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Dirty Dancing

October 22, 1987

If you want to do it right, listen up.

First, there's the music--something that will create the mood for you and your partner. Then, when the moment is right, you start: Let your hips sway from side to side, your rib cage shake invitingly and your fingers slide suggestively over your partner's cheek.

If things are still going well, lean your friend back and plant tiny kisses in a straight line from breast bone to chin.

The moves, of course, are all part of the latest dance craze. Dirty Dancing, inspired by the recently released movie with the same name, combines steps from various Latin and Caribbean dances along with "a sexual, exhibitionist flair," says George Chandler, manager of World of Dance in Northridge.

"The phone is ringing all the time, and people are coming in off the street to learn how to do it," Chandler says. "They don't know what it is, but they all say, 'I want to learn how to Dirty Dance.' "

One of those calls came from 37-year-old Gail Needham of Northridge.

"I've always wanted to learn ballroom dancing, but the movie sparked an interest in the Latin moves--you know, the sexy stuff," Needham said. "It's risque in an innocent, delicious way."

Needham said she persuaded her husband to come with her for a spin around the dance floor. "He's curious, but he's also a little bit reserved. Right now, he's starting off with conventional waltzes."

Jim Taylor, 30, of Reseda, was less reserved.

"I saw the movie twice; that's why I'm here," said Taylor, who has four dirty-dancing lessons under his belt. "It's very sexy, but I'm not into that level of coordination at this point."

In truth, Chandler says, the dances aren't new at all.

Instead, he says, "We've basically been teaching this for 20 years. The merengue is danced in the Caribbean where the hips go from side to side. The Latin dances use a lot of rib cage movement, bumps and grinds. They all came in in the '50s, and they're just being brought back because of the movie."

Another movie, "Saturday Night Fever," sent scores of would-be John Travoltas to dance schools. Disco fever, however, "died a fairly quick death in 1981," Chandler said.

"I don't think that will happen with these dances, though," he predicted. "I think the movie just turned a lot of people on to a type of dancing that's been around a long time."

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