Could you dance for 1,437 hours straight? This couple did—and they weren’t the only ones!
Starting in 1923 and lasting throughout the Great Depression, dance marathons were a major form of popular entertainment in America, with couples dancing weeks and sometimes months away in a desperate bid to win cash prizes, trophies, bragging rights, and a brief shot at fame—not to mention photos.
Last month, new vintage photos from the 1920s, 1930s and more appeared on UK news sites like The Daily Mail and The Sun. Each depict the intense, grueling and sometimes odd nature of these contests. One poor man even tries to shave while dancing! Check them all out below.
A series of couples compete in 1923, at the beginning of the endurance dance craze. Check out the poor lady on the far left who’s asleep on her feet! Photo source: Mashable/Library of Congress
These 1925 Charleston dancers only lasted for 53 minutes straight, but they got the orchestra to serve them food, so that’s something, right? 😉 Photo Source: Mashable
This 1930 couple is nearly down for the count. Photo Source: Mashable
This lady from 1932 looks super annoyed at having to hold up her sleeping partner, and no wonder—this was her third partner, and she’d been dancing for 1120 hours! Photo Source: Mashable
Dammmn, that lady is ASLEEP. I think I can hear the snoring now! 😉 According to Mashable, this charming couple is Frank and Marie Micholowsky. They participated in a 1931 Chicago marathon. Photo Source: Mashable
While the fella above looks resigned, this one looks downright concerned about his lady friend. Another shot from 1931, supposedly. Photo Source: The Sun
Not sure on the year here, but this couple looks exhausted. The crowd of spectators looks pretty large, however. Photo Source: The Sun
Women weren’t the only ones to pass out on their partners. In this photo, dance contestant Anna Lawanick tries to support her partner, Jack Ritof, at a 1930 Chicago dance marathon. Photo Source: The Sun
He’s asleep on his feet, and she’s still going—in HEELS! Photo Source: The Sun
Check out the guy on the left—he’s having a shave! Photo Source: The Sun
Not sure on the year here, but that lady on the far left is MAD at the cameraman. Another scene from a Chicago contest. Photo Source: The Sun
Not sure on the year here, but you can get a sense of the setup for these contests, with the dancers surrounded by spectators, judges, nurses, and a band—plus the resting cots on the edges of the dance circle, where contestants got 15 minutes to “sleep” or rest before staggering back onto the dance floor. Photo Source: The Sun
Here are more cots for the 15 minute rest periods, with a packed crowd. Photo Source: The Daily Mail UK
If your knees hit the floor during the dance marathon, you were disqualified. Here, a judge crouches down to monitor a couple who seem seconds away from being out of the running. Photo Source: The Sun
An ad for an endurance dance marathon emphasizes the grueling nature of the “sport,” as well as encouraging the kind of voyeurism that comes so easily to reality TV. Photo Source: Van Winkle
Want to learn more about endurance dance marathons? Try this guest post I wrote about dance marathons, or check out this Daily Mail article, which also features a video of an actual contest. This blog post over at Blondie Cuts a Rug has a bit more history to it, however, and this Van Winkle’s post isn’t bad either.