By STEVEN McELROY
When Jennifer Grey insists you march your two left feet out onto the dance floor and learn the basics of bachata, a type of dancing that originated in the Dominican Republic, good luck resisting this gale force. You may lurch and stumble, but you go. It’s not that she is bossy; it’s that her enthusiasm is irresistible.
“What you have to do is be willing to be a beginner,” Ms. Grey said, convincingly, during a recent evening at the Attic Rooftop and Lounge in Midtown Manhattan, where a weekly Wednesday night event, Bachata Dreams — part lesson and part social — was getting underway.
It was her first time at the Attic, and doing bachata, but she was hardly intimidated. “You have to be willing to not know what you’re doing, because there’s no shame,” she said.
Sure, easy for her to say. This is Frances Houseman, known as Baby, from “Dirty Dancing” (1987), after all — she who nobody puts in a corner. Ms. Grey was also the Season 11 winner of “Dancing With the Stars,” in 2010.
Off she went onto the dance floor, in off-white skinny jeans and a T-shirt with “London” emblazoned across the chest, looking energized and much younger than her 56 years. She had even had back surgery just five weeks earlier, though aside from a scar on her lower back that she proudly showed, you would never know.
Ms. Grey lives in Los Angeles but was visiting her hometown, New York, to promote the Amazon series “Red Oaks,” which will have its Season 2 premiere on Nov. 11. The comedy, about a college student named David (played by Craig Roberts) who spends summers as a tennis instructor at a New Jersey country club, is set in the mid-1980s. Ms. Grey plays David’s mother, Judy, who struggles with an unfulfilling marriage and a growing awareness of her ambiguous sexuality.
In addition to Ms. Grey, “Red Oaks” includes other ’80s celebrities, like Paul Reiser (“Diner,” 1982), who plays a finance big shot, and, as executive producer, Steven Soderbergh (“Sex, Lies and Videotape,” 1989). In one Season 2 episode, a shot of the sign outside a movie theater showing “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986) nods to another of Ms. Grey’s well-known 1980s film credits (she was Ferris’s sister, Jeanie).
Though she looked perfectly comfortable at the Attic, Ms. Grey said there were many years before “Dancing With the Stars” when a lack of self-confidence meant she hardly danced at all. Despite being the daughter of a musical theater star, Joel Grey, and having taken plenty of dance classes, she had never performed and didn’t consider herself a real dancer when she leapt into Patrick Swayze’s arms in the final scene of “Dirty Dancing,” to the tune of “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.”
She approached the film’s dancing sequences like an actress, she said, who learned her steps and rehearsed them thoroughly — but who was actually rather terrified of that moment.
For years after the film, Ms. Grey said, she would not dance because if she did not look impressive doing it, she did not want to do it at all. When she became a mother 14 years ago — she is married to the actor Clark Gregg — she realized she did not want her daughter, Stella, to learn to do things only if she knew she would be great at them, Ms. Grey said: “What about just doing it for the love of doing it, because you want to learn?”
“It’s cool to do it wrong because that’s how you get better,” she said at the Attic as she took a short break and watched her friend Georgia Louise, a respected facialist, dance with her father, a ballroom dance instructor visiting from England. “Your ego wants you to stay home on the couch where it’s safe and nothing changes,” she said. “But your soul wants to try new things and dance.”
Though bachata was new to her, Ms. Grey is a committed salsa dancer, hoping to own a studio someday. “Salsa is the next big thing, because I think people are desperate for connection,” she said.
“They’re always connected on their phones, but no one’s getting fed because the connection isn’t emotional like what happens when you look in someone’s eye and feel the pressure of their hand on your back,” she added, demonstrating the movement.
After an hour or so of dancing, and as the club continued to fill, Ms. Grey announced it was time to go; an early-morning appearance on the “Today” show required an early night. Soon she was off, slipping into a nearby car to head back to her hotel, but not before asking those of us she left if we’d be returning for more Bachata Dreams.
Sigh, probably. Resistance seems futile.