Scottish Opera tackles dangerous dance craze

Photo by Colin Hattersley.
Photo by Colin Hattersley.

SCOTTISH Opera is on tour fresh from a stint at the Edinburgh Fringe with Dance Derby — a double-edged sword of jaunty jazz music and grisly tales of Depression-era America.

The show is an insight into the bizarrely popular dance contests which sprang up in the 30s and became gruelling tests of endurance - all for the sake of some prize money.

Competitions could go on for months, with those taking part taking just two hours for sleep and eating while they danced - several competitors died with their eyes still on the prize.

Dance Derby follows Hal Johnson, a producer and MC determined to put on a show - no matter what the cost to his five competing couples.

It’s the work of Scottish Opera and dance group Company Chordelia, with director and choreographer Kally Lloyd-Jones at the helm.

She explained: “During the Depression, many people were really desperate, homeless, starving and destitute, so they entered the marathons not just for the prize money but for the meals and a roof over their heads.

“For some, the conditions of the marathons actually seemed better than what they had.

“The producers and MCs were in the business of getting the audiences involved, just like reality television shows today. Reality is manipulated for the audience and contestants are humiliated - there’s a fascination with how far people are willing to go.”

Dancy Derby appears at Eastwood Park Theatre for one night only on Sunday, at 7.30pm. Tickets are £13 (£9 for under 26s), available from 577 4956.