|Ernesto Palma and Nikolai Shpakov,|
ballroom competition dancers,
appear in Gail Freedman's Hot to Trot.
(photo: Curt Worden)
|Emily Coles and Kieren Jameson|
(photo: Robert Cortlandt)
The international ballroom dance competition scene was largely unfamiliar to me when I sat down to watch Gail Freedman's documentary Hot to Trot. If you asked what I thought of same-sex competitive ballroom dancing, I would have cheered because hooray, I'm a lesbian! There was no way to anticipate that, by the end of nearly 90 minutes, I'd find tears pooling in my eyes and realize I cared deeply about the people Freedman had so gently, carefully introduced to me. A lesson in a niche of a niche of the dance world offers a space to think about what it means to be human.
The film follows the twists, turns, dips and changing partnerships in the lives of same-sex ballroom dancers--like the charismatic, creatively ambitious Ernesto Palma, raised in poverty in Costa Rica, a former meth addict for whom dancing is emotional self-care; the Russian Nikolais Shpakov who blossoms as a performer as he grows more confident in his gay identity; and Emily Coles, battling diabetes as she strives to create beauty. "It's Fred and Fred and Ginger and Ginger," quips a judge at California's annual April Follies competition. But it's more than that: It's people you might know. The personal is political, as we used to say, and the intimacy--enhanced by Freedman's team of cinematographers and her editor--makes for compelling viewing.
Cinematography: Joel Shapiro, Diana Wilmar, John Cummings, Vanessa Carr
Editing: Dina Potocki
Opens Friday, August 24 at Quad Cinema (New York) and Friday, September 14 at Laemmle Music Hall Theater (Los Angeles)
34 West 13th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues), Manhattan
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