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an introduction to Contra Dancing

This would make a great gift to show your friends what it is that you have so much fun doing.  Maybe it will encourage them to come along!

DVD and its package (113 K bytes)
Click on the pic to enlarge (400KB)

A 30 min. DVD introducing contra dancing.  It teaches the basic moves found in most contra dances; explains the structure of the dance; entertains you with information about the history and practice of contra dancing.  The DVD has a "scene selection" menu so you can easily find the lesson you want to go back to.

Henry Morgenstein is the caller and the narrator (voice over).   Jacqui Morgenstein operated the cameras which were professional ones on loan from Traverse City's Cable Access TV station.

Most of the footage was shot at a series of four contra dances that Henry and Jacqui held in Traverse City (Sep 2006) especially for the purpose of creating this video.  But we also added some clips filmed in Ann Arbor, MI and in London, England.  All of the dancing is done to the music of live bands -  Chesapeake in England and The Waltz Pistols and Tanglemere in Michigan.  None of the video was scripted (except the teaching of the hey at Cecil Sharp House in London), so all the incidents just happened as the result of dancers enjoying themselves.

If you would like a copy of this DVD, 
email: henry @henryandjacqui,com_
It is $9.00 inc. p&p in the USA or £6.00 inc. p&p in the UK.  Ask me for prices for other countries.   (Postage may change if we are the wrong side of the "Pond" when we mail the DVD.)

We have put a 10 min. clip from the video on You Tube:

The quality is poor (YouTube compresses everything horribly) but it should give you some idea of what the video contains.

If you would like some definitions of contra dancing, both funny and serious, Gary Shapiro's web page "What Is Contra Dance?" is for you.  It is a teriffic resource for all contra dancers.

Here are some reviews of the video    DANCING CONTRAS

from Glen Morningstar, a renowned contra dance caller and musician in Michigan

I'm in possession of a DVD titled "Dancing Contras" that was produced by Henry and Jacqui Morgenstein of Traverse City. It is superbly done and runs about 30 minutes. Henry has shared it with the MDH Board. The production was a collaboration with Traverse City Community Access Television TCTV2 and the DVD is free to other local cable access television channels.

Judi and I have reviewed it and it is perfect to introduce a community to contra dancing.  It has both young people and "veteran" dancers in it, with great live music. There is spotlighting on dance figures as they're done and text that helps the viewer follow right along with what is occurring. The dancing was NOT scripted and is very casual and real...and fun. The commentator is scripted and easy to follow (Henry).

I would recommend it highly as a way to promote traditional dancing in our Michigan communities.  It currently is running in Traverse City (multiple times).

Glen Morningstar

from Scott Higgs, a well known caller from Philadelphia:

I'm writing from a hotel in Rome, where I finally found time last night to watch your contra DVD.
Bravo !
Bravissimo !!
It is great to see "real" people dancing, making mistakes, having a good time -- rather than a bunch of 'experts' who do everything perfectly. Your lessons are simple, and your slow-motion, zooming-in, and highlighting of specific dancers add clarity and interest to the narrative. Excellent editing and production techniques and choices ! And .. I know it is often not easy to match the music and movement --- you accomplish it perfectly.

That's all I can think to say after a single viewing -- a job very well done ! I hope your work gets wide circulation.

Scott Higgs

from Jim Crawford, a leader in the contra dance community in Atlanta, Georgia:

The video has a gym location and the lighting gives ‘woody’, warm and friendly colors. The voice over is richly smooth, clear and of very high quality. The background music is uplifting and just ample enough volume to be constantly drawing the viewer into the video. The video itself is a smooth blend of philosophical, cultural, promotional, instructional, tutorial, educational and of a somewhat documentary type of video. Basic dance components were taught with dancers moving to the moves. Repetition with vocabulary terms were shown on the screen. I would have liked for more of the terms to be on the screen at the same time as the dancers were actually dancing the move instead of a full screen colored backdrop for the terms and no view of the dancers for the short time the terms were taking the screen. The camera work put a full perspective on the screen. This is good for instruction. Very little of an unsteady camera, oblique angles and very little zooming, again which I think this creates less confusion for the novice dancer/viewer. Other components like selecting 2 specific dancers with arrows for part of the dance, was extremely helpful viewing for beginner dancers.

After a simple move was taught, the video brought in more complicated moves by integrating the known move (the earlier taught simple move) with an unknown and more complicated move. Emphasis was placed on the component nature of Contra and this is very encouraging to the novice dancer. Most of the instruction was done by watching others do the moves with a short verbal voice over in the background. Instruction was not overdone. The objectives were stated at the beginning and again at the end. This added to the overall flow by having them in the introduction and again at the closure. The end view and the side view of the contra line provided a more 2D quality of the dance and increased the perspectives for the novice dancers as they would be viewing this. There was some distracting dancing in the video that might appear more like gentle romping by some of the youthful members.

Cultural knowledge was imparted along with the dance instruction: thank your partner, ask a new partner, community, neighbors and etc. Dance counts (8 and 16) may not be obvious to newer non counters novices.

Again, thank you for your DVD. I enjoyed it very much.

Jim Crawford

from Steve Hunt (Orion's Ring) and Rosemary Hunt (an excellent caller in Hampshire, UK) to Chris Turner, Editor of Set & Turn Single magazine

Rosemary & I recently had the privilege of watching a contra-dance video conceived and produced by Henry Morgenstein. The video was intended to give a flavor of the atmosphere of contra-dancing, and a very basic grounding in simple figures with the aim of encouraging newcomers to participate and to give them a feeling that they could join in without being entirely ignorant of what was going on.

We both enjoyed watching the video very much, and would like to offer our thanks to Henry for the opportunity to see it.

Though it cannot be expected that such a video will have the polish of a professional production, the many hours of work that both Henry and Jacqui have put into it were very evident. This has resulted in a video that genuinely reflects the enjoyment that contra-dancing can generate, and transmits this in a very clear way to the audience.

We particularly liked the way the enthusiasm and obvious enjoyment of the dancers came across, even though they were clearly not experts and were not always in the right place at the right time! The whole atmosphere created was a natural one of people enjoying themselves in a social activity, and we felt that this was just the right note to strike.

Also great was the fact that it showed a very wide age range all taking part together, and enjoying each other’s company.

There is a quiet voice-over describing the background to and virtues of contra dance. This was effective and added tremendously to the overall value of the video.

We feel that it could be a wonderful advertising medium, particularly for events like the "Mega-Bops" as well as an educational video suitable for giving the most basic grounding to allow people to feel rather better than total beginners when they first try to dance.

It is our belief that this would be a tremendous advertising tool if it could be screened in local leisure centre cafes where potential young dancers hang out. It could be just what is needed to trigger an interest.

This video is strongly recommended viewing, and is available from Henry.

Steve & Rosemary Hunt

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Copyright © 2007
Henry Morgenstein

email: henry @henryandjacqui,com_

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