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100-hour dance marathon at Greenwich Dance

Posted on May 24, 2013

a 1930s dance marathon

a 1930s dance marathonAs part of the Greenwich Dances season, choreographer Arthur Pita’s Open Heart Productions will stage a 100-hour dance marathon, running from June 3 to 7.


The event is part of research for Pita’s forthcoming production Nobody’s Baby, based on the American phenomenon of the 1930s. During the economic depression, marathon competitions attracted desperate couples, who would dance almost non-stop for hundreds of hours in the hope of winning prize money.


In preparation for Nobody’s Baby, ten performers will dance from 5pm on Monday until 9pm on Friday in Greenwich Dance’s Borough Hall, a Grade II listed 1930s building, keeping strictly to the marathon’s original rules. Audiences will be able to watch at the Borough Hall or online. Composer Frank Moon and his band will play live at selected sessions.


Arthur Pita said: “I am scared and excited in equal measure about attempting this. The only way to really get a true glimpse into this world is to experience it as they did during the depression of the 1930s. Together with a fantastic troop of dancers, composer Frank Moon, musicians, actors and a team of stage management, we will enter into this fully. We will apply the rules originally applied, work to the same schedule, eat what they ate and dance to the glorious movement of this fascinating period. The aim is really to research this concept in depth and to recreate the atmosphere that occurred at the time, but also discover the journey that the audience need to go on in order to experience what happened historically and also question it, and how it is relevant in today’s culture.”


The project is supported by the Greenwich Dance and Trinity Laban Partnership. Dance science specialists from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance will closely monitor the physical and mental impact on participants.


During depression-era marathons, contestants had to be in continual motion for 45 minutes out of every hour, day and night, and were disqualified if both knees touched the floor. In keeping with the rules, performers at Greenwich Dance will be allowed 11 minutes in rest quarters every hour, with two minutes to get there, and two minutes to return to the floor.



Picture: a 1930s dance marathon in America

Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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