In 2005, Marilyn Agrelo directed the documentary “Mad Hot Ballroom,” a movie focused on various schools in New York City who train to take part in a city-wide dance competition. However, the true interest of the story comes in the personalities of the children featured, their stories and what they have to say.
In one of the schools, located in Washington Heights, there is a 97 percent poverty rate. Where piano lessons or other beneficial activities would cost money, the dance program held at the elementary school for the kids is a free and creative way to distract kids from possible problems they have at home. The idea of the program is to give the kids something to take inspiration from, and something to look forward to.
One key aspect of the movie that captured the viewer was the idea of taking today’s big problems and asking kids for their opinions. One 11-year-old gave her opinion on drug dealers, explaining that she believed that although it was very sad that he chose to sell drugs to make a living, it may not be completely his fault, because sometimes it depends on the environment in which you were raised. The ability of even a child’s mind today to see both sides of an issue is astounding, and the idea of it is thought provoking. Perhaps adults do not give younger generations enough credit.
Although the movie had serious moments, it also placed humor very wisely throughout. Where some documentaries may have just been just cut-and-dry, this one would put in a funny clip of girls talking about what kind of guy they want, or of a very short boy dancing with a very tall girl. The humor captured the audience in laughter on more than one occasion, displaying the ability that the program has to bring joy to the lives of those involved.
Overall, “Mad Hot Ballroom” was a documentary that used a good balance of humor and intrigue to keep the viewer entertained for its entirety. Using traditional documentary shots and the following of each of the various teams, it carried its viewers with the kids throughout the experience. In the end, the lessons that can be learned from this film are that it does not take money to have a fun, valuable experience, and that maybe the future generations are not looking so grim after all. By Katie Ziraldo / Upstart Staff