The time of my life: Dirty Dancing tour cha-chas into town with steamy mambo masterclass – and MM join in

By Helen Le Caplain

Not many women can boast of having a steamy dance session with Dirty Dancing’s Johnny Castle, but on a cold dark night last week I did just that.

In an unassuming Manchester dance studio I, along with a number of other musical fans, donned my dancing shoes and took to the floor in a special Mambo Masterclass.

Rambert-trained Associate Choreographer Glenn Wilkinson explained the intricacies of transferring the magic of such an iconic film onto the stage.

He said: “One of the difficulties was the fact that in the movie, everything was filmed in tight shots so you didn’t see what the other dancers were doing.

“Whereas on the stage, no matter how clever you are with the staging or lighting the audience sees everyone, so we’ve had to reinvent the whole show.”

With a whopping 96 dances in the show Glenn, along with the rest of the creative team, had to craft a variety of new routines.

He added: “And this isn’t just the ‘downstairs’ dirty dancing sequences, but also routines for the ‘upstairs’ Kellerman-appropriate ballroom and Latin dancing too.”

As we shuffled onto the floor we were introduced to Tim Hodges who plays heartthrob Johnny Castle and dance partner Jacquie Biggs, who plays Penny.

Luckily there were no attempts to have a go at that lift… hey, even Baby didn’t get that one right first time!

With Johnny’s Mambo blaring out we learnt the basic steps from their routine.

For those of you who aren’t Mambo aficionados (me included) you start the dance on the count of two instead of one.

This caused a fair amount of confusion for the first ten minutes or so, but after that we were all bobbing along nicely.

They then threw a syncopated beat into the mix and that was when things started to look a bit chaotic.

It was at this point we handed-over to the professionals and watched them strut their stuff.
Even in the confines of a small dance studio with no stage costume or makeup, these dancers blew everyone away with the sheer quality, style and strength of their performance.

As a massive Dirty Dancing fan I’ll be sure to take my seat when it cha-chas into the city in May and June.

And with performances like that, I’m sure to have the time of my life. 

Dirty Dancing runs from May 21 – June 15 at the Palace Theatre.

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