Be DanceSassy! – Dancing Dirty and Iconic Lifts

‘Sassy’ – Urban dictionary: “Possessing the attitude of someone endowed with an ungodly amount of cool.”

Bindi and Derek

Written by @donamadrina

Do you know why the film Dirty Dancing holds a special place in the heart of Derek fans? Let’s take a look so you too can be DanceSassy!

• What’s Dancing “Dirty” Anyway?
Dirty Dancing: Trivia on the Motion Picture Classic
• The “Iconic” Lift: Did She or Didn’t She — Rehearse it!
• Derek, Jennifer Grey, and Their Dirty Dancing Opportunity
• Derek and the Dirty Dancing Remake Lowdown
“Nobody Puts Bindi in the Corner”

What’s Dancing “Dirty” Anyway?
Dirty Dancing is more than just a movie title. Dancing ‘dirty’ is a style of dance. It is a dance in which a couple performs sultry and sensuous movements. And of course, those movements are in extremely, and I mean extremely, close embrace, with a lot of swaying back and forth.

And then there’s — lifts — and dips — and leg straddling. Oh my!

The dance movements are actually a fusion of many Latin dances, such as the Tango, the Cha Cha, and most especially the Mambo, which looks a lot like salsa, because they are so very similar. Mambo is more structured ballroom; Salsa is looser and more relaxed, like any good street dance should be. 🙂

Dirty Dancing: Trivia on The Motion Picture Classic
Hasn’t everyone seen Dirty Dancing? ☺ It was a low-budget film (it took only $5 million to make), intended for a teen audience, but it ended up being the highest-grossing film of 1987, earning over $170 million worldwide. Can you believe that this film had been hated by its test audiences? True! And though intended for teens, this picture drew an unexpected adult audience.

Lover Baby

It’s hard to believe that Dirty Dancing was originally intended for teens, because some of the film’s ‘dirty’ dance scenes were too hot, hot, hot to end up on the big screen at all. Since, the movie producers were seeking a PG-13 rating, those scenes had to be cut. Gosh! I wonder what those scenes could have been like, because what we ended up seeing on the big screen seemed rather – dirty — by 1987 standards. ☺

The “Iconic” Lift: Did She or Didn’t She — Rehearse It!
220px-JenniferGreyThe most famous dance of course in Dirty Dancing occurs in the film’s final scene (which ironically was the first scene filmed for the movie). In this scene, Baby and Johnny perform the now famous ‘lift.’ Their dance was seven minutes of pure entertainment and delight, performed to the song that was created especially for the movie, “(I Had) The Time of my Life,” by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes. Interestingly though, Jennifer and Patrick didn’t really dance to the Medley/Warnes version. They filmed their dance to a demo version of the song, because the Medley/Warnes version was not yet complete at the time of their filming.

In fact, when filming Dirty Dancing, Jennifer was so afraid of her final lift scene that she refused to rehearse for it. Refused. She waited until the absolute last moment, and her first attempt was on camera. She has since said, “The day you see me do it in the movie is the first time I do it.”

However – here’s the real dirt on that. (Pardon the pun. 🙂 ) There is a scene in the movie where Baby and Johnny practice “lifts” in preparation for a dance competition they are going to compete in together. While filming that scene, Jennifer and Patrick were at Lake Lure in North Carolina on a cold October day rehearsing over and over again. There were so many takes of those lifts, and the water in the lake was so chilly (40 degrees), that no closeups could be taken of Jennifer and Patrick, because their lips were actually turning blue.

Lift ScenePatrick says in his book: “It was horrifyingly, hypothermically cold in that lake, and we filmed that scene over and over. And despite the fact that Jennifer was very light, when you’re lifting someone in water, take after take after take, even the skinniest little girl can feel like 500 pounds. By the time we finished shooting that sequence, my arms were like rubber, my body temperature had plunged.”

In Dirty Dancing, Jennifer and Patrick were successful in nailing their lift on the dance floor in the final scene — without prior rehearsal for that lift — precisely because they had practiced doing lifts over and over in the lake for the scripted scene in the movie. Same principle, just one was in water – the other on the dance floor.

Jennifer says of that lift, “God, no! I only did it on the day I shot it…Never rehearsed it, never done it since. I don’t know how all these people who reenact it have the guts to throw themselves into the arms of anyone other than Patrick Swayze. It’s insane!” ☺ (See what she means in the video below. Too funny!)

Derek, Jennifer Grey, and Their Dirty Dancing Opportunity Derek and Jennifer Grey
Remember Season 11, Week 1 of Dancing With the Stars? That was when Derek and Jennifer Grey danced a beautiful Viennese Waltz to the song, “These Arms of Mine”, a song used in the 1987 blockbuster movie, Dirty Dancing. Bruno was so impressed with the quality of Jennifer’s performance after not having danced for 23 years that he was inspired to say, “Baby is back where she belongs.”

‘Baby,’ of course is a reference to the character that Jennifer played in the popular film, and Bruno’s statement was a parody of Johnny Castle’s (Patrick Swayze’s) famous quote — “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”

When it was announced that Baby, I mean, Jennifer was to be Derek’s dance partner for Season 11, is it any wonder that Derek’s fans salivated? Oh yeah! We wanted to see Derek and Jennifer simulate that famous lift scene to “The Time of My Life.” We fully expected that it would happen.

The producers titillated us in week one with the dance to “These Arms of Mine,” but that was foreplay — we wanted the real deal. And we waited with baited breath all season for Derek and Jennifer to reenact that final dance scene from the movie. But, alas!…it didn’t happen!

Evidently, Jennifer refused request after request from the show’s producers. She had been plagued with serious neck injuries all season long, even almost pulling out of the competition a few days before the finals.

Jennifer and WatermelonFortunately, she didn’t, and she and Derek were able to perform their freestyle to another Dirty Dancing song, “Do You Love Me.” the song that was being played when Baby crashed an underground dirty dancing party carrying a watermelon. She was fascinated by the couples who were dancing dirty. 🙂

Whereas, Jennifer and Derek’s dance included some of the movements from that scene, their dance was definitely not dirty, and — it didn’t include the iconic ‘lift.’

Jennifer’s refusal to recreate the lift dance also centers around feeling very self-conscious because she knew everyone would expect her to be good. And she refused the producers because she said she was too old. She was a very young looking 50 at the time of DWTS. (Though she played a teenager of 17 in the Dirty Dancing film, she was actually 27 years old at the time, and Patrick was 34, playing a 25 year old.) Jennifer has also admitted to just being plain frightened to try to recreate that infamous scene.

Jennifer performed on Dancing With the Stars with Derek in 2010, only a year after Patrick’s death from pancreatic cancer. With his death so recent, the thought of dancing “their” special dance was too much for her. She refused the show’s producers for that reason as well. She didn’t want to share the memory of that dance with any one else — not even Derek.

Some might find her reasoning about Patrick as rather ironic in as much as it was widely reported that Jennifer and Patrick did like each other that much. Was that true? Hard to say. Both, however, were professional and proficient enough actors to put their individual differences aside, if there were any, because in front of the cameras – they exhibited an insane amount of chemistry.

Derek and the Dirty Dancing Remake Lowdown
In 2011, when talk surfaced of a possible Dirty Dancing remake, Jennifer became a public proponent of having Derek play the role of Johnny. The remake’s choreographer was to be Kenny Ortega, who had choreographed Dirty Dancing for the 1987 film. Kenny openly admired Derek’s work—and said so at many events. So, it was highly speculated that Kenny had actually chosen Derek to play the role of Johnny.

Can you see Derek as Johnny? ☺ It’s hard when someone like Patrick Swayze plays a role to see anyone else in that role, huh? But, the original Johnny in Dirty Dancing was written to be an Italian, but then — Patrick auditioned for the part. Lo and behold, that main lead changed from being Italian to Irish — just for Patrick. 🙂 Patrick added his own touches to that role — as did Jennifer to hers. In fact, there are scenes in the movie that are simply impromptu interactions between Jennifer and Patrick while filming that the directors decided to keep in the film, because they worked!

So yes, Derek can — and most likely would — add his own flair, his own style, and his own personality to the role. Doesn’t he look like a young, thinner, blonde Patrick Swayze here? Derek as Johnny

But will he ever get the chance to play Johnny Castle on the big screen — now that’s a good question?

In 2012, Lionsgate pulled the plug on the Dirty Dancing remake, putting it on hold, supposedly due to cast timing issues. Reading between the lines and following what was happening on the casting front, many Derek fans believed truly that Derek had gotten the part of Johnny, possibly playing opposite Lea Michele as Baby.

In fact, at the same time as the postponement announcement, Derek reported in an interview that he had just received some disappointing news. His diehard fans felt certain that he was referring to the loss of the role in Dirty Dancing, a film that could have put him on the map in Hollywood. Instead, in 2014, he starred as Donny in (Cobu 3D) Make Your Move with Korean pop star BoA, a film that was actually filmed in the spring of 2011. It was poorly produced and marketed — and didn’t go anywhere.

Just recently, there was some news on Derek’s Dirty Dancing chances. Through Deep Throat, a DWTS insider used by Courtney on, it was reported that Derek remarked during the week’s rehearsal that he indeed had been slated for the part of Johnny. Now is that good news or bad news? Good, because he had truly gotten the part — or disheartening news, because he lost it just as soon? Probably both, huh?

Dirty Dancing’s remake has not happened to this date. In fact – at the beginning of 2015, talk turned to doing a three-episode TV movie instead, so as not to compete with the original film version. Aww, shucks!

A call went out for 900 extras for the TV movie that was scheduled to film this year. However, in July, Lionsgate again cancelled it, giving back to North Carolina over $4 million in movie grant movie. No reasons were given as to why. And we doubt that Derek was slated to star in the TV version. So for now – no Derek as Johnny for us Derek fans.

However — Starseeker and this site are reporting that the Dirty Dancing remake is now scheduled for 2016. Hmmm. Is Derek finished with his Dancing With the Stars contract then? Think so!

I want to hold out hope that somehow Dirty Dancing will indeed be rescheduled for a remake starring Derek. As of now, however, it is not on an official release schedule that I found to be reliable when I was working on the MakeYourMove3D website and we were seeking a release date for Derek’s movie back then. Here it is. Keep checking it, maybe if we all pray real hard, Dirty Dancing: the Remake will appear on this list real soon. 🙂

Nobody Puts Bindi in the Corner
On Thursday, October 15, ABC released an instagram of Derek and Bindi in which there was the caption, “Nobody puts Bindi in a corner.” The hopes of Derek fans everywhere accelerated. After all these years, our Derek was going to get to play the role of Johnny Castle after all, albeit only for Dancing with the Stars. And his ‘Baby’ was to be our sweet Bindi.

Nobody puts @Bindisueirwin in a corner! #FamousDances #DWTS

A photo posted by Dancing with the Stars (@dancingabc) on


The news that Derek and Bindi were going to reprise the role of Johnny and Baby in a dance version gained legs on Twitter and Facebook, with the news trending for days. The press ran with the story, as well. All through the media, Derek and Bindi were seen rehearing their ‘lift,’ with everyone comparing theirs to Jennifer and Patrick’s – natch.

Derek Bindi Wk 6 Rumba 50

With so much lead-in to their performance, is it any wonder that Derek was nervous and scared, saying that his expertise is more in the realm of speed, agility and technique, not lifts. (I’ve honestly never been more nervous in my entire life.”) It was rather frightening to re-create one of the, if not “the”, most iconic lifts in Hollywood. With high expectations, we all watched the recreation of that final dance scene from Dirty Dancing.

It was amazingly satisfying to see all the little movements that Derek incorporated into the choreography in order to keep the authenticity of the dance, not only keeping true to the “Rumba” that he and Bindi had been assigned, but incorporating other Latin dance styles, as well. And Bindi performed that dance to a T. I just can’t keep from smiling every time I watch it.

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 11.33.22 PM

Oh! And the “lift”? — Nailed it! — That, folks, is how you pay homage to an iconic dance. 🙂

And though for Derek fans, this dance, as amazing as it was, was still not the movie role in Dirty Dancing that we had hoped for him — we’ll take it, right?

And, yes to ABC! “Nobody puts Bindi in the corner.”  She nailed her lift — and that dance —  with her first perfect score of the season! We knew she would! She’s amazing! ☺

Research Resources

Return to DWTS Season 21 Statistics
Go to 10/25/2015 UPDATE: Derek and the Dirty Dancing Remake