Mad Hot Ballroom: Spanish Dance!

Rarely do I ever show a complete movie in my language classes.  While I won’t go into my thinking on that subject right now, suffice it to say that I think our time in class is too valuable to take entire class periods and devote them to a video.  My one exception for the past four years has been the wonderful movie Mad Hot Ballroom, which is rated PG13.   I show this movie after we have completed our Social Awareness/Music unit, and after we have taken lessons, in class, for bachata, merengue, and salsa.  Despite the fact that I have students every year who claim, emphatically, that they will not dance, I have never had that happen.  Everyone dances, and they clamor so much for another day of dance that I have said every year that I need to arrange a school dance that is JUST Latin dance!  (maybe this year?)  I get the same groans when I counter their initial astonishment that we are going to watch an entire movie with the subject matter of the movie.  How could a movie about 11 and 12 year old students in New York City possibly be interesting?  It takes less than 10 minutes for every class to become invested in this movie, and to care, intensely, about its outcome.  The movie takes three days to watch (based on my 45 minute class periods), but it is, in my opinion, worth taking that time.

Mad Hot Ballroom

This story about the various ethnic makeup of New York City, with a concentration on the Dominican population, and the value of the arts in building character in students, is a WINNER!  As soon as I saw it 5 years ago, I ordered it from Amazon.  I developed a guide (based on some suggested questions by film reviewer Carolyn Arends) to go with the movie, and used it the first three years, but I did not use it this year.  Here is the guide:  Mad Hot Ballroom  However, the essay type questions I did use for post viewing discussion this year.  Be forewarned, everything is in English, although the movie has a considerable amount of Spanish in it. Here is a brief clip from youtube.

And here is another longer (6 minute) clip.

13 thoughts on “Mad Hot Ballroom: Spanish Dance!

  1. Unbelievable description. The documentary, change many lives out there. What seems to shock me is how fast time has gone by and noticing the differences in teenagers after being involved into ballroom dancing. Unbelievable

    -Wilson Castillo

    • You guys should do some sort of update video/interview/blog post, especially if any of you stuck with dance. The other day I watched the video for the second time since it was released, and it is amazing to realize that those kids are now all in their twenties just like me. It’d be nice to see how they’ve all grown into their own person over the years and to see if/how the ballroom dancing contributed to that growth.

      • I would love to see an update, too! Each year when I show the video, my students always want to know what has happened to the students in the video since the filming……..

    • I just finished watching the documentary with my students (spanning 4th grade to 8th grade). Everybody loved it! They would love to know how you guys are doing. I did find a few videos of a 10 year reunion but would love more. You guys were inspiring!

  2. As always, really fascinating and definitely constructive blog post Mad Hot Ballroom: Spanish Dance! | elmundodebirch.

  3. Mr. Castillo, once in a while I watch the movie, just to cheer me up. I would like to see how you look now. Are you in school?

  4. I was thoroughly enchanted by this movie. I hope that all the children did well and are moving forward with school. The parents we saw in the movie, were so proud of their children!

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