Swayze later mused to the American Film Institute about the film’s remarkable staying power:
It’s got so much heart, to me. It’s not about the sensuality; it’s really about people trying to find themselves, this young dance instructor feeling like he’s nothing but a product, and this young girl trying to find out who she is in a society of restrictions when she has such an amazing take on things. On a certain level, it’s really about the fabulous, funky little Jewish girl getting the guy because [of] what she’s got in her heart.
Nearly 35 years after the original release, another gifted male dancer, Brooklyn-based photographer Quinn Wharton, is tapping into that heart… and Grey has been replaced by a lamp.
Wharton once told Ballet Hub that his favorite part of dancing professionally with the San Francisco Ballet and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago was the access it gave him to the great names in dance — William Forsythe, Mats Ek, Christopher Wheeldon, Wayne McGregor, and others whose proximity made for “a remarkable education.”
The first few months of the pandemic forced him to dance solo, recreating memorable film moments in response to a friend’s challenge:
I was hesitant at first but thought I would give it a try to see what I might be able to learn from it. Turns out it was way more fun than I thought and the result was funnier than I could have imagined.
We agree that his Quinn-tessential Dance Scenes series is very funny, as well as beautifully executed in the twin arenas of camera work and dance. His self-imposed parameters — no outside help, no green screen, no filming outside of the apartment, and no special purchases of props or costumes, contribute to the humor.
His hardworking, disembodied, comparatively well-covered haunches elicit laughs when seen next to the much skimpier original costume of Flashdance’s “Maniac” scene, above. 18-year-old star Jennifer Beals had three dance doubles — Marine Jahan, gymnast Sharon Shapiro, and legendary B-Boy Richard Colón, aka Crazy Legs of Rock Steady crew. None of them appeared in the original credits because, as Jahan told Entertainment Tonight, the producers “didn’t want to break the magic.”
In other words, a lot of steamy 80s-era fantasies centered on Beals are now known to be a case — possibly three cases — of mistaken identity.
Wharton’s quarantine project afforded him a chance to come at John Travolta from two angles, thanks to the disco classic Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction’s twist sequence, a surprisingly popular fan request. Though Travolta’s dance training was limited to childhood tap lessons with Gene Kelly’s brother, Fred, Wharton praises his “serious range.”
Wharton cites the inspiration for one of his lesser known recreations, director Baz Lurhman’s first feature, Strictly Ballroom, as a reason he began dancing:
My dad loves this movie and as a kid I can’t count the number of times that I watched it. It’s so much, loud, brash, exuberant …It also allowed me to bring back my favorite partner.
See more of his dance photography on his Instagram page.
Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine, who can occasionally be spotted wandering around New York City in a bear suit, in character as L’Ourse. Follow her @AyunHalliday.