The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)
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Information: Jaap Leegwater, musician, choreographer, and teacher of Bulgarian dances.
Jaap Leegwater (pronounced YAHP LAYK-vah-ter) started his dance career in his native country, The Netherlands, where he earned degrees in education and teaching international folk dance. Fascinated with the irregular Balkan rhythms and drawn to the expressiveness of its movements, Jaap then specialized in Bulgarian dance and choreography at the State Choreographic Schools in Sofia and Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
In cooperation with the Dutch Ministry of Culture and the Bulgarian Center for Amateur Art, Jaap carried out research in Bulgaria on authentic village dances and the teaching of Bulgarian folk dance in Bulgaria's educational system. During his frequent trips to Bulgaria, Jaap collected and recorded many songs and dances from older people in various villages in the various ethnographic regions where folklore traditions are still a way of life.
In 1980, Jaap was introduced to American folk dancers by the late Ciga Despotović and was further aided in his North American teaching through the support of Dennis Boxell, Michael & Mary Ann Herman, and Yves Moreau.
In his dance classes, Jaap demonstrates what for him has always been the unique challenge of recreational folk dancing -- combining the physical exercise of working on style and technique with the enjoyment of dancing together, learning about other cultures, and experiencing the natural emotions present in the villagers' dance and music. Jaap also teached dances from Macedonia, The Netherlands, Romania, and Serbia.
Jaap has staged choreographies for several dance ensembles in North America, including Banevolks (Ball State University International Dance Ensemble, Muncie, Indiana), BYU International Dance Ensemble (Provo, Utah), Khadra Folk Ballet (San Francisco, California), and Les Gems des Mon Pays (Montréal, Québec).
Jaap also plays the flute and has played with folk dance bands at camps and international folk dance festivals. He toured throughout The Netherlands with various folk bands, including Kaleb, Kusmet, Orkest Brandon, and Ranja.
In 1981, Jaap received a medal awarded by the Bulgarian government in recognition of his efforts in promoting Bulgaria's folklore.
In 1991, Jaap and Yves Moreau combined their resources to bring quality Bulgarian folklore products and programs to the folk dance public. This collaboration has so far resulted in the production of a compact disc of 20 Bulgarian folk dance favorites called Ajde Na Horo.
Jaap's has a son named Lubomir (Lubo).
In 1998, Jaap spent some time in Europe making recordings with the Balkanton record company in Bulgaria. Beginning the same year, he became a member of the Stockton Folk Dance Camp's own Bicoastal Band. Jaap's recordings of Bulgarian and Dutch music, including the highly acclaimed Ajde Na Horo (Gega GD134) are available from your local folk dance recording outlet or directly from Jaap himself.
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