well. The filmmakers personalize their subjects. For instance, Yomaira, a passionate dance instructor, pushes her students hard and demands excellence from them. She hopes that the lessons her kids learn in dance class will carry over into their personal lives. Alex is a Russian-born teacher whose elegance and soft-spoken manner is very different from Yomaira's style. He uses honey rather than vinegar. Tara is an intense child who practices in front of a mirror and buys a special dress for the competition; she has her heart set on winning. A precocious little girl named Emma speaks about life with world-weary wisdom.
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Tucker Andersen VINE VOICE on June 22, 2005
This documentary provides a fascinating "slice of life" glimpse into a not widely known program to provide instruction in ballroom dancing to fifth graders in the NYC public school system. Since the program's introduction on an experimental basis several years ago it has been gradually expanded into several schools throughout the city and encompasses students with a broad range of nationalities and socioeconomic backgrounds. As you might guess and the documentary makes clear, it is by definition a "labor of love" for everyone involved: the instructors who volunteer their time, the school faculty and administration, and the kids and their parents. This is one of several programs which have proved immensely successful, others involve musical instructional, other forms of dance, theater and finally sports, including one overseen by the NY Road Runners Club with which I am very familiar involving organized running activities and races. Their scope is limited only by the time constraints faced by their organizers and volunteers and their usually meager financial resources. The kids not only enjoy themselves and develop a sense of self-worth and much better self-image, but learn many of the "lessons-of-life" imparted by such activities. These include the value of training, discipline and hard work, the necessity for teamwork and of course, "the joy of victory and the agony of defeat". This film poignantly demonstrates how tough a lesson it is for many of them to accept the truth of Grantland Rice's immortal summary, "when the One Great Scorer comes to write against your name, he marks - not that you won or lost - but how you played the game".Read more ›
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By bensmomma on July 20, 2005
This documentary about New York's citywide ballroom dancing competition among public school 5th-graders has frequently been compared to the recent documentary "Spellbound" (about a spelling competition). And, in fact, "Mad Hot Ballroom" has a great deal of Spellbound's charm. There is something really engaging about seeing a 10 or 11-year-old come into his/her own. An adult may stand a bit outside himself (a bit of concern about "am I silly" or "what are you thinking about me while I dance"), but a kid is just DANCING - an entirely earnest and genuine experience unmediated by an adults self-consciousness.

The filmmakers, likes Spellbound's, follow a "one from Column A, one from Column B" formula for choosing dance teams to follow. At the first round, there is an upscale school in Tribeca, a melting-pot group of Brooklynites, and an energetic and wholly Dominican team from upper Manhattan's Washington Heights. The kids from all schools are engaging and winsome, although the filmmakers indulge in a little stereotyping via editing (a wealthy Tribeca girl is very confident before the competition (in a sweet way) but the Tribeca team cries and complains afterwards, whereas the down-to-earth Brooklynites look endearingly dorky and take their loss with a them's-the-break attitude).

The film's real energy, however, comes directly from the Dominican team, whose authentically wonderful and instinctive dancing allows us to combine the drama of kids competing with the reward of watching some mad hot dancing.

It's not a kid's movie, however; it's pretty long. Actual fifth-grade boys will recoil at the idea of watching a movie that involves dancing with real girls.
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