Reviewer's Rating 4 out of 5   User Rating 4 out of 5
Mad Hot Ballroom (2005)
UContains no sex, violence or bad language

Spellbound meets Shall We Dance? in Mad Hot Ballroom, a feelgood documentary about a hoofing contest for New York schoolchildren. Instead of the three Rs, these kids learn the rumba - as well as the tango, fox trot, merengue and swing dancing. But which - if any - of our three chosen classes will be crowned city champions? It's a tale of tears, triumph and tread-upon toes; it may wear you out, but it'll put a spring in your step too.

There are big differences between these Big Apple tykes: one of our 11-year-old troupes hails from well-off Tribeca, while another's based in a Dominican neighbourhood with a 97 per cent poverty rate. And then there's the half-Italian, half-Asian school in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. It's a sweeping portrait of ethnic and economic diversity. Trouble is, it's hard to get intimate with individuals when there's so many of ‘em. Best just to go with the flow as the film sashays between practice sessions and scenes of our junior Gingers and Freds gassing about families, social issues and - most amusingly - the opposite sex. It's cute, yes, but it doesn't cloy. Well, only a little...

"NOTHING CAN SUPPRESS THE SUNNINESS"

There's also a darker side, as one group of fifth-graders learns the competition's harshest lesson. How do you cope with losing when you know you've given your best? But nothing can suppress the sunniness of the grand final at NY's World Financial Center. However hard you try, you won't be able stop yourself beaming like a proud parent.

End Credits

Director: Marilyn Agrelo

Writer: Amy Sewell

Stars: Allison Sheniak, Alex Tchassov, Yomaira Reynoso, Rodney Lopez, Victoria Malvagno

Genre: Documentary

Length: 105 minutes

Cinema: 25 November 2005

Country: USA

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