Tuesday, March 14, 2006

An interview with Mad Hot Ballroom's Marilyn Agrelo by Andrea Gronvall of Movie City News:
AG: --and, let's hear it for teachers! The kids are the stars of this film, but you're also generous with the screen time you allotted these teachers, who are just as inspiring as their students.

MA: You know, honestly, if somebody said to me, there's a documentary about kids taking ballroom dancing, I'd be like, "Come on! What else? Next!" I agree with you. On a surface level-and frankly, I worry about this because I feel like it's not a movie about cute kids, and I would never waste my time with that, it doesn't interest me. But what does interest me is the beauty of these kids at this age, living in a huge city, opening up the way that they did. It's something that you're not even aware of, what these kids are capable of thinking and feeling, and once I started hearing them, the film took a completely different turn for me. It's almost like the dance competition was just a vehicle to get us from point A to point B, to give us their unfettered perspectives on life. The triumph and the defeat and all that interwoven was interesting, but even the teachers-Allison Sheniak in Tribeca who cries just at the thought of her kids turning into ladies and gentlemen-she's really beautiful to me, but I'm also aware that she has the luxury to cry about that. Yomaira uptown? She's focused on keeping these kids off the street and not having them lose interest and turn to something that's going to be really dangerous and scary.

AG: She has no time for tears.

MA: No, and she has no time for coddling. Her attitude is, "You're tired? Too bad; get up and dance!" And she wants these kids to taste victory because what they see as victory right now-potentially-is the drug dealer up the street, the only person in that neighborhood who's driving a big car. Her stakes are so high, and yes, this ballroom dancing program is not going to change the world, but it's something.

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