An immersive character study, and an idiosyncratic attack on bigotry, the new documentary Hot to Trot gets up on the stage and goes behind the scenes to discover the captivating but little known world of same-sex competitive ballroom dance, a world where expressions of personal passion become a political statement, and where one false step can crush aspirations.
Away from their graceful turns on the dance floor, the characters’ backstories frame their struggles and conflicts in life. The film follows charismatic Ernesto Palma, a former meth addict from Costa Rica, who strives for success and love; gritty, determined Emily Coles, a diabetic who wears an insulin pump 24/7… even while performing; handsome Nikolai Shpakov, a dazzling dance champion, who came out only a few years ago and still longs for the full acceptance of his Russian family; and introspective Kieren Jameson, whose identity was forged in the strict, conservative environment of a New Zealand military household.
Hot to Trot follows these dancers over a four-year period, as it watches their relationships with family, dance partners, life partners – and themselves – develop and deepen.
For these individuals, dance is a form of personal power and political engagement that simultaneously shapes their identities and helps them overcome uniquely personal challenges. They are not mere emblems of LGBTQ politics – they are living them!