I’ve had the time of my life, and I owe it all to you…
What do you picture when you hear those words? A pair of charming ballroom dancers? A flowing white dress? A dashing ballroom instructor?
That’s certainly what I picture, because those words are part of the song that accompanies the iconic finale scene of Dirty Dancing, the beloved 1980’s dance classic. And if you haven’t seen that finale scene yet, please, watch it here before you read on:
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, Dirty Dancing follows Francis “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey), an awkward teenager who is taking a vacation to Kellerman’s campgrounds with her family. The summer starts out as a total bore, until Baby meets mysterious dance instructor Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze), and instantly falls for him. When Johnny’s dance partner Penny (Cynthia Rhodes) faces a crisis that will prevent her from dancing in the annual ballroom performance, Baby steps in to save the day. Throughout the ups and downs of dance rehearsals, Johnny and Baby start a budding romance that challenges the class system at Kellerman’s.
Stars Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, from Wikimedia Commons
One of the best things about this movie has to be the awesome soundtrack. It features such 60’s classics as “Be my Baby” by The Ronettes , “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by Frankie Valli, and “Do You Love Me” by The Contours. And of course, the movie wouldn’t be complete without the previously mentioned finale dance to the song “I’ve Had the Time of my Life” by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes.
That finale dance is just one of the awesome routines choreographed by Kenny Ortega (who also directed and choreographed all three High School Musical movies. Yay!) The dance scenes that feature Johnny and Penny are some of the most exciting parts of the whole movie for me. They are both so incredible. From the mambo at the opening dance to their “improvisation” at the secret staff party, both Swayze and Rhodes are obviously highly trained.
Kenny Ortega from Wikimedia Commons
One of the things I love about the choreography in this movie is that it’s simultaneously current and incredibly influenced by the 1980’s dance styles. The dances still look great today, but the constant hair flips and back-arching are a nod to the styles of a distant decade. (And seriously, how do those girls all have such bendy backs? They practically seem to bend in half in some of the dance scenes.)
Of course, the dances between Baby and Johnny are the most beloved of the movie. What Jennifer Grey lacks in technique, she certainly makes up in heart and stage presence. The final mambo scene is still one of my favorite movie dance scenes.
Overall, Dirty Dancing is an incredibly fun romp back in time.