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Stay Free! has a great interview with Amy Sewell, writer and producer of the movie Mad Hot Ballroom, about the hell they had to go through to clear all the music in the movie:

If filmmakers have to worry about these things, documentaries will cease to be documentaries! What happens when the girls go shopping and there’s music playing in the stores? We were lucky because in our movie the music wasn’t identifiable, but otherwise what are we supposed to do: walk up to the store manager and say, “Excuse me but can you turn off your radio?”

I’ve been meaning to see this movie, I hadn’t even thought of this aspect. Very interesting.

Posted on - June 24, 2005 [at] 11:14 am by Brad
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1 Comments on this post

Carol Smaldino on Mad Hot Ballroom copyright
July 30, 2005 at 9:06 pm

“Mad Hot Ballroom” as an Inspiration to “Volunteer”

We- I refer to us in the middle and upper classes in suburbs, towns and cities across America- tend to think of poorer people as people who need not only our economic help but our advice on how to live. Something happened to me today which shifted my view of giving economic and social supports to the poor in our inner city neighborhoods. The experience came my way in the thrilling opportunity to enjoy the film, “Mad Hot Ballroom”. “Mad Hot Ballroom is a phenomenally vital documentary about ballroom dancing and dancing competition within the New York City school system. Bravo for the filmmakers, for the teachers and principals and the beautiful, funny, talented and sensitive kids who live the dancing and make life dance for us.

I had a thought after the movie which I need to share about the possibilities of having our young people learn about inner city living and needs from kids themselves. Ok let me explain: my philosophy includes placing a high priority on listening to, and respecting, children in general. Children and youth need to feel relevant to their society and we in suburbia gravitate towards having bored kids who are constantly negotiating rules and often breaking them. While it is true that many kids in the suburbs are doing vast amounts of volunteer work, it is also true that most of them have been told from babyhood that a good volunteer resume is a requirement for admission to any college worth going to. It is a rare phenomenon for our kids to be volunteering in inner city placements and perhaps part of that has to do with a fear of danger, i.e. being mugged etc. I also sense that we feel so very far away from the inhabitants of the inner city as they must to us.

So many of the kids I have seen in my practice feel bored and aimless and unmotivated about changing their own smaller or larger environments. My experience, both personal and professional, is that children are the recipients of frequently trite information and rarely feel part of shaping their curriculum in school and in life. We want to train them to respect people and rules and we communicate this lesson mostly by repeating softly and loudly the command to respect instead of instilling respect by giving it first.

We would be talking about a key departure from conventional thinking about volunteerism: if we want to be of help we also need to consider that those usually thought of as the recipients of our good will and social programs, have much to teach us and to give us. They can, perhaps, in some cases, even teach a few of us to dance. But they can teach us and our children how to be useful to them by telling us about them first; as such they become less exotic or forbidden. And we in turn could also learn to help our suburban kids to know others as they wish to be known. Perhaps we as adults could remember what it’s like to love to dance.

Without a dance of the mind and heart and spirit, only dullness and destructiveness would be left.

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