It’s Not the Mambo. It’s A Feeling; A Heartbeat

The cynic in me hates to admit that I got a little choked up upon hearing the news of Patrick Swayze’s death last night. Dirty Dancing came out in 1987, which made me all of 2 years old when Swayze first told the world that nobody puts Baby in a corner, but all the same, it was one of those movies that I watched countless times at countless childhood sleepovers. It was a defining movie for me as a young girl. It is one of the first movies I can recall really, truly loving and wanting to see over and over again. One of the few “chick flicks” that I can watch to this day and enjoy wholeheartedly without feeling any twinge of embarrassment or foolishness. It’s not so much that Dirty Dancing is not deserving of such twinges, but that I feel connected to it in such a visceral way that I refuse to let intellect and maturation sour my experience of the movie. 

It’s because of the dancing, plain and simple. As silly as it may be, the dancing in that film always filled me with so much joy and excitement. I wanted to learn those dances. The young me was enticed by the sexuality inherent in the movements of their hips, in the energy that flowed between Grey and Swayze when theirs eyes were locked and their legs moved in unison. It is a hokey movie, a cheesy one. It is a movie that takes itself a bit too seriously, pushes the raw energy and sexual intensity of each dance a bit too hard. But compared to the dance entertainment of today (movies like Step Up and shows like So You Think You Can Dance–both of which I enjoy) it’s far more humble in it’s portrayal. In Dirty Dancing, dancing was less about competition and boasting and more about connecting to one’s body and experiencing a physical manifestation of joy and attraction and independence. 

Patrick Swayze may not have been an inspired actor with a resume full of serious films, but he was clearly a man who took great joy from the activities of his life. And it is sad that that life is now gone.