photograph by David Stanley


When Johnny Castle, a worldly dance instructor, and Frances “Baby” Houseman, a shy, clumsy teenager, fall for each other one summer at a Catskills resort, they defy parents and social codes, learn about doing the right thing, and, ultimately, bring down the house. And they did a lot of it at our own Lake Lure.


To rescue daughters of a British colonel, Hawkeye and fellow members of a dying tribe become enmeshed in The French and Indian War in 1757. Though James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 novel was set in upstate New York, the film was shot in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

Every August, Lake Lure’s Dirty Dancing Festival draws an average of 5,000 people who come to experience “the contagious euphoria of the movie,” as festival cofounder Michelle McConnell Yelton says.
Take a hike today through DuPont State Recreational Forest and you’ll find Bridal Veil, Hooker, High, and Triple falls looking just as they did for scenes of the 1992 movie.
Temperatures were more than 100 degrees when filming for the movie began in early September 1986. But before shooting was over, the leaves had changed, requiring set decorators to paint them a summery green.
Film director Michael Mann and a location crew were scouting by helicopter when fog rolled in so fast and thick that they were forced to land in the parking lot of the Ingles shopping center in Black Mountain.
During the festival, the Asheville Ballet performs choreography from the movie’s dance scenes. But the Lake Lift Contest — inspired by Baby and Johnny’s iconic lake scene — is open to all.
The gripping climax of the movie was filmed at Chimney Rock State Park; visitors can stand at the top of Hickory Nut Falls, where the fight scene took place.
Several scenes from the movie were shot at the Chimney Rock Camp for Boys, now a residential community called Firefly Cove.
It’s tough to move mountains, so a waterfall was built inside downtown Asheville’s Girmes building, which is now part of the Highland Brewing Complex.
When it comes to having the time of your life, nobody puts Lake Lure in a corner.
An epic drama needs an epic backdrop, and we have the mountains, waterfalls, sheer drops, and spectacular views right here in North Carolina.
Michelle McConnell Yelton is cofounder of the Dirty Dancing Festival at Lake Lure.
Tammy Hopkins is the executive director of the Transylvania Community Arts Council and film liaison for Brevard.

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Susan Stafford Kelly was raised in Rutherfordton. She attended UNC-Chapel Hill and earned a Master of Fine Arts from Warren Wilson College. She is the author of Carolina Classics, a collection of essays that have appeared in Our State, and five novels: How Close We Come, Even Now, The Last of Something, Now You Know, and By Accident. Susan has three grown children and lives in Greensboro with her husband, Sterling.