Forget reality TV. If you want to see real people in real (as opposed to heavily manipulated and contrived) situations, check out the high-quality documentaries that have been coming out lately. Mad Hot Ballroom ranks among the best of these with its tale of fourth- and fifth-grade kids in New York’s inner-city public schools competing for a ballroom dance trophy.

Dance was the furthest thing from the minds of most of these at-risk kids when the program started. The transformation (no special effects needed!) is all the more remarkable for how internal it is as the boys and girls slowly learn to dance, make eye contact and show respect and appreciation for the partner who will make the difference in winning and losing. There’s even a fairy-tale ending the directors lucked into.

Bottom Line: An exhilarating look at how fine-arts education and teachers who care can change children’s lives for the better.

DVD Grade: A

Article posted on 3/12/2008
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