Seventeen-year-old Frances "Baby" Houseman (Jennifer Gray) is a smart and sensitive upper-middle-class girl who plans to study economics and join the Peace Corps. It is the summer of 1963 when she, her parents, and her sister are staying at a resort in the Catskills. While the rest of the guests are enjoying themselves with various planned festivities, Baby wanders off into the staff quarters. There Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) teaches her about dirty dancing — a form of uninhibited body contact animated by rhythm and blues music. It's only the beginning. Eventually this street smart dance instructor introduces her to the alternate world of rock 'n' roll, steamy sex and exciting adventures. Baby loses her virginity but wises up to the class warfare raging at the resort. By the end of this story written by Eleanor Bergstein, Baby earns her adult name of Frances by standing up for her lover when he is falsely accused of stealing.

Dirty Dancing creatively covers one girl's coming of age. Adding to the film's appeal is the dancing itself. Director Emile Ardolino — best known for his award-winning documentary about Jacques d'Amboise titled He Makes Me Feel Like Dancing — gives this film more foot tappin' fervor than any flick since Saturday Night Fever.