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Mad Hot Ballroom

1 rating: 3.0
A movie directed by Marilyn Agrelo

Tango, foxtrot, swing, rumba, and meringue may seem to represent the last vestiges of a dying art to some, but director Marilyn Agrelo proves this is far from true in MAD HOT BALLROOM. Agrelo reveals that the New York City public school system runs a … see full wiki

Director: Marilyn Agrelo
Release Date: 2005
MPAA Rating: PG
1 review about Mad Hot Ballroom

Mad Hot Ballroom - a treat for the whole family

  • Jul 11, 2005
Pros: Delightful, inspiring, well filmed. I was smiling the entire time of this film!

Cons: Perhaps going into detail about the home lives of these children would be insightful.

The Bottom Line: A winner on every level - emotionally, story line, faith in the future and well directed and filmed.

Saw this one at the local independent documentary film theater in Encino California. As usual, the summer blockbusters left me less than enthusiastic so Mad Hot Ballroom was the next choice and what a 2 hour treat it was!

This film is lovingly directed by Marilyn Agrelo and is set in modern day New York City and the 5 surrounding burroughs. A ball room dance competition happens every year with the 5th grade classes of selected public schools. Travel with them and their teachers as they discover unexpected and home truths about attitude, movement, style and commitment.

The film is told from the point of view of the kids themselves who are all of 11 years old. Often the comments are revealing and very funny as well as touching. The dances they learn are classic ballroom which mean nothing to the kids. The Tango, The Swing, The Merange, The Rhumba all take on new life as these children learn them. It's really amazing to watch the kids faces as they learn of each dance country of origin and the speed at which they can pick up the complex dances.

Most of the kids are minority students and come from immigrant families. They are dealing with a myriad of cultural issues, learning English, growing up concerns as well as living in a densely populated and complex city such as New York City.

There are no special effects, blown up cars and complex scripts, just real life stories of fifth graders who are participating in something bigger than they are and who learn something about themselves along the way. The most rewarding moments are when the kids lose and have to deal with their emotions of sadness and anger to deeper feelings of the ethics of hard word and determination.

A very sweet and touching coming of age film and the teachers and parents who love them and hope for a better life. This is a film that the entire family can appreciate and enjoy. It is rated G.

Obvious comparisons to Spell Bound - (documentary about school kids who compete in the National Spelling Bee) are expected but this film is different. There is more emphasis on the dynamics of the city and the emotions of the kids who participate.

My only real criticism is that the director could have shown more about the children's home lives but instead she focused on their school days and of course their dancing.

For more information - see the official site:


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