When Cynthia Rhodes wasn’t dazzling on the dance floor in Staying Alive with John Travolta, she was captivating audiences with her performances alongside Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing.

Known for her iconic roles in 1980s dance films, Rhodes, who will turn 67 in November 2023, gracefully exited the spotlight at the height of her career.

Read on to find out why this talented actress, singer, and dancer retired so early from Hollywood!

Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Cynthia Rhodes began her career as a singer and dancer, with her first acting role in the 1980 musical fantasy film Xanadu, starring the late Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly.

Her portrayal of Tina Tech, a dancer in the 1983 film Flashdance, led to a more significant role later that year as John Travolta’s love interest in Staying Alive, the Saturday Night Fever sequel directed by Sylvester Stallone.

Rhodes’ most memorable performance came in 1987 when she played Penny Johnson, a dance instructor at a resort hotel in Dirty Dancing.

In this role, she showcased her dance skills with elegant and energetic Mambo-style moves alongside Patrick Swayze, also delivering emotionally powerful scenes. Describing Penny as having an “edge,” Rhodes captivated and surprised audiences, particularly in the subplot involving Penny’s botched illegal abortion.

The film, featuring a socially relevant theme centered on Rhodes’ character, catapulted the three leads—Swayze as Johnny, Jennifer Grey as Baby, and Rhodes—toward stardom.

“Penny is from South Philly and has had a tough life. She’s sweet but guarded because of her experiences,” Rhodes explained. “By the end, she realizes life goes on.

However, Rhodes’ career took a different path than fans expected.

After intense training for her role in Dirty Dancing, Rhodes found dancing increasingly challenging. “Dancing became really hard. My bones and back hurt all the time,” she confessed. “I kept getting dance roles, but I wanted a chance to do dramatic work without dancing.”

In 1987, the same year Dirty Dancing was released, Rhodes appeared in the music video for “Don’t Mean Nothing” by Richard Marx, who would become her husband. Marx, known for hits like “Right Here Waiting” (famously written for Rhodes), married her in 1989. They had their first child, Brandon, in 1990, followed by Lucas in 1992 and Jesse in 1994.

Rhodes retired from acting in 1990 to focus on her family and due to the “intense physical pain” from dancing. Marx recounted, “I thought she would return to work, but she found fulfillment in being a mom that outweighed any career ambitions.” He added, “As talented as she was, she is an even more incredible mom.”

Rhodes, who started dancing at age three, found happiness in motherhood and welcomed the rest her body needed. “I used to never be sore, but now I have to stretch before I dance. I love to dance, but I wouldn’t miss it if I never danced again,” she said.

Her last film appearance was in 1991’s Curse of the Crystal Eye. In 2014, Rhodes divorced Marx, who later married MTV’s first Latina host, Daisy Fuentes.

All three of Rhodes’ sons have followed in their parents’ footsteps. Brandon is a music producer and singer, Lucas is a singer and actor with roles in TV series like The Chicago Code, The Mob Doctor, Chicago P.D., and Parenthood, and Jesse joined a metal band and is pursuing a music career.

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