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Mad Hot Ballroom

Mad Hot Ballroom

4.8 6
Director: Marilyn Agrelo

Cast: Yomaira Reynoso, Wilson Castillo, Alyssa Polack


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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,


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.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Donald Liebenson
Mad Hot Ballroom is the new Spellbound, a thoroughly charming, uplifting, and inspiring documentary that celebrates youthful perseverance. In contrast to the pressure-cooker setting of the national spelling bee, though, filmmakers Marilyn Agrelo and Amy Sewell chronicle the annual fifth-grade ballroom dancing competition in New York City’s public school system, concluding with a citywide competition held at the World Financial Center. The scenes of the boys and girls taking their tentative first steps to learn the merengue, the foxtrot, and the tango are irresistible. But Mad Hot Ballroom isn't just about dancing. As one teacher notes, the program -- now serving 6,000 students from more than 60 schools -- is “about etiquette and knowledge of cultures. It’s life.” It’s also about universal rites of passage, as students from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds share their thoughts. It is especially moving to see the children gain confidence in their abilities and become, as another teacher notes, “ladies and gentlemen.” The students from a school in Washington Heights -- the most recently immigrated and poorest kids in the contest -- carry the underdog banner, and it’s hard not to root for them. By the time Mad Hot Ballroom reaches the climactic competition, it’s impossible not to feel the eliminated dancers’ heartbreak, and the winners’ exhilaration. There are no villains in this documentary, and the dedicated teachers at each school burnish the image of public education while making a very strong argument for arts instruction.
All Movie Guide
If Mad Hot Ballroom did nothing else right, it would be worth watching just for the priceless pairings of gawky, grinning ten-year-olds, forced to make eye contact and hold hands at an age when they're still allergic to each other. Marilyn Agrelo's documentary features a United Colors of Benetton array of these children, an especially heartening sight in post-9/11 New York. But however appealing it may be watching them transform into more disciplined versions of themselves -- or, failing that, just shake a leg for awhile -- Mad Hot Ballroom falls short of its potential. Part of the problem is that Agrelo makes too few decisions about which footage to include and where to direct our attention. For starters, the movie contains 20 more minutes of interchangeable competition scenes than it should. But more crucially, it never develops a clear portrait of any of its young dancers. The boy who emerges as the star, even appearing on the movie poster, is never actually interviewed -- either as a result of his shyness, or his inability to speak English, which the use of a translator could have resolved. Meanwhile, greater screen time is doled out to less interesting kids, seemingly because they blabbered more entertaining sound bites. The most engaging moments actually come off the dance floor, when the children talk about their lives and social interactions, revealing some telling observations and character traits. If this focus on the film's shortcomings seems too particular, it's only because Mad Hot Ballroom is so close to being something truly grand. It just needed a good editor, which would have provided a more judicious sampling of key moments and characters. As is, the film must be enjoyed mostly on the surface level -- which, admittedly, is an easy enough way to enjoy it.
Los Angeles Times - Kenneth Turan
A documentary experience to savor. Warm, funny and very difficult to resist, this engaging film combines the charm of Spellbound with the kinetic energy of Strictly Ballroom in a way that will make you want to laugh, cry and do a little dancing yourself, maybe all at the same time.
Daily News
This winning documentary about fifth-graders who learn ballroom dancing is one of those movies that make the world a brighter place. Jami Bernard

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Paramount Catalog
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
Sales rank:

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Yomaira Reynoso Participant
Wilson Castillo Participant
Alyssa Polack Participant
Michelle Rodriguez Participant
Elsamelys Ulerio Participant
Clarita Zeppie Participant
Tara Gallagher Participant
Alex Tchassov Participant
Victoria Malvagno Participant
Emma Biegacki Participant
Cyrus Hernstadt Participant
Jonathan Rodriguez Participant
Jatnna Toribo Participant
Taha Natab Participant
Louise Verdemare Participant
Jia Wen Zhu Participant
Jonathan Participant
Allison Sheniak Participant
Sid Grant Participant
Terry Mintzer Participant

Technical Credits
Marilyn Agrelo Director,Producer
Joseph Baker Score Composer
Tammy Douglas Sound/Sound Designer
W. Wilder Knight Associate Producer
Sabine Krayenbuehl Editor
Steven Lutvak Score Composer
Claudia Raschke-Robinson Cinematographer
Mark Reynolds Musical Direction/Supervision
Amy Sewell Producer,Screenwriter

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Mad Hot Ballroom
1. Introducing the Schools [:22]
2. A Quick Merengue [:20]
3. Boys and Girls [4:09]
4. Tired Students [3:50]
5. Tango [4:23]
6. Being a Kid [4:25]
7. Dancing for Fun [6:13]
8. Quarterfinals [1:11]
9. Good Experience [4:02]
10. Practice, Practice, Practice [7:36]
11. Looking Back [:34]
12. Manhattan Semifinals [7:07]
13. Defending Champs [7:26]
14. The Final Competition [5:09]
15. Colors of the Rainbow [3:22]
16. Going for the Gold [4:14]
17. Challenge Trophy [1:06]
18. The Indigo Team/End Credits [7:06]


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Mad Hot Ballroom 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Be prepared to laugh, cry, clap, and dance your way to seeing the world in a different light. Wow. Amazing!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I saw this at the Traverse City film festival during the summer of 2005 and this is a wondeful movie. I enjoyed every minute of this uplifting and and enchanting film.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I watched this last night with my ten-year old daughter and she can't stop talking about it. A "must see" for any child, or adult, who has a love of dance and a passion for the arts. The documentary made us laugh, cry, and get up and do some of our own moves! We were clapping at the outcome and conclusion. It is entertaining, but also sparks some good conversation about the different ways children live and the message that no matter what obstacles you face, with hardwork, passion and determination you can be successful.
RhiannanTH More than 1 year ago
This documentary is one of the best I've seen in a long time. I is about inner city young people who earn extra credit learning to dance. And dance they do! The film will take you from clumsy beginning to spectacular end with other schools competing for the coveted trophy. You find yourself cheering for your favorite group. The most interesting thing was how everyone of the youngsters changed. They became more confident and and studious in their other classes. You must see this film, it will lift your spirits and brighten your day.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a charming documentary. Worth seeing and owning.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie is simply wonderful. It is inspirational, moving, funny, and it certainly will make you want to dance! The music is great, the kids are fun to watch and their spirit is infectious. Anyone who works with kids (teachers especially) ought to see this movie. These kids in NY Public Schools finally found motivation in something and for some of them, may help to turn their lives around and stay on the right path. This is such a heartfelt movie and you will find yourself rooting for the kids as they make their way into competition. Great great movie, I recommend it to everyone!