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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.
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.
Dances Jaap has taught include Aj Da Idem Jano, Alekovsko Opas, Angelovata, Balkandziska Râčenica, Baluca-Vlaški Tanc, Baonopstekker, Bătută de la Mironu, Baćvanka, Badro, Baldŭzka (Ėukanoto), Baluca Vlaşki Tanc, Baonopstekker, Bavna Melodija, Bavna Pesen, Bavno Horo, Bistriska Kopanica, Blagoevgradsko Horo, Boalijsko, Brâsni Carvul, Buenek, Čekurjankino Horo, Celebinsko Horo, Čerskata, Čestoto (Ay da Idem Jano), Četvorno Horo, Čibarska Kopanica, Čibarsko, Čoček, Čukurovski Bučimiš, Čus Merdžan, Cveta Moma, Dajčovo Horo, Danec, De Vleegard, Deleormansko Vlaško, Djado Mitjovata, Dobrudžanska Pandela, Dobrudžanska Rŭčenica, Dobrudžanska Rŭka, Dobrudžanski Opas, Dospatsko (13/18 variant), Dospatsko Horo, Do Tri Pâti, Dunavsko Horo, Dvašti Trišti, Ekizlijsko Horo, Elenino Horo, Eleno Mome, Gankino Horo, Gâmzovjana, Glaviniška Kopanica, Gort met Stroop, Grŭunčarsko Horo, Gurbetčijsko Horo, Hakke Toone, Haskovska Lesa, Haskovsko, Hasovsko Pravo, Hora, Hora Pe Gheaţa, Horlepiep (Hornpijp), Hakke Toone, Ihtimanska Kopanica, Ijswals, Jadziiskata, Jove Malaj Mome, Jovino Horo, Kak se Čuka Čern Piper, Kako Kostadine, Kalipetrovski Opas, Kamišica, Kapansko Horo, Karamfil, Kasapsko Kavrak Eleno, Kirčo na Čardak Sedeša, Kojčovata, Krajdunavsko Horo, Krivo Sadovsko Horo, Kjustendilska Na Lesa, Kjutendilska Rŭčenica, Kopanica (Lamba Lamba), Krajdunavsko Horo, Krivo Sadovsko Horo, Krušovenska Rŭčenica, Kucaj Kucaj Mome, Kukenško, Kukuneško Horo, Kulsko Horo, Lajkovačko Kolo, Lamba Lamba (Kopanica), Lile Lile, Ljaša, Ljavoto, Lomska Râčenica, Lot is Dood, Mâdro, Makamlijska Râčenica, Makedonsko, Mari Marijko, Mehmede, Melnik, Milo Mi e Mamo i Opas, Mitro, Na Pŭrt, Na Trapeza i Râčenica, Nazlânkino Horo, Neda Voda Nalivala (long version), Nonče, Novozagorska Râčenica, Opas, Ovčar Sviri, Pajduško Horo, Perniško Horo, Petrunino Horo, Petruno Pile Šareno, Pirinsko, Pirinsko oj Kazi Mome Kalino, Plevensko Pajduško, Porodinka Kolo, Posiv Kolo, Povlekana, Plevensko Pajduško, Pravo Horo, Pravo Loveško Horo, Pravo Rodopsko Horo (Kitko Zelena Kravena), Pravo Trakijsko Horo, Pravo Severnjaško Horo (Dunavsko Horo, Proviknala e Borjana, Povlekana, Povlenka, Pravo Loveško Horo, Pravo Šopsko Horo, Pravo Trakijsko Horo, Prošetah Se, Pušto Mladost, Rade Rade, Razvivaj Dobro, Retko Kolo, Rŭčenica na Horo (Poljanska Rŭčenica), Rusi Kosi Imam, Sabrali mi sa Nabrali, Šam Šam Bela Neda, Samokovsko Horo, Širto, Sborinka, Sedi Dimka, Sedi Donka (Zapadna Trakija), Šelsko Horo, Severnjaško Horo, Severnjaško Pajduško, Šira, Širto, Sitno Bistrisko, Sitno Krajdunavsko Horo, Sitno Severnjaško Horo, Sitno Vlaško, Šopska Kopanica, Šopska Râčenica, Šopsko za Pojas, Šira, Skuizkâ Râčenica, Spiro, Srebânska Sborinka, Stâpil Dobri, Staro Erkečko, Staro Gradešniško Horo, Stradžanski Buenek, Stradžanski Triti Păti, Strandžansko Horo, Svornato, Teŗkoto, Tikino Sa Sa, Topčijska Râka, Trakijska Râčenica, Trite Pŭi, Trite Pŭi ot Strandža, Tropanka, Trŭnala Rumjana, Varnenski Predsvatben, Veselinovo, Vlaško Horo, Vlaško Horo (long version), Vracanska Râčenica, Zaspalo e Jove, Ženska Râka, Ženska Râčenica, and Žeravnensko.