Mad Hot Ballroom

  • Review Date: October 17, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2005
  • Running Time: 105 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Dance documentary hits all the right beats.
  • Review Date: October 17, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2005
  • Running Time: 105 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable
Violence & scariness

Discussion of violence (including one abstract mention of "kidnappers"), none displayed.

Sexy stuff

Kids are learning about gender roles as they learn classic dancing.

Not applicable

Some of the kids want to become stars, so they show an understanding of celebrity.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this documentary tracks students from three NYC public schools as they prepare for an annual citywide ballroom dancing competition. Parents need to know that some of the 11- and 12-year-old interviewees discuss the difficulties in their lives and neighborhoods, including absent parents, drug dealers, and street violence. That said, the children handle these subjects with poise and remarkable self-awareness.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

MAD HOT BALLROOM follows participants in American Ballroom Theater's (ABrT) Dancing Classrooms at three public schools in New York City: Tribeca's P.S. 150, Washington Heights' P.S. 115, and Bensonhurst, Brooklyn's P.S. 112.

Is it any good?


At first, it might seem strange to see such young people working so seriously on ballroom dancing. But within minutes, Marilyn Agrelo's documentary convinces viewers that this is exactly the right activity for these dedicated, enchanting fifth graders. As they work with their teachers and each other to learn the difficult steps and postures for the rumba, tango, swing, merengue, and fox trot, they also reveal much about themselves, as thoughtful, dynamic young people. As they dance, they are exposed to various cultural traditions, and begin to learn traditional gender roles (the boys are instructed, "Take care of your partner").

More than anything else, the movie impresses by the respect it affords its subjects. Whether the dancers perform for the camera (which some of them certainly do), explain their interest (Michael Vaccaro says, "It's like a sport that hasn't been invented yet!"), confess concerns (philosophically inclined Cyrus Hernstadt says, "Dance is like a tiny grain of sand if you consider the entire country"), or express themselves in complicated dance moves (the swing dancers are moving fast), they all give of themselves, for the enthusiastic adults they want to please (teachers like Yomaira Reynoso and Victoria Malvagno, as well as parents), and especially, each other.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the overwhelmingly positive effects of such structured dancing for both students and their teachers. They work hard, dedicate time and energy, and support each other, forming strong networks within their school teams and coming to understand what it means to win, and maybe more importantly, to lose. How do you cope with losing even when you try your best? What is the value of working together toward a common goal? What are the best ways to help teammates or partners to feel confident or learn new skills (whether dance steps, athletic activities, or school work)? How does losing teach you to be strong? And how might winning help you become more generous and sympathetic with other competitors?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:May 13, 2005
DVD release date:October 18, 2005
Cast:Emma Biegacki, Michael Vaccaro, Yomaira Reynoso
Director:Marilyn Agrelo
Studio:Paramount Vantage
Topics:Arts and dance, Great boy role models, Great girl role models
Run time:105 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:some thematic elements

This review of Mad Hot Ballroom was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written bySasavC April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

Mad Hurt Ballroom

This is an entertaining film and a disturbing one. Why do we need to crush certain kids' spirits by cutting them after giving them hope and motivation and fun? Why does this ballroom dance program have to be a competition? Wouldn't it be just as good if it culminated in a citywide dance festival? Think about these things when you watch the losers' reactions.
Adult Written bySonia Montejano April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
Parent of a 11 year old Written byerich February 12, 2010

Try to do your best (but you might not always win)

I think this movie is great. The kids work really hard and do their best. In my opinion, they are great role models for my kid. Although I watched this film more than a year ago, I still remember one boy's perplexity at having come in second, *although they had done their best and exactly what their coach/teacher had told them.* It was moving seeing him forced to absorb this painful but real life lesson (and I watched my own son absorb it by proxy).
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


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