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on 1 March 2006
This film is so enjoyable, it completely caught me by surprise. Not being interested in Ballroom dancing I thought it might be a bore, but I was captivated. A little over-long in some of the competition parts where you have to see each performance of each dance, but completely necessary plot-wise. Its a gem of a film, exploring not only these children learning the particular dances and their investment in the competition side of it, but also a glimpse into their lives and opinions about growing up in NYC. You'll find yourself rooting for the children to win their competitions, but also wishing you could see them ten years on, to see where they end up in life.
Rent it or buy it, its really fun to watch!
0Comment| 14 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 20 March 2006
Don't hesitate! if this film is advertised near you, get your butt down there! Even better, buy the dvd, as I have just done. As the lights went up my face was aching from all the smiling I'd done, and by the look of the faces in the theatre, we all felt the same. There was a crowd of people standing longingly by the exit waiting as every credit rolled, every now and then there was another clip and no one wanted to miss them.
Yes, it sounds like we were a bunch of sad sacks, but we weren't. watch it and enhance your life. Love of ballroom dancing not necessary.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 November 2010
Charming, funny, ultimately moving, documentary about New York City grade school kids in
ballroom dancing competition.

It's inspiring to see these kids, often from poor or broke homes, transformed by the program,
where thousands of 10, 11 and 12 year olds in NYC schools learn ballroom dancing, often giving them
a discipline and self-respect they'd lacked before. We meet a fun, colorful array of
characters (both teachers and students).

On the down side, we never really get to know any of the characters deeply, only bits and
sound-bites, and some moments feel staged (a suspicion bolstered by the end credit
`writer', although there is no narration, and the film is done verite style).

Also, while we see how great the effect of winning is on these kids, the subject of losing, the hurt
feelings, the possible damage to these same fragile egos is touched on, but never
explored. We see kids crying, we hear one teacher voice concerns abut the intensity
of competition at that age, but that's it. Even as an endorsement of what is clearly a
terrific program for the kids, it feels like a bit of a cheat to bring up such an arresting
element, and then never really deal with it.

All that said, this is still well worth seeing, I just found myself wishing for more.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 November 2010
Charming, funny, ultimately moving, documentary about New York City grade school kids in
ballroom dancing competition.

It's inspiring to see these kids, often from poor or broke homes, transformed by the program,
where thousands of 10, 11 and 12 year olds in NYC schools learn ballroom dancing, often giving them
a discipline and self-respect they'd lacked before. We meet a fun, colorful array of
characters (both teachers and students).

On the down side, we never really get to know any of the characters deeply, only bits and
sound-bites, and some moments feel staged (a suspicion bolstered by the end credit
`writer', although there is no narration, and the film is done verite style).

Also, while we see how great the effect of winning is on these kids, the subject of losing, the hurt
feelings, the possible damage to these same fragile egos is touched on, but never
explored. We see kids crying, we hear one teacher voice concerns abut the intensity
of competition at that age, but that's it. Even as an endorsement of what is clearly a
terrific program for the kids, it feels like a bit of a cheat to bring up such an arresting
element, and then never really deal with it.

All that said, this is still well worth seeing, I just found myself wishing for more.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 May 2010
Charming, funny, ultimately moving, documentary about New York City grade school kids in
ballroom dancing competition.

It's inspiring to see these kids, often from poor or broke homes, transformed by the program,
where thousands of 10, 11 and 12 year olds in NYC schools learn ballroom dancing, often giving them
a discipline and self-respect they'd lacked before. We meet a fun, colorful array of
characters (both teachers and students).

On the down side, we never really get to know any of the characters deeply, only bits and
sound-bites, and some moments feel staged (a suspicion bolstered by the end credit
`writer', although there is no narration, and the film is done verite style).

Also, while we see how great the effect of winning is on these kids, the subject of losing, the hurt
feelings, the possible damage to these same fragile egos is touched on, but never
explored. We see kids crying, we hear one teacher voice concerns abut the intensity
of competition at that age, but that's it. Even as an endorsement of what is clearly a
terrific program for the kids, it feels like a bit of a cheat to bring up such an arresting
element, and then never really deal with it.

All that said, this is still well worth seeing, I just found myself wishing for more.
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on 28 January 2006
There is a scene about one third of the way into this brilliant documentary about the more than sixty New York City elementary and middle schools that have organized programs and competitions for salsa, merengue and other ballroom dancing where a young female teacher can no longer hold back her emotions. She speaks directly into the camera while students talk amongst themselves in her classroom. She puts her best, most professional foot forward for the camera, to best express the importance of what she is doing in an honest but demure and educated fashion. But when she thinks about what she is witnessing, more than what she is doing for these children, her heart becomes full and overflows before our eyes. She knows what she has to say is the most important thing for people to get about what she is doing and the entire movie--and maybe her life's work--but she tries to say it without crying, until she realizes she cannot.
She finally loses her polite smile as her lips begin to tremble and says something to the effect of "I'm watching them become ladies and gentlemen..." and the tears begin rolling down her cheeks.
Not to mention mine.
If you ever find a movie that can make you believe in the redemptive power of art, the joyful majesty of dance, the culturally kaleidescopic beauty of New York City and the fact that "the children" really are "the future" simultaneously better or moreso than this film, please e-mail me and tell me the title so I can go and buy it. I had an apatrment in Manhattan about a twenty minute walk uptown from the first school showcased in this documentary MAD HOT BALLROOM, but I can tell you, a person in Des Moine or Chicago--or Beijing, for that matter--will be as deeply touched by this movie as any native New Yorker. Other reviewers have wisely revealed that part of the magic exists in the documentarists making you care about the lives of specific children involved in this. You really have to see the film to see how true that is. But that serves as the vehicle through which we are led to discover how incredible the dance competition is, and how important it is as a cultural phenomenon.
I walked away from this movie feeling this: if the Constitution were set to music, the music would be jazz. But the dance would be merengue!
It is impossible not to see this movie and feel good about life afterwards.
0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
I did not watch "Dancing with the Stars" but I might have to check it out next time around after watching "Mad Hot Ballroom." If learning to dance can be fascinating when you are dealing with kids in elementary school, then it might be equally interesting when watching grown ups as well (not that I am capable of working any such magic on the dance floor, even in my wildest dreams). The only difference is that there is no way in the world that the adults get as much out of the experience as the kids seen in this 2005 documentary from writer Amy Sewell and director Marilyn Agrelo.
For some reason that passeth understanding ten years ago a couple of New York City elementary schools started teaching ten weeks of ballroom dancing as a required course for fifth graders. This unlikely pilot program took root and by 2004 there were over 60 school in New York City that were not only enrolled in the program but sending their cherubs out to compete. Their regular teachers offer support and encouragement, but the chief instructors for the kids come from the American Ballroom Theater. The competition allows each school to send five pairs and one alternate to dance the merengue, rumba, tango, foxtrot and good old-fashioned swing dancing.
The focus of "Mad Hot Ballroom" is on a trio of schools that certainly reflect the diversity of public schools in the Big Apple. PS 112 is in Bensonhurst, where what was once an Italian neighborhood now has a large Asian population, PS 115 in Washington Heights, where most families are extremely poor ones from the Dominican Republic, and PS 150 in Tribeca, where it seems everybody's parents are divorced. But what the kids all have in common is that they are not yet teenagers, which means puberty is just about to turn their lives upside done. This means being forced to go up and actually touch someone of the opposite sex could well be more than educational for some of these youngsters.
This matters because the camera being wielded by Claudia Raschke is being held down on the same level that the kids are living out their lives and dreaming of winning the competition. The adults get to talk and sometimes cry over what the kids are doing, but this one is all about the little people. I suppose the filmmakers stacked the deck a bit in choosing these three schools and while I was thrilled that the school I thought should win actually won, I bet what you will remember most are the crushed kids who do not exactly "lose," but who do not move on in the competition. No matter how many losing locker rooms you have seen in your life, none of them will be as painful or as revealing as the post mortem these kids conduct on what happened.
This documentary won the Audience Award at the 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival and it is easy to see why. Even with these kids kept at a distance by the camera this is a touching film and rather than overtly making a case the filmmakers simply let us watch what happens. In an age when Michael Moore has replaced Ken Burns as the most famous documentarian around, there is much to be said for a non-rhetorical approach in this field. By the end of this engrossing two hours you might be ready to go down to your local elementary school and insist the kids be taught ballroom dancing, even if your youngest is now in high school.
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on 19 December 2009
This documentary follows students in New York City schools as they learn to dance and prepare to enter the city-wide annual ballroom dancing contest. It's a real insight into the children themselves and into the dedicated and enthusiastic teachers who guide them through this process. My only negative would be that it gets a little repetetive as time goes along, but nevertheless, it's a good watch and especially if you are interested in children and how they think and act.
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on 26 April 2013
I saw this film/docu some years ago on T.V. and loved it, found DVD on Amazon and sent for it. Really pleased with delivery service and would use them again.
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on 23 March 2013
If you like kids, if you love Ballroom dancing, if you like human beings, if you love being entertained watch this because its a gem
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