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Patrick Swayze

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This just in from the NY Times news alerts:

Patrick Swayze, Who Starred in 'Dirty Dancing,' Is Dead at 57, A.P. Reports

Patrick Swayze, the balletically athletic actor who rose to

stardom in the films âeoeDirty Dancingâe and âeoeGhost,âe

and whose 15-month battle with advanced pancreatic cancer

drew wide attention, died on Monday, The Associated Press

reported. He was 57 and lived near Los Angeles.


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I wanted to add that although Swayze did not make his living as a ballet dancer, he was ballet trained and retained his ties to his teachers. A few years ago, when Ballet Arizona was having severe financial problems, he helped them in their fundraising drive -- was very generous with his time, and very supportive not only of the company and school, but of the art form.

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Sad, if not unexpected news. I saw Swayze on TV not too long ago and he was as charming and funny as ever. Without him, I don't think Dirty Dancing would have been the movie it was, he had a natural charm and grace that made ballroom dancing seem "cool." May he rest in peace and dance in heaven.

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Recently, Dirty Dancing was run on one of the cable movie networks. I happened to catch the section in which the Swayze character teachers the young woman how to do his particular kind of dancing. The camera focused long and lovingly on the process -- feet, hips, upper body. A rather astonishing bit of dance film. And quite beautiful.

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Among the obituaries and tributes that dirac has included on our Links forum, a short article by Jeffrey Tayklor in the Daily Express, "Patrick Swayze: Ballet Boy," is especially interesting.

I am a passionate believer in the values embedded in the classical ballet technique and I like to think that, similar to my own experience as an 11-year-old, the life-affirming confidence quietly radiating from [Dirty Dancing] was absorbed in the dance studio by the young Swayze.

“You can see his classical background in Dirty Dancing,” says Royal Ballet principal dancer Edward Watson. “It’s in the carriage of his head and the way he moves his arms.”


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There was a WONDERFUL article in the Manchester Guardian about Swayze as a partner that made me cry -- the writer was ABSOLUTELY right, the qualities he conveyed are those of the partner who is FOREVER there, and they carried through in to "Ghost" where he didn't dance at all but DID convey the idea that he was still there, the spirit was still strong -- and if the spirit of fidelity is gone, who wants its body?

He embodied the idea of fidelity, show its appeal without making it look foolish or weak but on hte contrary resourceful, devoted, powerful, attentive, and eager to do more, and masculine.

That's doing quite a lot.

If it's hard to find an actress these days who can plausibly portray virginity, it's JUST as rare to find an actor who can make you feel he's faithful.

And if you haven;'t seen him dance with his own wife, look here:

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I read his autobiography, "The Time of My Life", and there are numerous references to ballet, apart from his experiences in his mother's ballet studio. It's a very interesting read -- I would recommend it. I read it on Kindle, which doesn't have page numbers, but here are some of the ballet references:

He received a scholarship to study at Harkness Ballet as a trainee, and he has nothing good to say about the Harkness pressure to lose weight:

"...Harkness also put some of its dancers on a special diet aimed at virtually eliminating body fat. The Harkness diet allowed dancers to consume just five hundred calories a day -- basically, lettuce and a few bites of turkey, plus vitamin shots."

"At this point, nobody had written an expose like Gelsey Kirkland's 1996* book Dancing on My Grave, which detailed the dark side of the professional ballet world. Gelsey was dancing with the New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre at the same time I was at Harkness, and I often partnered her at pas de deux class. The tales she told in her book of the rampant eating disorders, drug use, and emotional trauma that dancers faced matched what I saw during those years."

*1996 was a paperback edition. The original hardcover was published ten years earlier.

On the male ballet dancer:

"I knew that on the most fundamental level, the purpose of the male dancer was to make the woman look beautiful, and my performances were geared toward exactly that. I aimed to look strong and masculine, and to present the female dancer in the best light I could."

On a side project:

"Mrs. Harkness had commissioned Spanish artist Enrique Senis-Oliver to paint a gigantic mural for the brand-new Harkness Theater then being built at Lincoln Center. Called "Homage to Terpsichore", the painting stretched from the stage to the very top of the proscenium and down both sides, and consisted mostly of what Time magazine would later call 'an agonized, thrusting morass of naked dancers.'

"Well, those naked dancers were all me."

On going to the doctor, from a letter his wife Lisa sent to her mother:

"A Dr Hamilton, really, good, specialized with dancers and has written books on their injuries. The first of many, many doctors that Buddy felt he could trust."

William Hamilton who works with New York City Ballet?

On Eliot Feld, with whose company Swayze performed:

"He also can be a hard-nosed bastard, quick to berate his dancers and stingy with praise. Eliot sometimes used ridicule as a motivator, but when he expressed pleasure at something you'd done, it was the greatest feeling in the world."

"He started choreography on a new work that would have three company dancers -- including me -- dancing with none other than the great Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was coming in to perform as a guest star."

Swayze had to quite ballet before he could perform it:

"It's hard to describe how devastating this decision was for me. I had worked so hard and come so far, and just when it was all about to pay off I had to walk away. Even now, I get emotional thinking about it. With all the amazing experiences I've had as an actor, nothing really compares to the sense of joy and exhilaration dancing gives you. Leaving the ballet world created a void in me that I spent years trying to fill."

On working in the acting field with former dancers:

Swayze, his wife Lisa, and former Paul Taylor company member Nicholas Gunn co-wrote and performed the play "Without a Word". In it's film form, as "One Last Dance", George de la Pena played Gunn's role.

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