That's where we come in. Because we're going to tell you how to do it.
The touring production of the stage adaptation of the 1987 flick that put Baby in the corner, Dirty Dancing, is coming to the Merriam Theater from Tuesday to next Sunday, and, naturally, they're bringing the big finale lift with them.
His nonchalance at holding a woman by the palms of his hands was puzzling, so I asked Tierney, Baby, played by Rachel Boone, and show choreographer Michele Lynch to share the secrets behind the epic lift. Here's what you need to know.
Before the actors are even cast, they've got to have the dance fundamentals to do The Lift (or at least a version of it) during auditions. The actors' core, shoulders, arms, legs, glutes, and back are engaged for this move, but those are already muscle groups that professional dancers use regularly, Lynch said. Tierney also does a lot of yoga.
While Baby is hoisted, her engaged muscle groups include those strengthened by the "Superman" exercise (that is, when you lie on your stomach and simultaneously lift your arms and legs).
Trusting that your partner is going to keep you up (and catch you if things go sour) is imperative. Don't make a big deal of it, and just do the thing.
"You have to do exactly what it says in the show," Boone said. "Johnny says: 'You have to trust me. You're going to hurt me if you don't trust me.' If I don't completely go for it, he can't lift me."
"Some people, we start them out on their back on a gymnastic mat," Lynch said. "This is for the guy to find where to put his hands."
Hand placement is especially important since everyone has a different center of balance. For every Baby whom Tierney lifts, he makes tweaks based on her proportional center so she doesn't topple forward or backward while in the air. "Some people are top heavy, bottom heavy," he said. "It's within an inch, and you have to adjust on the fly."
As Baby's approaching Johnny, they should be making eye contact. He should be bracing for the lift. If his hands aren't there to meet her, things will be out of sync. Baby offers a little jump, and the rest is Johnny's bench-pressing her into the air.
Baby should keep her eyes fixed upward — not at the ground or toward the audience — her chest up and core tight. Johnny uses his core and deltoids to hoist her while rotating for about 10 seconds. "The girl's hip bones are balancing on the guy's palms of his hands," Lynch said. "It's just spectacular. She's balancing on two palms of hands."
Just prior to the lift, Johnny performs a solo, so his hands might be a little sweaty. Combined with the slick fabric of Baby's dress, getting a good grip sometimes gets a little tricky. Further, when you're hoisted 10 feet above the stage, you tend to forget you're wearing a dress and should be a lady. Lynch reminds Baby to keep her knees together.
Once low enough, Baby will grab on to Johnny's shoulders, bend one leg while keeping the other straight until she reaches solid ground. Then they go into a dip.
Tierney has a few: Don't attempt after a few drinks, but do take risks and "don't hold back." Boone suggests being "light as a feather, stiff as a board, and let the guy do all the work." As for Lynch, fearlessness is key.
And for the rest of us? "A great way to practice is in the pool," Lynch said. "It's still exciting."