Today is February 27th. It’s Dominican Independence Day. I am Dominican-American. Being born in Brooklyn, NY to Dominican immigrants makes me a Dominican-York, or more accurately a York-Dominican. But these are all just titles. Some are given to me and some I cling onto with every bit of strength in my soul. Which leads me to this movie “Mad Hot Ballroom“.
The title threw me off a bit because it reminded me of Baz Luhrmann’s classic “Strictly Ballroom” and it stunk of piggyback. Hey, I understand you gotta do what you gotta do to get your film out and be seen but sometimes this sort of connection just reminds me of that company that does all those SciFi monster movies where they jump on whatever’s hot, like say you’ve got “Snakes on a Plane” well we’ll make “Sharks on a Plane“, “Zombies on a Plane“, “Cibaeños on a Plane“, you get the idea. Se colan! They get on the tail end of that buzz and ride it out. I admire their business tenacity and I love the fact that they just keep making them. I’ve never seen one. Not because it’s beneath me (nothing is). I just haven’t had the chance to. All that instant Corman comes to mind when I see titles like “Mad Hot Ballroom”. I’m glad I didn’t listen to squatters in my brain because I just loved this movie.
This documentary about a dance competition between different public schools around NYC was years before Dancing With the Stars and a whole lot better but I’m just guessing – I have never seen that either (once again, not beneath me). At the time I had been living in Los Angeles for about 7-8 years and I still went back east 5-6 times a year just to EAT. I love all kinds of food but it ain’t easy to find Dominican Food in Southern California. So far, I know of only one restaurant, Mama Fina’s in Bellflower. I love Mama Fina but it takes me an hour to get there and when you’re so hungry you can eat “un cable” that hour might as well be 5 days on a bus because I ain’t going. Times change, back in 2005 I couldn’t wait to scrounge up airfare to hit JFK like the devil on fire. After watching Mad Hot Ballroom my girl and I decided to treat my family in the Tri-State area to a screening of the movie in NYC and some food. No, I didn’t rent out the theater, fool! It’s manhattan! I got my family to meet me for a matinee at the Clearview Cinemas on West 23rd and then we went around the corner for some Dominican food. At least 20 of us made it to the city and we had a blast cheerin’ on the kids from Washington Heights in the movie then thrown’ down at a restaurant called “It’s a Dominican Thing” that no longer is in business (another Dominican thing, too). Too bad, the food was great and the size of the joint fit my entire family perfectly. About 14 seats for 20 people. Just like home. So much fun was had that day, I saw relatives I hadn’t seen in years and I got to introduce my girl to all of them. I wish I was there right now. With all my crazy relatives. And all that food. Today on Dominican Independence Day.
I’ll have about 60 minutes in traffic to reminisce while I drive down to Bellflower, CA.
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