He’s Going To Show Her the Time of Her Life.
Set in 1958 Havana, this is the story of a lonely 17-year-old American girl (Romola Garai) who moves to Cuba in the days right before the Revolution with her parents, where she soon meets a charming and talented local dancer (Diego Luna), who encourages her to discover her natural dancing abilities. Undoubtedly, it all leads to an exciting climax as Castro’s forces take control and the Americans are forced to leave.
Set against the decadent glamour and escalating danger of revolution-eve Cuba, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights re-imagines the 1987 film phenomenon from an exciting new perspective. Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights tells a timeless story of a young woman’s discovery of love, sensuality and independence – but with a sizzling style and rhythm all its own. Based on co-producer / choreographer JoAnn Jansen’s real life experiences as an American teenager in Cuba, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights plunges us into a world of bright color, vibrant sound and intense emotion.
Havana: November, 1958. 18-year-old Katey Miller (Romola Garai) brings an innate curiosity and a smattering of Spanish to her new life in Cuba’s lush capital, where her father has taken an executive position at Ford. Bookish and awkward, Katey is expected to join the smart set of American teenagers who are the Millers’ neighbors at the exclusive Oceana Hotel. But Katey finds herself drawn instead to the proud, purposeful Javier (Diego Luna), a waiter who also happens to be a brilliant dancer.
Determined to learn the slinky, spectacular moves that Javier seems to know in his bones, Katey persuades him to partner with her in a prestigious national dance competition at Havana’s glittering nightclub/casino, The Palace. Soon, the straight-A student is deceiving her parents, stealing away both day and night to discover a different part of Cuba with Javier. They meet at the steamy nightclub La Rosa Negra, where only the locals go and where the dancing is hotter than the temperature outside.
Some days, they practice on the sand of an out-of-the-way beach, aligning their bodies in a sensual harmony that mirrors the growing passion between them. As the night of the contest finally arrives, Katey and Javier are ready to take their place as a couple on the dance floor – unaware that the country club, and the streets of Havana itself, are about to erupt in revolutionary violence.
Background and Story
Like the original Dirty Dancing, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights combines romance, dance and personal history. In 1958, JoAnn Jansen was a teenager living in St. Louis, Missouri, when her father, an executive with Reynolds Aluminum, was transferred to Havana. Jansen didn’t want to leave her life in St. Louis, but of course had no choice. Her family joined the other American families in residence at Havana’s luxurious hotels, where every need was catered to and people socialized at posh country clubs, glittering private parties, and opulent nightclub/casinos. It was a culture shock, to put it mildly.
“We were a middle-class family,” Jansen recalls. “Suddenly, we were living in a fancy hotel, with maids and a chauffeur available at all times. We were expected to be part of the high-class North American group, but I fell in love with a Latin boy who introduced me to an amazing country.”
In discovering Cuba, she discovered a culture where dance and music were part of everyday life. Jansen knew dance well; she had studied ballet for years and her parents had been professional ballroom dancers. But the dancing in Cuba ‘ how people moved, the ways bodies touched – was a vastly different entity. Dance also gave ordinary Cubans a rare opportunity to speak their minds, using their bodies. “I had never in my life seen anything that looked remotely like the dancing I saw in Havana,” Jansen remarks. “When people danced, it wasn’t connected to sex necessarily; it was about the freedom of your body and what it feels like to express yourself. I discovered that you could move your body any way you want; it’s part of your personality and nobody can take that from you. The Cuban people understood that deeply.”
Jansen’s experience in Cuba influenced her life in countless respects, including her choice of dance as a career. She was running her own modern dance company in New York when she first met Lawrence Bender, who began his career as a dancer and actor. They became friends and went on to work together after Bender became a producer, collaborating on motion pictures including Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and Boaz Yakin’s Fresh. Over the years, Bender and Jansen had worked on developing a film version of Jansen’s teenage experience. When Bender became involved with the production of a new chapter of Dirty Dancing, the pieces fell into place. “I was talking to JoAnn and Boaz Yakin and we realized JoAnn’s story would be great for a Dirty Dancing movie,” remembers Bender. “I’m an ex-dancer, so the idea of doing a dance movie or a musical is really close to my heart. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”
With Yakin committed to doing an initial screenplay, in 2001 Bender and Jansen took their idea to Artisan Entertainment and Miramax Films, who had joined forces to produce the new Dirty Dancing. Bender explains that no one saw the new film as supplanting the first film. “I loved Dirty Dancing. There’s something really special about it,” he says, noting that upon its release the 1987 film became “a phenomenon. People had never seen dance like that before. But what really is interesting about this story is Cuba ‘ in a sense, Cuba is sort of the forbidden fruit. Most people in this country haven’t been to Cuba, and it’s a place that people have a fascination about.”
The story’s unique characters and setting were key in attracting award-winning director Guy Ferland, who has distinguished himself with such character-driven projects as the television series “The Shield” and the Peabody Award-winning telefilm Bang, Bang, You’re Dead. “What was interesting to me was that we had two characters who are basically polar opposites, and they find a common emotional ground. In today’s world, that is a great thing to tell a story about,” Ferland says. “The backdrop of Cuba 1958 is primarily a musical and cultural one. We get to explore these elements through the eyes of a naïve American girl. So the film is not only a romance – it’s a romance and a musical and a drama and a movie about culture and a foreign country.”
Starring: Diego Luna, Romola Garai, Sela Ward, John Slattery, Jonathan Jackson
Directed by: Guy Ferland
Produced by: Bob Osher, Meryl Poster, Amir Malin
Release Date: February 27th, 2004
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sensuality.
Box Office: $14,161,590 (US total)
Studio: Lionsgate Films
Related Link: Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights on Movies Central