The Great Depression…while the main problem at that time in history was a lack of jobs and money, another huge problem was depression…real emotional depression. Of course, people just had to deal with that. There was nothing anyone could do about it…or was there? There was little that could be done about money, but maybe there was a way to lift everyone’s spirits and do some good too. So began the Depression Era Dance Marathons.
Dance Marathons (also called Walkathons) were an American phenomenon of the 1920s and 1930s. While they began as 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, that couldn’t continue during the Great Depression years. Still, the dance marathons did continue throughout the 1930s as partially staged performance events that mirrored the marathons of the Roaring Twenties. In the dance endurance contests of the 20s, 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. The Depression Era Dance Marathons weren’t exactly a means of keeping the American spirit up through the darkest financial crisis in its history, but rather they were human endurance contests that served as a way of giving broke married couples a roof over their head and food to eat for a few days.
The real emphasis here is on the word contest. People had needs, and so they were highly motivated to win the contest. It was a good thing that these dancers were young people, because marathon dancing takes a lot of stamina. The couples would actually take turns sleeping while their partner propped up and continued dancing with them. That kind of endurance was no easy feat, but in the end, it was all worth it…for the winners anyway. When you think about it, it while the marathons were a good idea, and the prizes really helped people out, it had to be exhausting, and it was definitely not for the older generation. You had to be young in body, in addition to being young at heart to endure all that. These couples danced their hearts out. Nevertheless, at some point, the couples finally gave out, until there was only one couple left, and the winners were announced. It was a contest of endurance. While they really needed the prize, I’m sure these couples had a great time too.
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