Dirty Dancing powerfully staged

A spectacular live performance of the hit dance movie

By Byron Toben

dirty dancing westmountmag.caThe 1987 hit dance movie Dirty Dancing, as presented in live stage form in 2008, has finally been brought to Montreal courtesy of Evenko for a limited run at the Place des Arts. The spectacular cast of fifteen leads, buttressed by eleven ensemble members and an eight piece on stage orchestra has nary a weak spot as they dance to some 40 tunes.

The key roles of Johnny Castle, the working class dance instructor (Christopher Tierney) and Frances “Baby” Houseman, the teen age do-gooder child of privilege (Rachel Boone) stand out as they meet at a Catskills summer resort in 1963 and inevitably fall in love, over the objections of her doctor father.

The 43 tunes include a host of golden oldies from years before, such as You Do Something To Me, You’re The Cream In My Coffee, There Will Never Be Another You, Besame Mucho and Save The Last Dance For Me. Many of the sell out opening night crowd knew the other tunes and sang along, especially for the closing (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.

While some have criticised the “cheesy” plot and the soft porn gyrations, wotthehell, sez I, just relax and go with the flow and enjoy.

To give a tone of class and relevance to that tumultuous decade, key passages of JFK’s inaugural speech and of Dr King’s I’ve Got A Dream were woven in as well as Civil rights classics This Land Is Your Land and We Shall Overcome.

dirty dancing westmountmag.caThanks to modern technology, background scenes of lake, forest, meadows, cabins and dining hall were cinematically projected with great verisimilitude without the need for transporting tons of special equipment as, say, the Cirque du Soleil.

While some have criticised the “cheesy” plot and the soft porn gyrations, wotthehell, sez I, just relax and go with the flow and enjoy.

A YouTube compilation of the 10 best dance films places Dirty Dancing as Number 1. Saturday Night Fever (1977) was ranked 3rd and Flashdance (1983) 4th. My own favourite, Singing in the Rain came in fifth. Click to view the 1952 Gotta Dance to see that Gene Kelley and Cyd Charisse smouldered as much then as modern day flaunters.

I am reminded that Sigmund Freud famously queried in exasperation, “what do women want?” The answer, Siggy, was not blowing in the wind but uttered in Montreal writer Marianne Ackerman’s 1996 play Blue Valentine.

They want, she penned, to dance.

This was confirmed by a New York Times report a few years later that dancing was what topped the list over humour, muscles, education, etc. as desirable in a man. I will gladly buy a reader a Bloomsday Guinness who can conjure up that report.

Dirty Dancing continues at Salle Wilfred Pelletier in Place des arts until June 5.

Images: courtesy of Evenko

Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club

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