Dance is all about timing, but even Baby and Johnny couldn’t have timed it out like this: Dirty Dancing will return to theaters to celebrate its 35th anniversary, which means one of the greatest films ever made about a back alley abortion is here to remind a post-Dobbs America what our future holds. The anniversary showing is organized by Fathom Events and will come to theaters around the country for two days only, August 14th and August 17th.
Dirty Dancing is set in 1963, ten years before Roe v. Wade guaranteed access to safe abortions. It follows Baby (Jennifer Grey), a young woman who falls in love with dance instructor Johnny (Patrick Swayze) while developing a friendship with his dance partner, Penny (Cynthia Rhodes). Penny is pregnant, and since the dad is busy chasing another woman, Baby steps in to help: She borrows money from her father for Penny’s abortion, while also agreeing to perform with Johnny so that Penny doesn’t lose her salary during the recovery.
Penny’s botched abortion is an emotional high point in the story, and as screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein explained to Cosmopolitan in 2017, she had to fight to keep it in the film. She recalled producers asking her to cut it, saying, “‘Eleanor, we’ll pay for you to go back in the editing room and take the abortion out.’ I always had known this would happen one day. I said, ‘Hey, I would love to, but I can’t because if I take it out everything will fall apart.’ There’s no reason for Baby to meet Johnny, for Penny not to be able to dance, for Baby to learn to dance with Johnny, for her to make love with Johnny — there’s no story without that. Everything just crumbles, nothing will make any sense.”
She also lamented how the political themes of Dirty Dancing have stayed relevant. “[The movie is set in] the summer of ’63, which was the summer of Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and at the time people said, ‘What are you putting in that for? Race relations are solved.’ Of course we know that it isn’t… All the things I was told were topical to’ 63 when I made it in ’87 have come back, most egregiously Roe v. Wade. I got so much pushback and resistance for putting them in… and here we are marching in the streets again.”
If you want to see it in theaters, ticket information is available through the event website. But that won’t be the end of the story: A long in-the-works sequel starring Jennifer Grey, is scheduled for a 2024 release.