A delightfully passionate group of same-sex ballroom dancers in Australia take part in the Gay Games in Germany in Nikolas Bird and Eleanor Sharpe’s bare-bones documentary "Ballroom Rules."
Beginning in the Dance Catz all-gay dance academy in Melbourne run by Anny Salerni, the film centers on four couples who train religiously for the event. Three of the couples are lesbian: one features a mother of one and her platonic dance partner, another showcases an older lesbian couple who met while dancing and have kept up their craft even while one of them was going through treatment for breast cancer. The other female couple is a younger duo where one is dealing with a bad knee and arthritis. The final duo is a male couple whose pluck is more prominent then their abilities. While one is tall and deadly serious, the other is a bit of a clumsy goofball.
The charm here is that all of the couples are serious about their craft, even though they are clearly novices. Ultimately, these men and women love dancing and they use the Gay Games as a way to have a goal to work for and compete in an event where they won’t feel uncomfortable expressing who they are.
The film touches on homophobia and personal triumphs while wrapping it up in a cute and sassy bow. The filmmaking is fairly straight-forward with barely a flourish. And at 77 minutes it can feel a bit drawn out. Once the crew gets to Germany, watching the more professional couples from all over the world dazzle audiences with their same sex routines, one wonders if focusing on teams that are masters of their craft might have been more compelling. Here, we are pretty sure the couples aren’t going to win "best in show," but they make up for it with pluck and spirit. And there might be a few surprises in there, as well.