learn poise and the benefits of team participation, and the effect
this has on the process of growing up.
Sometimes touching and oft times hilarious, "Mad Hot Ballroom" is
as engaging for the audience as the dance competition is for the
young students. The children at first seem wary of the idea of
dancing, especially of getting so close to members of the opposite
sex, but soon they are enjoying themselves and they become less
awkward and not so prickly with one another.
They are, after all, only 10-year-olds.
The children are constantly reminded to focus and to "smile at one
another." The boys are admonished about loose shirt tails, and the
youngsters grin and stumble across the dance floor to music they
otherwise never would have chosen to listen to.
While they are dancing and the judges are gauging their
performances, the teachers are anguishing over it all, cajoling the
youngsters, living and dying with every graceful twirl and clumsy
misstep. The audience at my screening became part of it, groaning
aloud and gasping in sympathy to an awkward turn of foot and cheering
openly for a graceful young couple. The dance steps that the
youngsters are learning -- the foxtrot, rumba, meringue, tango and
swing -- can be challenging enough for many adults. And, of course,
the students, at first, dance woodenly.
Their arms are stiff and they stare at their own feet as they
The dance course, though, lasts 10 weeks, and when the students
from all 60 schools assemble for the final competition, there are
some smooth dancers out there on the floor.
Co-producer and director Marilyn Agrelo, a first-time filmmaker,
deftly transfers the timely dance music from the cavernous, echoing
ballrooms to the smooth soundtrack of the film. As soon as the
credits rolled, my wife and I hurried home, put on our dancing shoes
and rushed off to one of our favorite salsa clubs in Hollywood, a
nice little joint on Fountain Avenue, where we blistered the floor
* JEFF KLEMZAK of La Crescenta has never met a dance film he
hasn't enjoyed and finds dancing to be as good for the soul as it is
for the body.