How did it happen that 600 kids from 60 public schools in New York City are required to take a very unusual ballroom dancing course? And how does it happen that they are having the time of their lives? After watching “Mad Hot Ballroom,” you will know, and you will probably leave the theater surrounded by an ocean of smiles as bright as your own. This audience has had a good time.
Many of the students come from the Dominican Republic, from single parent
homes, and from poverty.
By the time they get to the dance finals at the WinterGarden Theater, you
will be rooting for each member of the Indigo Team from Manhattan’s P.S. 125.
How does ballroom dancing bring a group of eleven-year-old fifth graders
to a state of frenzied mutual support that eclipses even the most heralded
athletic event? The answer is
universal: passionate teachers.
These teachers treat their dance students as adults while allowing them
to be kids. “Ladies and
Gentlemen, straight up, eyes locked, smile – five, six, seven, eight….”
The adults in this film know their class is probably the only
after-school activity these kids have. They know also that they have a chance,
as one of them says, to help them “find something you love and do it really
well.” Without exception and with
bountiful enthusiasm, these teachers slowly draw their kids toward excellence in
dance. Just watch that
self-confidence grow, or as a student calls out, “Look at that attitude!”
One of the special sights in this movie of many is that at eleven, boys
and girls come in all heights and shapes. The
dance floor is afloat with odd couples that seem perfectly at ease dancing with
enormous height disparities. Off
the floor their conversations reflect the good-natured complaining of the age,
but there is no meanness in their behavior or in their acceptance of the
limitations of their peers.
In a documentary this successful, it seems unfair to single anyone out,
but teacher Yomaira Reynoso is such a bundle of nerves and emotions as she
teaches, dances, and exhorts that we want terribly to see her dancers succeed
because she so wants it for them. Michael,
a tubby fellow with a motor mouth that spews forth a non-stop commentary on
life, Wilson, a handsome boy whose professional instincts
materialize before our very eyes, and Kelvin, already exuding grace and
dignity, are notable in a cast of notables.
Director Marilyn Agrelo has done a wonderful job filming and editing a slice of New York culture that is absolutely inspiring. People always say that students are lucky if they have one or two teachers in a lifetime who touch their hearts. These students have several, all in one year. This movie is full of humor and spirit and zip, and as I said once about the movie “Babe,” I don’t want to know anyone who doesn’t like it.
Copyright (c) Illusion
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