Monday, December 29, 2008

Dance Marathons

Dance marathon couple, ca. 1925
Library of Congress

Dance Marathons (also called Walkathons), an American phenomenon of the 1920s and 1930s, were human endurance contests in which couples danced almost non-stop for hundreds of hours (as long as a month or two), competing for prize money. Dance marathons originated as part of an early-1920s, giddy, jazz-age fad for human endurance competitions such as flagpole sitting and six-day bicycle races. Dance marathons persisted throughout the 1930s as partially staged performance events, mirroring the marathon of desperation Americans endured during the Great Depression. In these dance endurance contests, a mix of local hopefuls and seasoned professional marathoners danced, walked, shuffled, sprinted, and sometimes cracked under the pressure and exhaustion of round-the-clock motion. A 25-cent admission price entitled audience members to watch as long as they pleased.

I remember watching They Shoot Horses, Don't They? when I was a kid and being considerably weirded out by the whole idea.

via Blue Siren


Anonymous said...

I had my kooky, swallowing-goldfish-type image of dance marathons radically altered by "They Shoot Horses Don't They?". Affecting movie.

John M. said...

It certainly is affecting.

It was also right in the midst of Hollywood's "no happy endings" phase.

I haven't seen it in a good while, but it did stand up over time as of last viewing.