These endurance contests offered the unemployed hopes of temporary fame, small fortune, and the opportunity to dance their cares away. Prizes ranged anywhere between $1000 to $5000, but many contestants participated solely for the promise of food and shelter. Serious competitors danced for days, even weeks at a time. The record stands at 5,148 hours and 28.5 minutes. The contestants were usually allowed a mere 15 minutes of rest for every hour of dancing. Success came to those who had the ability to keep their partner moving at all times; style was irrelevant.
Due to potential health risks, police and health officials attempted time and time again to shut down these contests. Two contestants literally danced to their deaths right on the dance floor. The dangers, however, did not stop couples from participating, nor spectators from coming to witness others dance themselves to utter exhaustion. The competitions continued on until the early 1940s. For the unemployed, these tests of stamina and displays of fatigue provided an escape from the dreariness and hopelessness of The Depression.
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