Mad Hot Ballroom follows fifth-graders from three different public schools in New York City as they first learn, then master and finally compete in ballroom dancing. The ten- and eleven-year-olds are at that strange age where they’re still kids but you can see they’re on the brink of becoming little ladies and gentlemen. Dancing teaches them poise, respect, grace on the dance floor, team spirit, the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.
Mad Hot is proof that a documentary film doesn’t always have to be a downbeat, challenging film experience, but can entertain and uplift like the best comedy dramas. These kids have a lot to say; they’re charming, thoughtful, perceptive, and hilarious. Their facial expressions are a hoot as they struggle to learn the steps. And oh, the agony of having to look their partner in the eyes! Great fun. [*****]