“It was the summer of 1963” – The setting for ‘Dirty Dancing’

“It was the summer of 1963” – The setting for ‘Dirty Dancing’

With the highly anticipated Cape Town debut of ‘Dirty Dancing, The Classic Story On Stage’ only a few weeks away, we examine the classic story’s American historical context.

The story is set in late August 1963, the same week that Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech. Everything was on the brink of change. On May 3, 1963, police dogs had been used to break up a protest in Birmingham, Alabama. On August 13, 1963, in Saigon, a 17 year old student Buddhist priest poured kerosene on his body and set himself afire. And even as Martin Luther King Jr. spoke, nearly three dozen young black girls, ages 10 to 15, continued to be held in a small cell in the Leesburg Stockade, near Americus, Georgia, where they had been arrested a month before for singing ‘We Shall Overcome’.

On holiday in New York’s Catskill Mountains with her older sister and parents, ‘Dirty Dancing’ protagonist Baby shows little interest in the resort activities and instead discovers her own entertainment when she stumbles upon the staff quarters when an all-night dance party is in full swing. Mesmerised by the raunchy dances move and the pounding rhythms, Baby can’t wait to be part of the scene, especially when she catches sight of Johnny Castle, the resort dance instructor. Baby’s life is about to change forever as she is thrown in at the deep end as Johnny’s leading lady both on-stage and off with breathtaking consequences.

* ‘Dirty Dancing’ is showing at the Artscape Opera House from January 18 to February 10. Book at Computicket.