Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Mad Hot Ballroom

Mad Hot Ballroom is a documentary about students of several New York City elementary schools who learn ballroom dancing and then compete in a city wide dance competition, all via American Ballroom Theatre's Dancing Classrooms project.

The good: MHB follows three sets of students in three different schools. You really get to know these kids, from the first fumbling steps, to the selection of kids for the competition, and the final competition. I was disappointed as teams lost and jumping up and down at wins.

I was also impressed with the schools, the teachers, and the students, who allowed the cameras to follow them over the several weeks of learning, practice, and competition. I grew up in the suburbs, and this was a glimpse into a different world. Actually, three different worlds because of the three different schools that are highlighted.

Also good: these students are around ages ten and eleven, that cusp before becoming teenagers. We hear their dreams, their hopes, their fears. You root for each kid -- and keep your fingers crossed, even tho you know -- as the 3 teams move closer to the finals -- that there can be only one winner.

I liked this so much it's going on my DVDs I wish I owned wish list (the only thing holding me back: no extras.)

Final note: and yes, I'm quite jealous! These kids are much better dancers than I am or could hope to be. I always confuse my left and right foot.


Suzi said...

Liz, I LOVED this movie. I think I saw it before I started my blog--or I just forgot to blog about it--but I thought it was fantastic for all the reasons you captured. My fave part: "People say ten-year-old girls have the most freedom" discussion. Also, I loved the smooth dancing boy (Walter? William?) and the way he just kept on going despite the homophobic taunts of the other boy (who actually was a good dancer too). What a super movie!

Liz B said...

I fell in love with these children; I think that's why I wanted extras, to know more about them & their lives, to see what was happening. And while this one focused on the dancing, I would love for this to turn into a 7 Up type of series, revisiting the kids in all these schools every 7 years or so to see if these lessons & experiences were indeed life changing events in their lives.

DanceScape said...

We went to see Mad HOT Ballroom (for the trailer of the film, please see www.dancescape.tv). The movie was showing at the Cumberland Theatre in downtown Toronto, and is run by Alliance Atlantis, so there were other more "artsy" movies being shown. Well, it was worth the drive and wait!

The audience was primarily made up of people in their 50's to 70's, at least during the time we went. There were quite a number of "tourists" as well, probably from the local Hyatt and Four Seasons Hotels in the area.

What we loved about the movie was that it captured the "innocence" of children and the passion of their "teachers". It was interesting to see from a child's eye their determination to want to make the finals ... the disappointment of those who didn't and the exhiliration of those that did.

What we also loved was the diversity of cultures represented by the children ... hispanic, black, white, vietnamese, chinese, etc. ... and how they were partnered. In one scene, it showed two children who may have been of Muslim faith, who seemed to indicate that it was against their religion to dance. However, instead of trying to make a "moral" statement, the producers captured a moment where the child exclaimed that he enjoyed being the "DJ" and taking care of the music! In one scene, it even showed him trying to correct one of the other couples!

Some of the invited judges in the Grand finals included Charlotte Jorgensen as well as Broadway star, Ann Reinking. It was lovely to see them and other well-known judges in the Dance world, being captivated by the various dance teams.

What could have been done differently? Possibly showing more the "day-to-day" living side of some of the children. A number of the children talked about "drugs". Although we're not familiar with the various urban neighbourhoods of New York City, if it's like many "urban" centres in other cities, it would have been interesting to contrast the "urban decay", and how something like the experience of dance can be "life-changing" for the children. It would also have been interesting to interview some of the children who took part in the first program (think it was in 1994) ... in keeping with the film's
positive perspective, maybe a "success" story.

There was a British Show a number of years ago that traced children through the decades (can't remember the title) ... their innocence in primary school, to their teenage years, and finally onto adulthood. It would be fascinating to revisit these wonderful children to see where they may end up a decade from now.

DanceScape has a Mad HOT Ballroom contest for an American Express Cash Gift Card as well as Soundtracks to the movie! Check out www.dancescape.com/contest.

For those of you who also watched the movie, please share your thoughts as well on our Global Forums at http://dancescape.com/mydancefriends.

dance is ... PASSION