Hot To Trot

: Documentary
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: In Distribution


Inside the fascinating but little-known world of same-sex competitive ballroom dance, HOT TO TROT follows a small international cast of four magnetic men and women, on and off the dance floor, over a four-year period.  An immersive character study -- and an idiosyncratic attack on bigotry -- this rousing, powerful story unfurls with the rhythms and energy of dramatic cinema.


Using the storytelling techniques of dramatic cinema, HOT TO TROT is an intimate, humanist account of a captivating phenomenon – same-sex competitive ballroom dance – a world in which personal passion meets political muscle, and where one literal false step can crush aspiration.  Away from their extraordinary feats on the dance floor, the characters’ backstories frame their struggles and conflicts in life:  charismatic Ernesto Palma, a Costa Rican former meth head; gritty, determined Emily Coles, a severe Type 1 diabetic, diagnosed at age three, who wears an insulin pump 24/7, even while performing; movie star-handsome Nikolai Shpakov, a dazzling Russian dance champ, who came out only a few years ago and still longs for full acceptance from his family; and careerist Kieren Jameson, whose identity was forged in a strict, conservative environment with deep tentacles (her father was head of the New Zealand military).  The film follows Ernesto, Nikolai, Emily & Kieren over a four-year period of time, as it watches their relationships with family, dance partners, life partners – and themselves – develop and deepen

 For these individuals and others, dance is a form of personal power and political engagement that simultaneously (re)shapes their identities and sense of self and helps them overcome uniquely personal challenges.  They are emblems of LGBTQ politics, writ small – but they are living the issues, rather than working them.  And HOT TO TROT’s story, which lives at the intersection of art, activism, and passion, has appeal to a broad and diverse audience.  As these dancers evolve, we understand, vividly and personally, the real impact of the LGBTQ politics we read about every day.  And we care.


Hot to Trot uses the storytelling techniques of narrative cinema to explore the little-known world of same-sex ballroom. With a blend of verite, interviews, and performance, the film is built from the bottom up, so to speak, exploring the compelling personal narratives and interweaving story lines of several talented dancers over time, as their complex lives unfold, on and off the dance floor (including competing at the 2014 Gay Games, the international competition of the LGBT community). Our characters' love of dance and quest to be best trump finances, family conflict, and even serious illness. They see dance as personal power and also political engagement, (re)shaping their identities and their sense of self. Same-sex dancers are most often, although not exclusively, gay and lesbian. They embrace this alternative art form for many reasons, from sheer love of dance, to the freedom to be "ambidancetrous," and a concomitant expression of queer visibility. The image of Fred-and-Ginger will never be the same. I believe it's a uniquely opportune time to make a powerful film about a surprising & captivating phenomenon -- an intimate & complex film that simultaneously explores larger cultural and social themes.This documentary can be a catalyst for new understanding, attitudes, and action.


Gail Freedman - Director/Producer

Dina Potocki - Film Editor

Joel Shapiro - Director of Photography


Connect With The Filmmakers:


The Gotham Film & Media Institute - Fiscal Sponsorship Program 2024
Audience Award for Best Documentary, NewFest 2017


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