"I said I wanted to be an actress when I was a kid," explains Grey, the daughter of celebrated singer, dancer and actor Joel Grey. "And my parents said, 'Well, you can take dance class and you can take singing lessons.' And that's all they'd let me do. And I'd say, 'Can't I audition?' And they'd say, 'Nope, not until you get out of high school.'"
Grey's only outlet as a child performer, she says, was Saturday ballet class. "And then as an adult, for exercise, I would look for a fun dance class. But once I got Dirty Dancing, I never took a class again. I was too self-conscious. Everyone was going to expect me to be [her character] Baby. And I was not."
So Grey stopped dancing — until now. On Monday night, she tore up the floor with a frisky jive, proving that the elegant ballroom moves she displayed last week aren't the only weapons in her arsenal. Ask her if she considers herself a trained dancer and she laughs. "I never went to class more than once a week," she says, "and I was a bit of a mess. I could never get the combinations of steps, so I was never able to be up front. I always had to watch the people in front of me."
But nobody puts Jennifer in the corner any more. Says her pro partner, Derek Hough, "Dancing is in her blood, it's in her body, in her soul. You can see the joy she gets out of it." Adds Grey, "I feel like I'm reclaiming something. I love moving."