‘Real Dirty Dancing’ Winners Break Down Acing That Epic Lift After Rehearsal Struggles & More

Corbin Bleu and Cat Cora are your official 'Real Dirty Dancing' winners! HL spoke EXCLUSIVELY with the champs about nailing that lift, how this experience has changed them, and more.

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Image Credit: FOX

Nobody’s ever going to put Corbin Bleu and Cat Cora in the corner. Corbin and Cat were announced as the winners of The Real Dirty Dancing after an epic final performance. The pair truly embodied the spirit of Johnny and Baby.

HollywoodLife sat down with Corbin and Cat for an EXCLUSIVE interview about their road to victory. They opened up about nailing that lift after struggling in rehearsals and how they connected right away. Cat also revealed how The Real Dirty Dancing experience has inspired her to continue acting in the future. Read our Q&A below:

Corbin Bleu
Corbin Bleu and Cat Cora practicing the ‘Dirty Dancing’ lift. (FOX)

When tWitch called your names as the winners, what was going through your heads? 
Cat Cora: I just collapsed. There was so much energy and emotion and just this overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I literally just collapsed on the stage. Thank God Corbin was there to catch me yet again. I was just so proud of us. I had so much pride.

Corbin Bleu: I was having PTSD because coming off of also when I did Dancing with the Stars years ago and coming in second, that was the time right there that I had found out that I wasn’t the winner. I think once it was announced, it took me a second to register that it was over. We actually did it. We won. And then just to share that with Cat, to have been a witness to her journey, to have been a part of it, to see these two very different Johnny and Babys from the original film, and see our interpretations with the two of us, it really is such a beautiful thing that this show has presented as an opportunity.

During the finale, you had a little trouble with the final lift. Thankfully, you aced it in the performance. What were you thinking at that moment when you landed it? 
Cat Cora: There’s no cushion, padding, or people spotting you. It was literally we had to nail it. We didn’t get take after take after take. We had to nail that first one, and we never nailed it before that performance. We never 100 percent got the lift. So I know both of us were terrified that we were not going to do it. I don’t think it made it into the finale cut, but literally, when Corbin got me up, I felt like I was up there for so long. It was like, we’re gonna stay up here. We got this. We’re gonna milk this for everything. And then when we came down, I just hugged him for what felt like an eternity. I’m getting chills thinking about it. It was just so spectacular.

Corbin Bleu: Same thing. I could not let my nerves take over. That entire dance number starts off with Cat and I, and we have our partnership, and then Johnny jumps off the stage and has his whole solo dance, and then Cat just runs at me. At that moment, again, leading up to it and all those rehearsals, no, we didn’t nail it. We never actually nailed it. By that point, my arms were on fire. I remember after the rehearsals, we had a physical therapist on set that was just rubbing just all sorts of balms on me and trying to massage my arms. It was painful. It was just so nerve-wracking and terrifying going into this, knowing that that is on me. As long as Cat holds her body up, it just comes down to me to actually get her up, lock the arms, and even where I place my hands. It has to be so perfect for balance. There are just so many moving parts. But in the moment in front of that audience, it was just pure adrenaline-filled, muscling up. It felt like angels just pulled her up. When she finally went up, I was in shock. I’m standing here holding her up going, “It’s happening. I can’t believe this is actually happening.” Such a cool experience.

Cat Cora
Cat Cora and Corbin Bleu’s chemistry was effortless. (FOX)

After this experience, do you look at Dirty Dancing differently than you did before?
Cat Cora:
I was so in awe of the movie anyway, and it was such a coming-of-age movie. I was 20 when it came out, so I look at it now with just so much more respect for what they went through to get those dances down and to nail those lifts and act out those scenes. I have so much more respect and awe. It was just so humbling to walk in their footsteps. We were exactly in the same places that Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze were 35 years ago, recreating these iconic scenes, the fashion, the music, the dances. It was so humbling.

Corbin Bleu: Now there’s that element of knowing that we’re a part of that, that we actually got to experience some of that. So I think anytime we see the movie or see one of those iconic images, there will be that voice in the back of our head going, “You did that.”

Cat Cora: I think it also brings a whole new generation and generations to this movie through what we were able to recreate through The Real Dirty Dancing. There’s a whole new appreciation for we’re doing this 35 years later, and a whole new appreciation for Dirty Dancing the movie, and for us being a part of as Corbin just said, a part of this legacy.

It wasn’t just about the physical aspects of recreating these scenes, it was very much about the emotions involved with it. What’s something that you learned about yourself while embodying Baby and Johnny?
Cat Cora: I always had a lot of confidence that if you open that door, I can walk through it, and I can give everything possible. But this just amplified that feeling for me that, as a woman who has 6 teenage boys and is 54 years old, I wanted to show my sons and also women out there moms, young girls, that you can do anything at any age, to never put yourself in a box and say, “Well, that’s it.” You’re never finished. There’s always a journey. There’s always a goal, so I was just so proud that I came out and gave it my all and actually was able to take this journey with Corbin and then we actually won. To be able to see this all the way through to the end and have this beautiful ending to such an incredible story and this climax, for me, it just reassured me that I can do anything that I put my mind to.

Corbin Bleu: When you think about Patrick Swayze in the film, he’s such a sex icon. He’s got this charm. He’s a leader. You just can’t get enough of him when you watch this. I’ve filled in for the shoes of pretty iconic people in my career over time, just even stepping into the roles of the likes of that have been originated by Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire. But even with those performances, there’s an ease and a charm, there’s that old school, Golden Era musical, crooner vibe, but it’s different with Swayze. It’s this brooding, sex icon charm. And the fact that we actually had to fill in those personas, and it came down to who embodies Baby and Johnny the most. It was thrilling to have come away with the gold for that one.

Cat Cora: I’m an Iron Chef. I am this persona that is a very accomplished, tough, beat any man in the kitchen. To come back around to being the girl next door and this softness, I really had to find that within myself, which is also something that I found. [I found] this vulnerability to let someone else lead because I feel like Corbin and everybody in the cast are born leaders. We all had to kind of step back, especially me, and be vulnerable and be soft and be that girl next door and let Corbin lead. I thought that was something I really discovered about myself as well. That she’s in there.

You two had amazing chemistry. That Johnny goodbye scene was incredible. What’s the secret to your chemistry? 
Corbin Bleu: I’ll just say that from the get-go, when Cat and I were paired, we really did just hit it off so well. That’s just luck of the draw. I think we both have a similar drive and a similar take on the world and how we approach it. I know that just that alone, our approach was something that we connected on, but then just over the course of the weeks that we were there, we really just got along so well. I love Cat. I think by the time we did get to that finale scene and do that goodbye scene, we were able to draw from some real-life emotion there. I know that Cat also is wanting to do a lot more — I’ll let her speak on it — with acting so it’s just so cool to be able to be in a scene with her from an acting perspective.

Cat Cora
Corbin Bleu and Cat Cora kiss during Johnny’s goodbye scene. (FOX)

Cat Cora: Corbin is such an incredible actor that it was easy for me as someone who’s a novice, who’s learning, to really pull from him. He just emotes so much perfection and nuance in his acting that it was just so symbiotic. There was so much chemistry in the way that we acted out that scene. It felt so good and so right. I got a chance to be in front of five cameras with 300 people on set. This is the direction that I want to go in and do more of this because it felt so good. And that scene, I literally watched that and was like, I mean, I was in it. We were in it. But when I watched it back, I was like wow, that was powerful.

There are so many iconic moments in this movie. Was there one that you loved recreating the most?
Corbin Bleu: I know we’ve been talking about the lift. I mean, when people think about the movie that is the most iconic moment in the film, so definitely being able to do that. But again, that moment was such an out-of-body experience. When it was over, it was hard to even remember that it just happened. So I feel like the second episode when we did our number in the dance room was one of my favorite recreations.

Cat Cora: I just think all the dances, of course, when we got out in front of everybody, we’d worked so hard on each one, and we were able to just get out there and let go and let it rip on the dance floor. Those were my favorites. I think also the lake scenes for me were my favorite because I got to spend a lot of time with Corbin out there recreating that. I mean, I think everyone fell in love with that scene. It was also the time in the movie when Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, their characters really bonded for the first time because there was always this angst between the both of them throughout the movie. She was young and giggly, and he was serious, as Corbin said, a brooding, sex icon, dancer. It was the first time he actually softened and actually saw her in a different light. Just for me to be able to go out with all four of those guys and be able to have that experience in the lake, but especially that was where Corbin and I were really trying to perfect those moves. To me, the lake scenes were my favorite to recreate.

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