Movies about dance weren’t always the craze they are now. Once upon a time there were only a token few to bring the public into the dancer’s private universe. The 80s sensation, Dirty Dancing, was among them, and with the death of its sexy star, the world of dance loses yet another mover and shaker. Patrick Swayze died last night after nearly a 20-month battle with pancreatic cancer. That makes this year’s death toll of influential dancers…. way too many.
Patrick Swayze may be best known for his acting chops, but before Dirty Dancing launched him into superstardom he was primarily a ballet dancer. In fact, Swayze has even admitted to holding back on showing his full dance ability in Dirty Dancing in order to make the film more realistic (since his character never had any formal training). His mother, Patsy Swayze, was a dancer, dance teacher and choreographer who inspired her son to do the same. He studied classical ballet throughout his childhood and even moved to New York City at the age of 20 to train with the Feld, Harkness and Joffrey ballet schools. His wife, Lisa Niemi, was a dancer as well who he met at the age of 15 at his mother’s studio. Swayze’s musical theater days included the starring role of Danny Zuko in Grease on Broadway, but he turned to acting after a series of injuries.
In a September 1984 issue of People Magazine, Swayze referred to himself as “the Godzilla of ballet” because he “looked like a man on stage.” Swayze certainly showed the world how manly dancers could be. His smooth moves on the silver screen wooed a generation and will certainly continue to inspire for years to come.