Mad Hot Ballroom

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Whoever came up with the idea of teaching ballroom dancing to public school kids in New York City deserves a raise. For judging by the uplifting Mad Hot Ballroom, the children benefit in many ways far beyond merely mastering such complicated steps as the tango, fox trot, rumba, swing and merengue.

For most of the eleven year-olds followed, here, students from P.S. 150 and 115 in Manhattan, and P.S. 112 in Queens, hail from humble circumstances, and find themselves inspired by the experience to dream dreams not ordinarily expected of anyone from their working-class backgrounds.

Representing a veritable rainbow of the cultures to be found around the city, these aspiring hoofers are seemingly oblivious to their ethnic, color and religious differences of their assigned partners, instead focusing intently on learning precisely what is needed to prevail in the much-anticipated annual competition.

These spunky aspirants persevere, despite some heartrending setbacks which won't leave a dry eye in the house. And when not highlighting events on the dance floor, the film features conversations among the children which reveal them to be surprisingly mature, sensitive and insightful. Mad Hot Ballroom represents the flip side of last year's Spellbound.

Where that documentary showcased the plight of the lonely, introverted, socially-isolated, relatively-privileged, spelling nerd, this one is an utterly inclusive celebration which insists that through cooperation and leaning on each other's shoulders, any hard-working bunch of youngsters can reach for the moon, and grab it!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG for mature themes.
Running time: 106 minutes
Studio: Paramount Classics

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