Dirty Dancing (1987)
Dirty Dancing (1987)
Dirty Dancing (1987)
Dirty Dancing (1987)
Dirty Dancing (1987)
Dirty Dancing (1987)

Film Studies

Cinema Classics Seminar:
Dirty Dancing

Wednesday, August 7, 2024, 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm  
Instructor: Elizabeth Nathanson, Ph.D., Muhlenberg College

Positioned between independent and Hollywood cinema, Dirty Dancing (1987) has proven to have a powerful, lasting hold on film culture. While it might seem as if it is a straightforward romance, the series of themes and ambiguities presented in this depiction of 1960s America offer surprises that defy mainstream cinema traditions. This pseudo-Romeo and Juliet story depicts Baby (Jennifer Grey), an idealistic teenager vacationing at a resort in the Catskills who meets and falls for Johnny (Patrick Swayze), the resort’s dance instructor. Over the course of two hours, the film explores such significant topics as economic privilege, often using brilliantly performed, passionate dance sequences to do so. Audiences get swept away by the chemistry and musical rhythm of Baby and Johnny’s bodies while the characters navigate the changing terrain of the 1960s, as it is envisioned from the 1980s. 

While some might call Dirty Dancing a “guilty pleasure,” its passion and nostalgia are worthy of analysis. In this seminar, we will explore the relationship between film and consumer and celebrity culture, the fan culture surrounding the film’s lasting appeal, and the way the film was produced in relation to the burgeoning home video market of the 1980s. We will take seriously this deeply fun film, exploring its depiction of gender, class, youth, and the possibilities of liberation through dance. 

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Visit the public screening page here.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those in attendance receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink. Please note: the screening associated with this seminar will be open to the public, as well.

Please email BMFI Programs and Education Coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.


Course Information

$25 for members, $35 for non-members


  • Wednesday, August 7 · 6:30 pm