Secret Cinema presents Dirty Dancing review: One big party, and everyone's invited

The immersive cinema experience takes on the 1987 classic, inviting guests to stay at Kellerman's resort 

Clarisse Loughrey
Thursday 28 July 2016 17:02
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Secret Cinema’s latest production of ‘Dirty Dancing’ triumphs on collective jubilation
Secret Cinema’s latest production of ‘Dirty Dancing’ triumphs on collective jubilation

Secret Cinema is no longer a secret. That’s simply the first, second, and last thing to be understood about the event company’s present state and its latest event, Secret Cinema Presents Dirty Dancing.

Obviously, how could it possibly remain so when the film’s announced ahead of time? Or when its hidden location quickly reveals itself with a thunderous bass rolling across the local landscape, with hordes of attendees in their ‘60s gear soon catching the attention of local police, driving past blaring “The Time of My Life” from their windows?

For better or worse, we’ve strayed far from the initial idealism Secret Cinema was founded on: of the intimate, immersive cult experience. Taking that natural empathy that makes us feel as if we’ve lived all these lives on screen, and creating something far more concrete out of it. A focus more on the personal experience of film than in collective celebrations; in the anxiety felt under the watchful eye of prisons guards at The Shawshank Redemption event, or the eerie exploration of minimalists corridors at its Prometheus show.

Arriving now at Kellerman’s – the Catskills resort where Baby (Jennifer Grey) has the time of her life in the 1987 classic – is the absolute opposite of personal, cult, or intimate. A host of littered activities, dance tutorials, and bars; the place is so expansive that it’s a challenge just to track down the actors posing as Baby, Johnny, and the gang. Forever surrounded by, or navigating the crowds, any sense of spontaneous interaction is inevitably lost.

Truthfully, I intermittently had to remind myself that this was a cinematic experience and that I hadn’t stumbled into some expansively wealthy aunt’s wedding or a mid-century county fair in one of those towns where everything’s so perfect; the whole thing is inevitably run by a cult.

But it was wonderful all the same. Just a different kind of wonderful. The kind that triumphs on collective jubilation. In short, it’s one huge party. The infectious kind, where every corner you’d turn there’d be groups of friends, families, and lovers dancing and laughing the night away. The littered actors and helpers seamlessly coordinated groups to naturally come together, so that before you knew it – you were dancing the hula with 100 other strangers, without a care in the world.

When it came to screening the film itself, the same sense of celebration continued. As expert dancers carefully recreated the film’s most iconic moments, the crowd could barely contain their excitement; people were on their feet at the drop of a hat, grooving along or cheering Baby’s badass moments. For a film that’s become such a big part of people’s lives, one particularly that’s been so eagerly shared between its fans, this kind of revelry just felt perfect for the moment.

It’s the same vibe we’re so accustomed to at music festivals – where people are just coming together in mutual appreciation of something, and making it their supreme mission to have the best time possible.


It’s been happening for a while; this slow detachment from true immersion and towards the festival vibe, but with each Secret Cinema event it seems as if the transformation becomes fuller and more complete. And with that comes the issue of money – with Dirty Dancing’s £65 tickets essentially charging all-day festival prices for an event that starts in the early evening; and charging inflated festival prices for food and drink.

Admittedly, Secret Cinema is in the midst of some sort of identity crisis – clinging onto the last morsels of its earlier model while still trying to juggle larger and larger crowds. Dirty Dancing, however, is a move towards finding that balance. There are kinks to be flattened out, adjustments to the approach to be made, but there’s an atmosphere joyously building that will soon guarantee the time of our lives.

Secret Cinema will return with a new event soon

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