'Dirty Dancing' lake resort loses its magic

There are still a few dusty corners in which you could put a stroppy teen called Baby and the hotel bar continues to offer nightly "Time of My Life" karaoke events. But visitors looking for waist-deep water where they can practice tricky dance manoeuvres will almost certainly be out of luck: the lake where Patrick Swayze romanced Jennifer Grey has almost disappeared.

Almost a quarter of a century after Dirty Dancing was shot in its picturesque grounds, the Mountain Lake Hotel in Giles County, Virginia, has sacked more than half its employees, reducing resort staff from 130 to 60. Managers blame the ongoing effects of the recession for taking away more than 20 per cent of its visitors and almost all of its profits.

Adding to the troubles for the resort – which boasts a slightly moth-eaten statue of the late Swayze – are falling water levels in the once-brimming lake.

At present, it's just a third of the original size, meaning that visitors must hike across a quarter of a mile of ankle-deep mud to reach its shoreline. Leisure activities such as canoeing and fishing have been banned.

The water problem – partly the result of years of below-average rainfall – represents a severe problem for the resort's assistant manager, Marsha Stevers, who runs walking tours of Dirty Dancing locations. She can still show off the waterside gazebo where characters swayed and the dock where they stood. But paddling in the chilly water is out of the question.

"You want to know what draws our business? Dirty Dancing draws our business," Stevers recently told a reporter from the Associated Press, who noted (somewhat sniffily) that the hotel's lawn was overgrown and paint was peeling in some of the rooms.

The lake's water is 50ft shallower than it was in the 1987 film. In an effort to compensate, Mountain Lake's manager Buzz Scanland has introduced movie-themed weekends, in which visitors take part in 1960s-style dinner-dances. At best, they are a temporary solution to the resort's woes. "I just hope the lake comes up more. That's the best strategy I can have," he said.

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