Time of His Life (for the Last Time)


Patrick Swayze is reincarnated in the form of Lyle Laney.
Photo by Paul Stebner

At 45, Lyle Laney admits he’s not the dancer he used to be. But to thousands of fans, he’s still Lake Lure’s favorite bumper and grinder. For what might be the last time, Laney will be channeling Patrick Swayze (aka Johnny) at the annual Dirty Dancing Festival, honoring the 1987 film that spiraled into a cult classic. 

The North Carolina native will once again be there to help aspiring dirty dancers with pelvic grinds, dips, and swings. As always, the famous overhead lift in the water is the festival’s show stopper. 

Looking fit, trim and tan after a week at the beach, Laney was recently prepping for the some 3,500 movie fans from around the world who will descend upon the small resort community. He’s looking forward to it, but he’s also thinking ahead: What does a male ballet dancer do as he approaches middle age?

You’ve been teaching the Dirty Dancing moves at this festival for the past eight years. What keeps you coming back?

The people! My goal is to try and make those people feel like they’re in the movie, so if I’m teaching or performing and I look out and see smiles and laughter on faces, then that brings me great joy.

Why do you think this festival continues to be so popular?

You have to start with the movie. It really is great source material, and the festivalgoers just really relate to it. Plus, there’s something naturally intoxicating about dancing, and it’s a great soundtrack to dance to — especially when you’re with people of similar mind who empower you to feel uninhibited while doing it.

As a professional ballet dancer, do you find it hard to transition to teaching non-professionals how to bump and grind?

Yes, very. But after eight years, I think I’m finally starting to figure it out.

People at the festival associate you as a sort of reincarnation of Patrick Swayze. How flattering is that?

Very. And after eight years I’m still slightly confused and tremendously humbled by the honor. He — Swayze — was a beloved movie star with worldwide adoration, while sadly, I am not. But it doesn’t hurt to dream big for a day.

You say this might be your last year directing the dancing at the Dirty Dancing Festival. Plus, you’ve stepped away from Asheville Ballet as the Assistant Creative Director. What are you working on?

I’ve spent the last two years writing a full-scale song-and-dance musical titled Poussière [French for “dust”]. It’s a story that asks all the questions I have about what makes this life unique: love, loss, sacrifice, honor, and so much more. Live from Broadway is the goal.

Like in the movie, the real dirty dancing happens during the after parties. Where will you be after the last lift hits the water this year?

The Asheville Ballet [director: Ann Dunn] will perform at The Rumbling Bald Resort for the night show.  And when the eyes of the public are no longer upon us? Well, it is a Dirty Dancing Festival, after all. What would you expect from dancers?

The 9th Annual Dirty Dancing Festival happens Friday, Aug. 24 and Saturday, Aug. 25, in and around Lake Lure. For an event schedule and ticket information, see dirtydancingfestival.com.

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