By Ahsaas Verma
mad-hot-ballroom

 

Today, the world is full of competition. Not only competition for jobs, money or any other ‘adult’ stuff but the race has managed to pull in the children as well. When I was young enough to be not able to figure out how my bed got wet every morning, there were kids being drawn to big television shows to compete against each other in dancing, music, or any other talent or sport. Now, this article isn’t about criticising the parenting styles or these emerging kid shows taking the childhood of children away from them or any such serious stuff, but a recollection into the memories of how this ‘competitive’ spirit has rather become a huge part of our lives and definition of how we grow and what we grow into.

Last week, while working during my internship I came across a few movies that are recognised to be spreading across the message of freedom, dignity, solidarity, cultural diversity and other such heavy concepts by the United Nation’s. One of them being Mad Hot Ballroom (2005). The title caught my eye but as intense as it might sound, the story is about kids. Shot in a style of a documentary (you even get to see the camera once or twice), Mad Hot Ballroom is not focused on a particular protagonist but rather a lot of schools, the children, the teachers, the parents; and so it covers a ballroom dance program introduced in 1994 in New York, which is now being taught to a large number of schools in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Bronx. Based around the time after the 9/11 tragedy happens, the movie, also includes cases of a few students whose lives have been uplifted just because of this ballroom program and rather than becoming gangsters or social misfits they are on the path to becoming leaders, dancers and making something out of their lives. The manner in which everyone is shot giving interviews is bound to touch one’s heart. The emotions are real and come across very strong.

If you have ever been into something like some sports, theatre, dance, any quiz club or any other club during your school time you will be able to recollect the kind of constant practice or rehearsal your teacher would make you go through. The kind of effort you used to put in with all your heart and soul in the thing and the kind of team spirit you imbibed from that activity. I felt an urge to do that all over again, to put an equal amount of consistency and sincerity into each task I do today, as I used to back then. From a personal experience of being a dancer myself and somehow also being able to be a part of a National Level Ballroom Championship back in 2012, I was able to connect to the story even better. Rumba, Merengue, Swing, Foxtrot, Jive, Cha-Cha and all the other Ballroom styles were to be learnt by us over the course of time, similar to the movie.

The movie showcases the spirit of a ‘Team’ so beautifully that I almost had tears rolling down my cheeks when a team couldn’t make it to the next level of the competition. Brought back all the rejections, failures, disappointments I had as a dancer, a performer and as a human being. An individual has no better choice than to overcome the resentment, dissatisfaction, or negatives and move on in hope to find something much better. At least that is how my mother used to do it for me, telling me that god has something better planned for me, even if that probably was the biggest breakthrough of my life. But then eventually one realizes that life has much more to offer and as they say, there is enough sunshine to be shared by everyone!

Somewhere, halfway through the film I realized I am not the only one to have gone through those hitches, if someone can reciprocate the emotions I experienced in my life, someone must have lived it too. The mother who has given up on her own life just so that she could better her child’s life; teachers who work their day in and out just to make sure their students can become better than what they ever were; the friends who are going through the same experience but still give you enough confidence to believe that everything will be better soon. I have had all of that and I think such people are to be cherished the most because they raise you to become successful. Small instances in the movie like when two children do not dance because their ‘religion’ does not allow them to, but they aren’t mocked about it, and rather pursued for help and respected for their decision by everyone help you understand the big concepts (mentioned earlier) in a better way. This broad understanding of things from other’s perspective really helps you to grow into a human being.

There is always one winner in the end in real life and so was the case in the movie. As much as an optimistic and an idealistic individual might not want to agree to this fact, it will be less upsetting if one grows accustomed to this fact. Opinions, Competition, Disagreement, Teamwork, Innocence etc… Are all represented in a balanced amount in the movie. Children begin learning and grasping things at a very young age and it is fine to expose them to a world of competition but not by pressurizing them, where they cry and emote in a negative manner like we see in today’s kid reality shows. Innocence is what adds to the movie the most. Innocence with which the children talk about the opposite sex, about not being able to win, about relationships, about dancing is what steals the show!

Somehow, as mentioned earlier, the movie will help one re-live the childhood, feel the innocence of that age and probably even make sure that, that ‘age’ is always dancing around inside you somewhere, always. At least that is what it did to me!

 

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