His mother was choreographer Patsy Swayze. His education included the Harkness Ballet School, the Joffrey Ballet School, and San Jacinto College. He first performed as a dancer in Disney on Parade. After playing in the Broadway production of "Grease", he made his film debut as Ace in Skatetown, U.S.A. (1979). Eight years later, after considerable movie and television work, including choreography for Grandview, U.S.A. (1984), he received a Golden Globe nomination for his role as the dance instructor Johnny Castle in the steamy musical-drama Dirty Dancing (1987). He received a second nomination for his portrayal of the ghost Sam Wheat in the boxoffice/video success Ghost (1990). He has been a solidly established box office star throughout the nineties.