Mostly growing up in the vastly intolerant and uncultured land of Florida, I am always so jealous when I am exposed to other school systems in other states that have programs for kids that are dedicated to the arts. The only thing remotely close to that in my town involved agriculture activities and shop class. Even the kids in this film are so tolerant and open to different things. None of these young boys make a fuss over how feminine dancing lessons may be, they just take it in. Even the kids that don’t really like it still give it all they have.
“Mad Hot Ballroom” examines and appreciates New York City’s dedication to cultural diversity, with its focus on the American Ballroom Theater’s Dancing Classroom programs. The program is a success in more than 60 public schools in the city (the film focuses on three schools) and it consists of teaching young kids some fine dancing skills – like the rumba, the tango and swing dancing – for ten weeks. Toward the end of the program, schools are given the opportunity to pick 5 couples to compete in a Rainbow Team Match. Each couple is designated a certain style of dance and the best team at the end of the competition moves on to the final dance off.
Some have been comparing this film to 2002’s “Spellbound.” Each film focuses on a group of talented kids focused on a unique activity. “Spellbound” also showed us the odd and forceful determination some parents had in putting their kids into spelling bees, making sure they succeed. All the parents in this film are open to ballroom dancing and very supportive of it.
“Mad Hot Ballroom” mostly centers on the dancing but only briefly touches how this may change some students’ lives. For instance, a teacher gives details about one of the girls. A girl that was always getting into trouble, headed down the beaten path, etcetera, but the ballroom dancing lessons seemed to give the girl a sense of purpose. That’s it; we really learn nothing else about her. For its length, it would have been nice to learn a little bit more about some of the children.
Nonetheless, “Mad Hot Ballroom” is still an uplifting and inspiring tale. Parents should have no problem taking their kids to see this picture, and most of the kids in it would be perfect role models for them. It could also be a beneficial lesson to watch the kids evolve from their awkward and clumsy starts, to fairly professional looking little dancers, proving once again that practice really can make perfect.