Every year, the New York Public School system sponsors a dance competition for youngsters in fifth grade; in this contest, boys and girls ages 10 and 11 learn traditional ballroom dancing styles such as the fox trot, the rumba, and the tango, and then pit their skills against other students from around the city. Mad Hot Ballroom
documents the 2004 program, focusing on the teachers and students who take part, with a particular emphasis on three schools: P.S. 112, in a Bensonhurst neighborhood dominated by Italian and Asian families; P.S. 150, located in the wealthy and fashionable Tribeca district; and P.S. 115, a Washington Heights school where the vast majority of families live below the poverty line. Filmmaker Marilyn Agrelo
follows the young dancers as they gain confidence and skill and grow into "little ladies and gentlemen," as one teacher puts it, while also examining how cultural differences impact the competition for some students and how the boys and girls feel about the opposite sex as they begin to make friends with one another. Mad Hot Ballroom
received a wildly enthusiastic world premiere at the 2005 Slamdance Film Festival.