Sundance 2015: How to Dance in Ohio is a Low-Key, Likable Look at Autistic Teens Having a Ball

By  · Published on January 27th, 2015

Sundance Film Festival

Teenage rites of passage are difficult enough when you’re “normal.” But having autism or other developmental issues brings its own set of anxieties and challenges to growing up. In Columbus, a group of young people all attend a special workshop designed to help them improve their social skills. The culmination of a 12-week program is a spring formal. How to Dance in Ohio focuses mainly on three girls as they prep for the big night.

Although the impending event and its buildup lend a narrative skeleton to the documentary, it’s mainly a slice-of-life piece. The day-to-day details of living on the spectrum come to the forefront, often to interesting effect. Pop culture is thick with stereotypes about autism, which have, if anything, grown more aggressive as autistic characters have taken more prominent roles in entertainment (e.g. The Big Bang Theory or Sherlock). This film gently nudges those preconceptions aside.