Bring up Patrick Swayze at a friendly gathering and invariably half of the guests will wax nostalgically about when they first saw the 1987 blockbuster Dirty Dancing. It may be news to them that July is Dance Appreciation Month, but it won’t take much persuasion to attend Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage during its eight-show run (July 14-19) at The Smith Center. The main theme behind the classic story is one large celebration of the passion for dance.
While the Mambo and Fox Trot may be the most notable dances portrayed, the close and grinding dances piqued the interest of many viewers. Dirty Dancing was a title first, then a treatment. Screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein danced while spending the summers in the Catskills as a girl but got “dirty” at contests close to her Brooklyn home as a teen in the 1950s.
When first casting for the movie, Bergstein and the director chose dancers who could act. Jennifer Grey, daughter of the Oscar-winning actor and dancer Joel Grey of the film Cabaret (1972) who, like her father, was also a trained dancer. Patrick Swayze, who had been noticed for his roles in The Outsiders and Red Dawn, in which he had costarred with Grey, was a seasoned dancer, with experience from the Joffrey Ballet.
Upon assembling the stage show, dancing once again was pushed to the forefront. The iconic songs associated with the movie such as “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” and “Do You Love Me” are still part of the show, but the soundtrack includes more hits, enabling even more choreography.
Dirty Dancing arguably influenced contemporary talent-contest television programs, whether the routines paid tribute to movie scenes or guest stars came from the cast of the musical. Nigel Lythgoe, creator of So You Think You Can Dance and founder of the Dizzy Feet Foundation, called for the last Saturday of July to be declared the inaugural National Dance Day in 2010 in order to “promote health and self-esteem through the art form of dance.” A congressional resolution made it official, but celebrating the world of dance on one day is like putting Baby in a corner. Dance Appreciation Month opens the door to more extensive recognition and more ways to celebrate, and what better way than to relive the summer in the Catskills and successfully executing that one perfect lift.
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