When screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein went to find a choreographer for what became one of the most legendary dancing movies in history, she landed Ortega, who had been trained by Gene Kelly. He brought in his assistant Miranda Garrison and worked with ballroom dancer and choreographer Doriana Sanchez to help create the quick-stepping world of Kellerman's. And there's no number as memorable as Baby (Jennifer Grey) and Johnny's (Patrick Swayze) final dance to Bill Medley's "The Time of My Life."
"Having grown up in the '60s, dance was a way for us to communicate. Those were rough times, and the title of the movie came before the story. I remember being in the gymnasium at a Saturday night dance at my school and a teacher said if there was ever any dirty dancing, the lights would come on and the music would turn off and the dance would be over. And every time, the lights would come on and the music would turn off and the dance would be over.
"Dancing was a way for us to awaken and discover and to come to know one another in a different way. We wanted to use it in that respect in the movie. We didn't have to show lovemaking because dance took the responsibility for that. As this relationship built and as Johnny and Baby came together, the dance came together. We wanted 'Time of My Life' to show that. Patrick [Swayze] came to us as an accomplished soloist in ballet and Jennifer wasn't a technical dancer. I think she liked dancing, but she was more of the dancer at the beginning of the movie.
"We just went up into the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Carolinas, and we closed the doors, put on the music, and we partied.
"In that scene, Max, the owner of the hotel, says, 'Times are changing' — not just on the mountain top, but in the country. Things that were perhaps taboo or less accepted were changing. The dance stood as a symbol of that."