Popular entertainment is often powered by schadenfreude. In Roman times, spectators packed stadiums to gleefully observe as people were dismembered by lions. More recently, the explosion of reality television has given popcorn-munchers the chance to watch people make themselves sick from eating too many cockroaches or undergo extreme plastic surgery to look like flash-in-the-pan celebrities. Depression-era dance marathons are the 1930s counterpart to 2000s reality television. These spectacles began innocently enough as dance contests in the 1920s, when long-haul dance events trod the fine, fascinating line between sexily scandalous and over-the-top outrageous. Alma Cummings kick-started the craze in 1923, wearing holes in her shoes from 27 straight hours of dancing in a Manhattan ballroom. Within three weeks, her record had been broken at least nine times by two-steppers across the country. This story is from Kinfolk Issue Thirty-six Buy Now Related Stories Arts & Culture Issue 43 Last Night What did Planningtorock do with their evening? Arts & Culture Issue 31 At Work With: Kyle Abraham In a New York studio, the choreographer dances, rehearses and breaks down the meaning of his “postmodern gumbo” technique with Djassi DaCosta Johnson. Arts & Culture Jonathan Chmelensky A tour of The Royal Danish Ballet with its principal dancer. Arts & Culture Issue 27 Michaela DePrince The young ballerina dancing all over the stereotypes of a pressure-intense career. Arts & Culture Issue 27 Akram Khan On the uneasy dance between knowledge and information. Arts & Culture Issue 24 Mover and Shaper A celebrated sculptor and the matriarch of modern dance: the story of an unlikely power couple.