Dance Marathons: Performing American Culture in the 1920s and 1930s

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Overview


How the craze of exhausting marathon dancing mirrored America's struggle to outlast social problems of the era
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As part of an expanding scholarly movement to convert popular amusements into cultural studies, dance marathons are depicted here as a symptom of America's troubled times between the wars. An assistant professor of drama at New York University, Martin's premise is a stretch at best, and detracts from what is otherwise a worthy and nostalgic glimpse at a national craze. Claims that endurance contests mirrored post-WW I optimism, and later, the despair of the Great Depression, are less than convincing. Statements such as, ``modeled on a radical version of social Darwinism, where the fittest would not just survive, but triumph and win cash prizes'' slow the book down. Beyond the academic probing is an engaging behind-the-scenes look at the genre's evolution. Originating in a time when feats of endurance, such as flag pole sitting, were considered patriotic, dance marathons were never regarded as legitimate entertainment. The monotony and unprofitable practice of watching endless hours of dancing were alleviated by shrewd promoters. Dramas such as mock weddings and torturous elimination races were played out on the floor--``the popularity of marathons rested on their gladiatorial displays.'' Dance marathons were under constant scrutiny by health and government officials and were sometimes banned. Though theoretically weak, in the end, this becomes an absorbing account of a fad that captivated millions. Photos not seen by PW. (Aug.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780878057016
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
  • Publication date: 8/1/1994
  • Series: Performance Studies, Expressive Behavior Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.15 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Table of Contents

Illustrations
Foreword
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 Common Heroes 3
2 The Dance Derby of the Century 22
3 For No Good Reason 40
4 Private Fantasy and Public Ambivalence 68
5 Hal J. Ross: Cunning, Smart, and Slick 87
6 The National Endurance Amusement Association 111
7 Unnegotiable Realities 129
Appendix 147
Notes 161
Sources 171
Index 177
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2000

    Dance Marathons: Performing American Culture in the 1920s and 1930s

    This is a page turner. Martin is the Jeffery Archer of the new millenium. I really appreciated the way in which Martin never gets bogged down in boring details, which the provsion of satisafactory evidence, or the usage of theoretical substrates would have caused her to fall into. Martin skims the reader along the surface of the historical contingencies concerning her subject matter so quickly that one never get's caught in sticky and uncomfortable questions concerning their significance. I was therefore able to read it so so quicky! Thanks Carol Martin!: when's your new book coming out?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2000

    Dance Marathons: Performing American Culture in the 1920s and 1930s

    This is a book that certainly holds the attention of the reader. One can't resist reading through the pages in their printed order, rather than in a combination of ambiguosity and tom-foolery. I really think that the book would be much better though, if it had been properly researched. All in all though, at least it's a try.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2000

    Dance Marathons: Performing American Culture in the 1920s and 1930s

    The monotony and unprofitable practice of watching endless hours of dancing were alleviated by shrewd promoters. Dramas such as mock weddings and torturous elimination races were played out on the floor--``the popularity of marathons rested on their gladiatorial displays.'' Dance marathons were under constant scrutiny by health and government officials and were sometimes banned.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2000

    Informative

    A wonderful book. This book represents a strong and useful exploration of an important period in American history. Martin is lucid and insightful. A great read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2000

    Dance Marathons: Performing American Culture in the 1920s and 1930s

    I am both excited and alarmed by the quality and unstoppable stimulation aroused by this new addition to the growing field of dance scholarship generally, and American dance history specifically. One both rejoices and folds their arms in inevitable suspiction as Martin leads one through a world of delight, spectacle, and frankly, a whole lot of crazy old-time dancin'. The only time I allowed my eyes off the page was when I couldn't resist doin' some boogyin' myself! This is more than a book. This is a lifestyle. Ye-ha!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2000

    Dance Marathons: Performing American Culture in the 1920s and 1930s

    Dance Marathons has little or no theoretical supports. It is part of a, thankfully dwindling, but very engrained, tradition in scholarship concerning the arts in which the presentation of mere historical facts (a feature of this book that renders it little more than glorified journalism) and shallow commentary (the author excusing this shallowness with a general motto which might read something like, 'I just want to do the work') render this book quite bland and frankly disappointing. Dance scholarship has for some time been screaming out for more careful theoretical models, this book fails to answer the call. Very poor.

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