Tara Gallagher

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Mad Hot Ballroom Review


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The children-in-competition documentary is beginning to have enough examples to deserve its own genre. From Hoop Dreams to Spellbound, documentary filmmakers seem obsessed with the drive, determination, and borderline abuse that surrounds these kids and their parents. Now that camera is turned on the most grueling, cutthroat arena to which children have ever been subjected: ballroom dance. Actually, Mad Hot Ballroom is a charming tale about adding a little class to the lives of New York City public schoolchildren.

The film follows three teams, each representing public schools from different boroughs. The fourth and fifth graders on each team learn five dances: the foxtrot, meringue, tango, rumba, and swing. Their teachers try to instill presentation from day one. Little things like posture and tucking in your shirt. Over the course of ten weeks they train and compete to be the one school out of 60 to win the Challenge Trophy at the Colors of the Rainbow Finals in Manhattan.

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