Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Dance Marathons











"Black" Dance Marathons (continuous motion) or "Derbies" became extremely popular during the depression years (1920s-30s) as many out of work people would compete for money prizes, as well as stars of some kind seeking publicity. The longest running dance marathon lasted for 22 weeks and 3½ days. Dance marathons were eventually outlawed (called Blue Laws) in most states due to the unhealthy condition they would put the contestants in. Link…
If you're interested in reading more, here is a link to an excellent thesis [PDF] written by Chelsea Dunlop.
There is also this short article from American Heritage [scroll down to 1923 - Can’t Stop Dancin’]: "On April 1 Americans awoke to find their country in the thrall of a brand-new sport: marathon dancing. The fad had begun in England in early March with an effort of nine and a half hours—a virtual sprint. A pair of doughty Scots immediately did fourteen, and within two weeks French dancers had broken the twenty-four- hour barrier. At this point, with events having clearly surpassed the bounds of sanity, it was time for the Americans to step in." more…

8 comments:

renaud said...

would you please tell me where you find the last picture "sleep" and who is the autor?
thanks

tellurian said...

renaud,
If you tell me why you want to know, I will tell you where I got it from (you will kick yourself).

tellurian said...

So you found my email and asked for more information but didn't comment here for some reason, whatever.
All the information you need is in the most excellent thesis PDF from Chelsea Dunlop linked in the post:
'sleep' ILLUSTRATION 8
A group of marathoners catching up on sleep while still shuffling (Photo from New York Public Library, Jerome Robbins Dance Collections, Lincoln Center).
and
'drag' ILLUSTRATION 10
A female marathoner attempts to drag her male partner along during a race (Photo from Frank Calabria’s Dance of the Sleepwalkers)
If you are interested in this subject, you really should download and read it, there is a lot more information and pictures.

Anonymous said...

Mary "Hercules" Promitis is famous for her dancing for long periods of time. The reason is for her cure for her aching feet. Promitis came from Lithuania, was at the time part of Russia, her father is Anthony. Her full name in patronymic form is Marija Antonovna Promitis.

tellurian said...

Interesting pointer, thanks anonymous. Searching on her name gets me this old Time article on dance marathons, which also mentions an early sort of 'Photoshopping' — "On the tenth day the New York Evening Graphic published "doctored" photographs of contestants, showing faces that were thinned and blackened with exhaustion, suggesting that the dance marathon was not only silly but cruel. At this, a vast throng of persons rushed to Madison Square Garden and bought their way in."
She gets a mention as a contestant.

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