What if there was an after-school program for city kids that taught the finer points of ballroom etiquette, along with flamboyant dances like the tango, the rumba, and the foxtrot? Well, there is in New York City, and Agrelo’s buoyant doc follows three groups of spunky fifth-graders from home to class to the dance floor as they gear up for a very heated public-school competition.
There's enough sizzle in this wonderful doc to power hundreds of preteen dance lessons, especially as the kids Agrelo features – Dominican and Italian, uptowners and outer-borough residents – come from many walks of life. Aside from seeing these youths develop into fancy, sophisticated hoofers, one great charm of the film is hearing the budding dancers talk about their lives, aspirations, and (of course!) the opposite sex. With a leg up on rousing, uplifting entertainment, "Mad Hot Ballroom" makes "American Idol" look like vacuous child's play.