Patrick Swayze & Lisa Niemi – One Last Dance

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The funerary flowers with the ribbon bearing the name of Patrick Swayze are gone from the memorial surrounding the actor-dancer’s famed star embedded at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard. Fans’ burned-out candles, handwritten letters, dying blooms, and mementos are all that remain of the loving tribute to a man who in 1987 exploded into stardom with his role as Johnny Castle in the film Dirty Dancing, for which he wrote and performed the song ‘She’s Like the Wind’. Born in Houston, Texas in August 18, 1952, Patrick Swayze passed from this life on September 14, 2009 after suffering for nearly two years from pancreatic cancer —less than a month shy of what would have been his fifty-eighth birthday.

Although Patrick became a box office star and made many successful films, including the immortal Ghost with Demi Moore, he had a burning desire— he had always wanted to make a dance film with his beautiful blonde Finnish-American wife, dancer Lisa Niemi. That dream came true in 2003 when he starred with Lisa in the film One Last Dance, which was released in other countries during the years 2004 through 2008, starting with Poland and ending with Denmark. Lisa wrote, produced, and the romantic drama, which was filmed in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. She based it on a loosely-auto biographical play that she and Patrick wrote together in 1972 called Without a Word, which became a success and won six Drama Critics Awards.

One Last Dance is about three dancers with lost dreams and broken careers— and an abandoned dance piece created for them. The death of a friend jeopardizes the livelihood of a New York dance company for which he was the artistic director. A benefit is planned and the company asks the three disbanded dancers to reunite to perform the abandoned dance piece— an intricate, complex dance for three. Time, secrets, doubt, and bitterness are the dancers’ enemies within. The dancers— Swayze, Niemi, and George De La Pena— therefore have to face themselves before they can face the impossible dance.

Although Patrick became a box office star and made many successful films, including the immortal Ghost with Demi Moore, he had a burning desire— he had always wanted to make a dance film with his beautiful blonde Finnish-American wife, dancer Lisa Niemi. That dream came true in 2003 when he starred with Lisa in the film One Last Dance, which was released in other countries during the years 2004 through 2008, starting with Poland and ending with Denmark. Lisa wrote, produced, and the romantic drama, which was filmed in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. She based it on a loosely auto-biographical play that she and Patrick wrote together in 1972 called Without a Word, which became a success and won six Drama Critics Awards.

One Last Dance is about three dancers with lost dreams and broken careers— and an abandoned dance piece created for them. The death of a friend jeopardizes the livelihood of a New York dance company for which he was the artistic director. A benefit is planned and the company asks the three disbanded dancers to reunite to perform the abandoned dance piece— an intricate, complex dance for three. Time, secrets, doubt, and bitterness are the dancers’ enemies within. The dancers— Swayze, Niemi, and George De La Pena— therefore have to face themselves before they can face the impossible dance.

Even though the screenplay was derived from Patrick and Lisa’s successful play, the movie is boring and Lisa’s acting ability falls far short of her brilliant dancing, especially since the dancer-actress seemed to feel she needed to always project her voice, as if she were in a stage play. Yet, One Last Dance is worth seeing if only as a tribute to the love between Patrick and Lisa now that he is gone— and to see the dancing. In one scene, Patrick is alone in the dance studio and although the scene ultimately ends in his frustration because of an old injury (mirroring a real-life knee injury sustained from playing high school football), his solo dance is breathtaking to watch. Also, the choreography for the resurrected intricate dance for three and its brilliant execution— the film’s climax— is riveting. In fact, Patrick makes the film a must-see.

Patrick and Lisa’s memoir book The Time of My Life and its audio version will be released on the scheduled date of September 29, 2009. The title was taken from the song ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life’ in Dirty Dancing sung by Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers fame and Jennifer Warnes. The book tells of Patrick’s background, his jump to fame, and his and Lisa’s enduring love. Teenage sweethearts, Patrick was nineteen and Lisa was fifteen when they first met. They married four years later in 1975 and have been hopelessly in love and devoted to each other ever since.

Trivia: Although Lisa created just about every aspect of the One Last Dance, she did not choreograph it, even though she (and her mother-in-law, Patsy Swayze) choreographed the 1980 mega-hit film Urban Cowboy, with John Travolta and Debra Winger. The choreographers for One Last Dance were Alonzo King, Dwight Rhoden, Doug Varone, and Patsy Swayze.

Dirty Dancing was choreographed by Kenny Ortega and his assistant Miranda Garrison (who was Vivian in the film). Ortega chose ‘(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life’ — composed by Previte, DeNicola, and Markowitzy — to be the finale song for the dance flick. Even though a low-budget movie starring unknowns, the American film became a colossal box-office hit. It has to be one of the best romantic dance films ever.

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