Sweat-slicked endurance test
This article is from 2011.
At three hours in, the fatigue has begun to show. As per the First Rule of Dance Marathon, we’re all still moving our feet constantly, but it’s descended to a listless, obedient shuffling. A room full of sweating strangers, inhibitions completely lost, smiling at each other with the battered camaraderie of the utterly knackered.
Based on the cruel endurance tests of Depression-era America, on one level Dance Marathon is a very interesting experiment in participatory theatre: the audience become the contestants. Playing on the endorphin highs released by dancing, we’re easily manipulated into unquestioning obedience to a slightly sadistic MC and roller-skating referee, pushed into faster and faster steps.
The rammed, chaotic dance floor is occasionally shot through with cohesion as the ‘embedded’ dancers (cast members who had arrived with us and donned the same numbered bibs) suddenly pull together like a flash mob, showing us fleeting moments of beauty amid the exhaustion.
However, ultimately, it’s a rather frustrating experience. ‘Characters’ are half-heartedly established from the embedded dancers, but it’s never clear why we’re supposed to care about them, because there’s no real sense that anything’s at stake – the company seem almost frightened of examining the desperation that drove people to these lengths in the first place.
Traverse, 228 1404, until 14 Aug, 7.15pm, £19 (£13).