Nashville-born Rhodes had been a dancer at Opryland before breaking into movie musicals with a small role in 1980’s Xanadu. Her role as dancer Tina Tech in Flashdance led to even bigger parts. She played the John Travolta’s love interest, a Broadway dancer, in Staying Alive, and then her most memorable role, resort hotel dance instructor Penny Johnson (pictured) in 1987’s Dirty Dancing. She showed she was equally adept at tearing up the ballroom floor with Patrick Swayze and playing wrenchingly emotional dramatic scenes (Penny was the one whose botched illegal abortion is the catalyst for much of the plot).
The 31-year-old blonde could have had her pick of roles after that. Instead, she married pop star Richard Marx in 1989 and retired from show business to raise their three children. She had no regrets, Marx told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2012, adding that Rhodes now found dancing intensely painful. Still, the 56-year-old mom can boast a lasting legacy of screen roles that continue to wow viewers with their poignance and dazzling dance moves.
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