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Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Dance Scenes in Historically-Set Movies – July – Dirty Dancing #prairierosepubs #moviedancescenes

Join me here for a year of movie trivia fun as I post dance scenes from movies set in historical time periods. I will give a brief summary of the movie’s plot and an equally brief set-up to the scene.

Each month on the second Wednesday, I will post a movie clip and link back to previous movie scene articles here on the blog.

  This is the criteria by which I’m choosing movie scenes:

•           In a non-musical movie, the dance scene is important to the storyline and not just visual and auditory filler.

•           In a musical drama, the characters in the dance scene don’t sing to each other.

•           In a musical drama, the dance scene is important to the storyline and not just visual and auditory filler.

•           The historical cut-off is 1960, because that date works for me. ;-)

 Side note:  The article “Classic Literature is Not Necessarily Historical Fiction” on the BookRiot website offers an interesting explanation on what constitutes historical fiction and where various historical date lines are drawn.

Movies to this point:

January – Cat Ballou
February – The King and I
March – Easy Virtue
April – Shakespeare in Love
May – Chocolat
June – Beauty and the Beast

Since July is the halfway point in this year-long series, I’m looking at a movie dance scene I really like that doesn’t quite meet my criteria, yet it doesn’t NOT fit my criteria. We will ignore that I arbitrarily set the historical cut-off at 1960, and this movie is set in 1963. ;-)

Name of Movie: Dirty Dancing
Historical Time Period: 1963
Location: Catskills – Upstate New York, USA
Occasion/Purpose: Culminating dance at the summer resort
Type of Dance: several dance types – not one particular dance

Wikipedia: Fair Use License


Dirty Dancing is a 1987 romantic drama dance movie staring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. On a summer vacation in an upscale resort with her affluent family, Frances “Baby” Houseman experiences a different side of life and gets a glimpse of how ‘the other half lives’, when she wanders around the resort one night and stumbles upon a secret ‘dirty dancing’ party for the resort staff. This is when and where she meets Johnny Castle, the emotionally complex, and troubled, dance instructor. Through a series of unfortunate events, Baby assumes the role of Johnny's dance partner. From there, the romance between Baby and Johnny evolves.

Dance Scene

This dance scene is what I call a “Mary Poppins”. It’s practically perfect in every way. Every thread in the movie ties together with this movie-ending dance scene, which gives us a sense of completeness. We can’t help tapping our toes and smiling all the way through it. The song (I’ve had) The Time of My Life and Baby and Johnny’s performance are inseparable. There can’t be one without the other.

During their dance, we smile when Baby doesn’t giggle as Johnny runs his fingers along her ribs. We’re satisfied, delighted, and even a little goosebumpy when Baby and Johnny accomplish the difficult lift move. We see the love they have for each other. We get closure when Baby’s dad apologizes to Johnny for thinking ill of him where Penny was concerned.

Wikipedia: Fair Use License 

This is a feel-good ending to Baby’s coming-of-age story and Johnny’s parallel journey toward his own maturity, which is, in large part, because of Baby’s influence in his life. The scene technically meets my criteria of ‘…important to the storyline and not just visual and auditory filler’.

However, this scene falls just a bit short of moving forward or enhancing Baby and Johnny’s relationship simply because it comes at the end of the movie. In the moments around the actual dance, we do see how far they’ve come in their relationship because of...

1) Johnny’s noble statement to Baby’s father: “Nobody puts Baby in a corner”;

2) Johnny’s speech that that he always does the final number and he almost didn’t this year because someone told him not to and;

3) Johnny referring to Baby by her name, Frances, which is his way of telling everyone (her father) that he respects and admires her, and that she is a grown woman and not the little girl she was when the movie began.

...but it doesn’t show us what becomes of them.

It is left to our imagination if Baby and Johnny go their separate ways or become a couple when the music and dancing stop and the reality of ‘real life’ returns after the summer vacation. That leaves me unsettled, because I have an emotional investment in Baby and Johnny, and I don’t like open-ended endings.


Blogger hasn’t been playing nicely with the comment and reply feature. As such, I am unable to leave comments and/or replies on the Prairie Rose Publications’ blog. Therefore, I am responding now to the commenters on my June article for Beauty and the Beast.

To C.A. Asbrey: Your description of the animated Beauty and the Beast’s dance scene having a shiny innocence and becoming spikey at the hands of Emma Watson is a great way to describe what I was trying to convey about the scene. Thank you for that. ;-)

To Lindsay Townsend: I love both versions, too. I like that the live-action version fills in some gaps from the animated version. Conversely, there were sequences added to the live-action that didn’t strike my fancy, so to speak. Still, both are such wonderful movies.

To Renaissance Women: As you stated, the love and affection between Beast and Belle is illustrated so well in the dance scene. It’s a lovely and touching part of the story.

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer
Lasterday Stories
writing through history one romance upon a time





  1. Can you believe I've never seen this movie? It came out at a time when I was very busy in life, and never really caught up. That's me booking it in for the next rainy afternoon!

    1. Well how about this? It's the first time in so long I can't remember the last time I was able to log in and reply to comments. YAY! haha Anyway, there are several popular-in-their-time movies that are on my 'to watch someday' list. I'm interested in watching them, I just haven't gotten around to it. I understand completely. ;-)

  2. I loved this film! The romantic in me had Baby and Johnny being together after the public show of trust via their dance.

    1. This is such a feel good movie. The romantic in me has them living their happy ever after together. The realist in me says they have so many obstacles in their relationship that a happy ever after will be challenging. I sure want them to stay together. ;-)