Dance Marathons

The 1920’s was a time of living and so many different trends. These trends caught on and went like crazy. Among these many trends was Dance Marathons. This new fad started in 1923, by a 32 year old woman named Alma Cummings. She danced for 27 hours straight. While she was dancing she went through six different partners. She broke a previous record set by a Britain. This gave her short fame. Many people, manly women, saw how this gave her fame and thought that they could the same fame from it. So that is when dance marathons erupted.

Dance marathons were popular during the Great Depression. It was popular during this time because it was cheep entertainment and it was very beneficial to the contestants. Many people made a life out of the marathons because it provided food, shelter, work, and extra money. All of which were hard to find during the Great Depression.

Dance marathons were done for many things such as entertainment and test of endurance. Dance marathons differing from other fads at the time such as flagpole sitting and mountain climbing were very entertaining. Sports and entertainment promoters saw the potential of money in dance marathons and started to host more of them. The contest became endless they would go on for weeks with out rest. At a competition they would have judges, nurses, and vendors.

As dance marathons became more and more popular there became more of set rules, they were given 15 minutes every hour of dancing to do with what the wanted. They could sleep, eat, change clothes, use the bathroom, or even get a massage. Although they had to pay for they massage themselves. This change in rules mad the marathons go on even longer compared to the old rules were it was non-stop dancing until every had fallen.


In the 1920’s a reality TV show came out named Survivor with a Twist. This was not a show judged on technical accurateness. The judges jobs were to make sure the contestants knees did not touch the ground. Technically they did not even have to dance the whole time they just had to stand in a dancing position and move their feet. Occasionally they would be asked to do a quick run of the fox trot or the waltz.

During the dance marathons the promoters would feed each contestant twelve meals a day. Since this was the period of the Great Depression the was a big inspiration for people to do the marathons. They would feed them good healthy food like eggs, milk, fruit, and toast. They would feed them at a table that was chest high ecuase they had to continue to dance while they ate all there meals.

Most of the marathons were staged. Their would be certain couples that were married that the crowed would root for. A lot of the marathons were staged so in the favor of certain couples. Most of the performers that were professionals would act like amateurs and blend in with the other amateurs so that they would win those marathons. But this is what made the shows so entertaining fro the crowds because there favorites kept winning.

Dance marathons had many different nicknames such as bunion derbies, corn carnivals, and callus carnivals. By promoters they were known as walkathons. But no matter what people referred to them we will always remember them as dance marathons.

Camus, Renee. "Dance Marathons." Renee Camus.2004. 3 March 2009.

Washington, Humanities. "Dance Marathons of the 1920s and 1930s." History Link.4 March 2009.
5 March 2009.<>

By: Betsy Leesman

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