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.”