Story behind famous ‘Dirty Dancing’ lift scene

Story behind famous 'Dirty Dancing' lift scene

It’s one of the most iconic scenes in movie history. The last scene of “Dirty Dancing,” where rough-around-the-edges dance instructor Johnny (played by Patrick Swayze) utters the now-famous line “Nobody puts Baby in the corner” and pulls Jennifer Grey’s starry-eyed character on to the stage where the two perform a perfectly choreographed routine set to the infectious “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life.” The scene ends with “the lift” — Grey getting a running start as she jumps into Swayze’s arms and he hoists her above his head to cheers from the crowd. It was a dance move her character struggled to perfect throughout the 1987 film, but in real life Grey didn’t actually even practice it.

“I’d never done the lift before I did the lift at the end of the movie. I would refuse to rehearse it because I was so scared,” Grey, now 52, confesses. “The only time I’ve ever done it was when the cameras were rolling. I didn’t even do a rehearsal of it. I was terrified. I just didn’t have any choice. I had to do it. They were like, ‘You gotta do it.’ I’m like, ‘No!'” It was that kind of a situation.”

Despite a marginal amount of dance experience, Grey didn’t use a double and did all of her own dancing in the movie. “I just had taken ballet class as a little girl, you know, like Saturday mornings. They were casting someone who had never moved her body in her life.”

Though she had acted throughout her early 20s, as a teenage guerilla in “Red Dawn” and as the title character’s eye-rolling sister in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” it was “Dancing” that shot Grey — who was 27 when the film was released — to true fame. “It definitely was a big turning point in terms of putting me on the map and being somebody who was a bit of a household name,” she shares. “That changed everything in that sense, and in the sense that people just treat me with so much love and warmth when they greet me. I think people have such a nice association with the movie that I just get all this warm love showered on me. It’s just a lovely dividend.”

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