Dance History Quiz | The Famous Dirty Dancing Lift

Fun facts for teachers & students



This year marks the 30th anniversary of Dirty Dancing, the beloved movie about a teenage girl who learns to love (and do a mean mambo) at a fading Catskills resort during the summer of ’63. Unfortunately, during this year’s celebration, fans won’t be able to recreate one of the movie’s most iconic scenes—when Baby (Jennifer Grey) and Johnny (Patrick Swayze) practice an overhead lift—in Virginia’s Mountain Lake, where the scene was filmed. Why not?

a. Swimming is prohibited due to a toxic waste spill.
b. Grey, who now owns the property, prohibits visitors.
c. The lake is a designated historical site.
d. The lake has gone dry.

d. The lake has gone dry.

In a May 2017 story in the New York Times, writer Neil Genzlinger researched what he called the “great Dirty Dancing lake war”—the controversy over where exactly the famed Grey-Swayze lift was filmed. Was it at Virginia’s Mountain Lake Lodge, a property that included the large stone resort that appears in the movie’s exterior shots, or at North Carolina’s Lake Lure, where an assortment of cabins and other buildings filled in for other scenes? Both lakes have proponents who claim their lake is the real deal. After chatting with the film’s production designer, David Chapman (who referenced his original storyboards), Genzlinger determined that the lift scene was definitely filmed at Mountain Lake. But in a rare geological phenomenon, Genzlinger tells readers, Mountain Lake periodically drains itself as a “purifying exercise, eventually refilling naturally.” It went dry in 2008, with no sign of the water returning anytime soon. Ardent fans will have to practice their lifts in Lake Lure for a little longer.

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