Lessons Learned from Dirty Dancing

I was 12-years-old when Dirty Dancing debuted. It was perfect timing due to the fact that I had recently announced to my family that I was going to either dance on Broadway or be a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader when I grew up. I was infatuated with MGM musicals, going to the theater and the Mickey Mouse Club on the Disney Channel.

Clearly, Mama saw the word “dirty” in the title of this movie I HAD TO SEE and decided it was not fit for a young girl.

Annoyingly, my older sister saw the movie about fifty-eight times and would come home and tell me about the music, the moves, and the beauty of Patrick Swayze. Little did she know that Tiffany Tutt’s birthday party was that weekend and we watched the entire thing four times on BETA.

I have to tell you, I was hooked. It was a pivotal movie for me. Sure, there was a ton of sexual related stuff, but I only saw the dancing and heard the music. I would try to figure out ways to sit in a corner, longing for a tall, handsome fella in a leather bomber jacket to come and proclaim that nobody puts me in a corner.

Who didn’t do that?

I remember rewinding and hitting play, rewinding and hitting play during the scene when Robby the Waiter tells Johnny, “You think you got that Johnny? What you can and can’t do?”

For years, I mean YEARS, my sister and I couldn’t figure out how Johnny responded to him. It was awful, because we had the dialog from the entire movie memorized except for that part. I think it wasn’t until the Internet took over our lives that we were able to Ask Jeeves (before Google) what he said. And it was a glorious day when we found out:

“You just put your pickle on everybody’s plate college boy and leave the hard stuff to me.”


I loved when Penny and Johnny danced. I loved when Johnny bit his lower lip and gave Baby the “come here” gesture with his finger when they first met after she carried a watermelon. Then he proceeds to lovingly teach her how to dirty dance. I love the entire “Hungry Eyes” montage.

I owned two VHS tapes of the movie. I own the DVD. I own the soundtracks, including, More Dirty Dancing. I performed the move that Johnny executes down the center aisle with the other instructors in a high school pep rally number. I fell in love with the mambo. And I saw the 30th anniversary screening last month on the big screen.

My sister was right. There’s nothing like Johnny Castle 22 feet up in the air.

Lessons Learned

  • Ignore all signage that reads “No guests allowed.”
  • Carry watermelons. It might lead to great things.
  • You will never be as skinny as Penny. It’s time to accept that fact.
  • When Patrick Swayze fingers wags for you to come, you go. Every time.
  • Warning: Pelvic thrusting can look awkward. Proceed with caution.
  • Make sure to have a talent on stand-by. You never know when a fun opportunity will present itself. Additionally, always travel with a costume or any props you may need. Throw it in a bag and keep it in the trunk of your car. Be prepared.
  • Dance moves sometimes tickle.
  • Fruit of the Loom bra and panties can be substituted for a leotard when you’re in a pinch.
  • Wear a flowy skirt in case you’re asked to perform the end-of-the-season showcase dance.
  • Travel with music. Preferably 45s.
  • The best place to practice lifts is in the water.

Dirty Dancing Quotes I Still Recite

  • I carried a watermelon.
  • The steps aren’t enough. You have to FEEL the music.
  • You’re invading my dance space.
  • Look, spaghetti arms.
  • Ga-gong. Ga-gong.
  • Nobody puts baby in a corner.
  • You just put your pickle on everybody’s plate, college boy, and leave the hard stuff to me.
  • Hold the position!
  • Oh, come on, ladies. God wouldn’t have given you maracas if He didn’t want you to shake ‘em.
  • All the boys of Okakokanoka Island, gather all the gifts that hula hana asks. They have combed their island home fulfilling each one. And its worth it when they watch her shake her grass…four, five…
  • Don’t put your heel down. DON’T PUT YOUR HEEL DOWN!
  • He wouldn’t know a new idea if it hit him in the Pachenga.
  • Where is my beige iridescent lipstick?

Dirty Dancing Soundtrack Favorites You Should Purchase

“The Time of My Life” by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes
“Be My Baby” by the Ronettes
“She’s Like the Wind” by Patrick Swayze
“Stay” by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs
“Hey Baby” by Bruce Channel
“Love is Strange” by Mickey & Sylvia
“In the Still of the Night” by The Five Satins
“Big Girls Don’t Cry” by The Four Seasons
“Some Kind of Wonderful” by The Drifters
“Do You Love Me” by The Contours
“Love Man” by Otis Redding
“These Arms of Mine” by Otis Redding

Dirty Dancing Songs I Sing That Weren’t On The Soundtrack
“Kellerman’s Anthem”
“Hula Hana”

Photo By: Lionsgate


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