Why «Dirty Dancing» Beauty Cynthia Rhodes Retired at the Height of Her Career And What She Is Up to Now

When Cynthia Rhodes wasn’t tearing up the dance floor alongside John Travolta, she found herself caught up in the passionate world of dance with Patrick Swayze.

With a rich history of iconic performances in beloved dance films from the 1980s, Rhodes, who will be celebrating her 68th birthday in November 2024, gracefully stepped away from the limelight at the height of her success.

Continue reading to discover why the multi-talented star of Hollywood decided to retire at such a young age!

Cynthia Rhodes, hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, is a talented singer and dancer. She made her acting debut in the 1980 musical fantasy film Xanadu, alongside the legendary Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly.

Her portrayal of the dancer Tina Tech in the 1983 film Flashdance catapulted her into a larger role that year as John Travolta’s romantic partner, a Broadway dancer, in Staying Alive, the sequel to Saturday Night Fever directed by Sylvester Stallone.

In 1987, she took on a role that would forever be etched in our memories — Penny Johnson, the dance instructor at a resort hotel in the iconic film Dirty Dancing.

She showcases her impressive rhythmic skills with elegant and eye-catching Mambo-style dance moves, often performing alongside the late Patrick Swayze. Together, they also deliver emotionally charged dramatic scenes that tug at the heartstrings.

Rhodes captivated and startled viewers with her portrayal of Penny, a character who underwent a traumatic and unlawful abortion, showcasing her intriguing and unconventional nature.

The film propelled the three lead characters, Swayze as Johnny, Jennifer Grey as Baby, and Rhodes, towards super stardom.

“She’s from South Philly and she’s had a rough life… There’s a certain charm to her, but it’s overshadowed by the challenges she’s faced. It seems like she’s built a barrier as a result.» Rhodes continued, “And, in the end, I think she finally realizes that life does go on.”

Life continued for the actor, but unfortunately, it didn’t go in the direction that fans had anticipated.

Training for 10 hours a day for the role of Penny, Rhodes expressed the challenges she faced with dancing. “That’s why I keep saying I’m never going to dance again. I’m tired of dancing…» Rhodes expressed discomfort, mentioning that her bones and back were constantly in pain. «It’s interesting how every time I decide I’m done with dancing, another film opportunity comes my way. I’m not going to turn down work! I am incredibly grateful to be a part of films that involve dancing. But seriously, I just want an opportunity to showcase my dramatic skills without having to dance…Just give me a straight acting part.”

In the same year that Dirty Dancing hit theaters, a 31-year-old blonde actress, who was both talented and sought after, made an appearance in the music video for «Don’t Mean Nothing» by Richard Marx. This was the same Richard Marx who famously wrote «Right Here Waiting» in 1989.

In 1989, Rhodes tied the knot with the Grammy Award-winning singer. The couple welcomed their first child, Brandon, in 1990, followed by Lucas in 1992 and Jesse in 1994.

Marx suggests that Rhodes, who had prior Olympic training, decided to retire in 1990 in order to take care of their children and because of the «intense physical pain» associated with her dance moves.

“I thought, ‘This won’t last, she’s definitely going to want to come back to work and do films. However, she discovered a deep sense of fulfillment in being a mother that far outweighed any emotions she had ever experienced while making a movie.» Marx, now 59, added, «Even if you admire her talent as a dancer, singer, or actress, you should witness her incredible role as a mother.»

It seems that Rhodes, who began dancing at a young age, found more joy in motherhood and giving her body the necessary rest and recovery.

“The thing was, I used to never be sore. Actually, I used to be a gymnast. And now it’s quite frustrating…I never used to stretch. Now I have to stretch before I dance. I love to dance, but if I never did it again, I wouldn’t be sorry,” Rhodes said.

And Rhodes has never turned back. Her most recent on-screen appearance was in the 1991 film, Curse of the Crystal Eye.

In 2014, the former Hollywood starlet divorced Marx, who then went on to marry Daisy Fuentes, MTV’s first Latina host, the following year.

Her sons are all pursuing careers that mirror those of their well-known parents.

Brandon has ventured into the world of music production and singing, while Lucas has pursued a career as a singer and actor, making notable appearances in TV series such as The Chicago Code, The Mob Doctor, Chicago P.D, and Parenthood. Jesse, the youngest, has recently joined a metal band and is fully immersed in his musical pursuits.

It’s understandable why Cynthia Rhodes decided to step away from Hollywood, considering the physical demands of dancing and her impressive athleticism.

Which of her movies do you like the most?

Let’s spread this story and remind everyone of the incredible dancer who may no longer be with us on the screen, but will always be remembered!

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