Dirty Dancing

A sleeper. The first half of this dance flick is as sinuous and thrilling as any in a decade – and that includes such blockbusters as Flashdance and Footloose. In 1963, at a resort for the Jewish upper-middle class, a young girl (Jennifer Grey, pictured with Patrick Swayze) wanders into the hall where the hired help and townles hang out, and the dancing is hot, sweaty, undulating. It ain't Kansas, Toto, that's fer damn sure. Grey has an affair with Swayze, a working-class dance instructor disinclined to keep his shirt on, and fills in for his pregnant partner (Cynthia Rhodes).

Director Emile Ardolino has an exhilarating way with dance – he gives it room to breathe, and he catches you up in its rhythms. (The erotic choreography is by Kenny Ortega.) The dance dries up in the second half, and the cornball ending is a botch (it's a Marxist Forty-second Street). But for those supple, shapely numbers – when Grey spins with Swayze, and blooms – I'd forgive anything.

From The Archives Issue 502: June 18, 1987