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A new musical in development based on the novel

They Shoot Horses Don’t They? by Horace McCoy

 music and lyrics by Joe Jackson

 Synopsis

Set in the great American Depression, the musical centres on two out of work Hollywood wannabes who, in desperation, join a dance marathon for free food, board and the chance to get noticed by film producers.  In a jaded, claustrophobic pier ballroom, the disparate group of contestants are manipulated by the contests’ promotors and worn down by physical and mental fatigue with fatal consequences.

Background

Blurring the lines between theatre and reality, dance marathons were a huge draw in the entertainment industry during the Great Depression, they were the brutal fore-runner of today’s reality television. Beginning in 1923 as light-hearted competitions of endurance, dance marathons eventually transformed into something rather dark and exploitative. Contestants, who were often in dire financial straits, were given shelter and meals as long as they kept dancing, with a substantial cash award for the last couple standing.

Contestants, who danced in pairs, were required to remain in motion (picking up one foot, then the other) 45 minutes each hour, around the clock
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Contestants, who danced in pairs, were required to remain in motion (picking up one foot, then the other) 45 minutes each hour, around the clock
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Dance marathons began in America during the 1920s and saw participants try to remain on their feet for as long as physically possible.
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Competitors were disqualified if their knees touched the ground during the dance marathon
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The brutal dance marathons saw couples try to stay standing for as long as physically possible
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Many of the dance marathons lasted for days, even weeks at the height of their popularity
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Towards the end of the 1930s there was an attempt to regulate dance marathons, partly to resist the growing clamor to ban them
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Fifteen minutes each hour were allotted for rest. When the air horn signaling a rest period sounded, the contestants exited the dance floor for rest areas that were filled with beds
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The dance marathons would leave shattered competitors hanging onto their partners
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In their heyday, dance marathons were among America's most controversial forms of live entertainment
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Women often had to prop up their sleeping male partners, despite their bulkier frame
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Dance marathons were both genuine endurance contests and staged performance events
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