IT'S A DIRTY BUSINESS...
FIRST I am part of a sandwich, then I perform a sunbed, followed by a dip, although I am not allowed to tackle a koala on health-and-safety grounds. With about 50 other fans, I am at a Dirty Dancing workshop, where we are learning steps and some of the curious language that describes iconic poses, moves and, in the Aussie bear's case, a lift.
The purpose is to celebrate the return to Bristol in March of the reworked stage version of Dirty Dancing, when our city will be the first stop on a second UK tour.
Written by Eleanor Bergstein, script-writer and co-producer of the 1987 film, this new production features the same characters and original dialogue, but the dance sequences have been refreshed by self-confessed "left field" associate choreographer Glenn Wilkinson.
He is leading our workshop, with bendy assistant choreographer Jacquie Biggs and one of the stars, James Bennett. While the latter pair do their thing – and we watch open-mouthed – Glenn explains how the dance "language" evolved.
He said: "The choreography is so complicated and different. It is not like a lot of other shows, where people are dancing in formation or in lines and they are pretty much do the same thing. Dirty Dancing is all dancing with a partner and it is all high tempo. Everything that everyone does is different, so what we do to help people to learn it is to give things names. Every step has a name and when we are trying to do something quickly I can just reel off the names, like dip, sunbed, koala bear and a couple that I cannot say because they are a bit rude, so we keep those internal and if I showed you the moves it would be obvious why.
"It just happened with Jacquie and I over time. We have done it such a lot that it has become a language. It is also a brilliant tool for people who come to our workshops before the show because it is fun and it adds another flavour and aspect of imagination to help you remember steps."
Glenn, who trained and worked with Rambert Dance Company for 17 years, has been involved with Dirty Dancing for about five years, first as resident choreographer on the London show "looking after someone else's work". He was then asked to rework the choreography before the 2014 tour – a job he describes as "a dream come true".
But it is not just about copying what is in the film.
Glenn said: "If you look at the movie and at some of the supposedly big dance numbers, a lot of it is in tight shot, close up, and you will see people's hips and someone's torso and their head and people in the background. But apart from when Johnny is dancing with Baby and the iconic lift and the walkdown thing at the end, you think you have watched lots of dancing, but really it is not that much. You have seen a lot of something stylistic, but not lots of thick choreography.
"In the theatre production we are constantly in what I call wide shot, so that is where all the invention comes in. We are trying to keep the essence of what Dirty Dancing is all about – that grungy, underground, sexy dancing, with lots of hip movement – and trying to bring it up to date without spoiling any of that. The steps are pretty boring but they can really say something when you start to move. That is the bit I hope that people will go away with from the workshops."
To that end, we are all encouraged to add a bit extra to the basic cha cha cha steps – a head bounce, arm swish or hip sway – and everyone soon starts to loosen up. It is infectious and easy to imagine a theatre full of fans on their feet, moving to well-known soundtrack songs like Do You Love Me?, Hungry Eyes and (I've Had) The Time of My Life.
Dirty Dancing runs at the Bristol Hippodrome from March 15 to April 5. Visit www.dirtydancingontour.com for more details or to book tickets.