About Jaap Leegwater

Education and Research

Jaap Leegwater started his dance career in his native country, The Netherlands, where he earned degrees in both education and international folk dance. Fascinated with the irregular Balkan rhyhms and drawn to the expressiveness of its movements, Jaap specialized in Bulgarian dance and choreography. In 1969, he was one of the first non-Bulgarians invited to study at the State Choreographer’s Schools in Sofia and Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

In cooperation with the Dutch Ministry of Culture and the Bulgarian Center for Amateur Art, he carried out research on village dances in the different ethnographic regions and on the teaching of Bulgarian folk dance in the country’s educational system. During his frequent trips to Bulgaria, over a period of 30 years, Jaap collected and recorded many original dances and songs learned from older people in many villages throughout the country where folklore traditions are still a way of life. In addition Jaap participated in the rehearsals with several dance ensembles, both amateur and professional, and studied with some of Bulgaria’s best folklorists and choreographers.

These activities don’t just belong to the past. Jaap still travels to Bulgaria annually, reflecting his continued involvement in following the developments of the country’s folklore and dance scene. As a result, the material Jaap collects comes a variety of sources ranging from village settings to dance styles of the performing arts. This gives him the experience and flexibility to gear his teachings, repertoire and format toward the specific educational and artistic needs required of a diverse mix of groups and settings.

Dance Instructor and Choreographer

Mr. Leegwater was first introduced to the American folkdance scene by the late Ciga Despotovic in 1980. He gratefully recognizes the support and inspiration received from Marianne and Micheal Herman, Dennis Boxell and Yves Moreau in etablishing himself in Northern America professionally.

For the past 30 years Mr. Leegwater has conducted workshops and dance seminars in various countries: The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Israël, England, United States, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. He is a regular instructor at many major dance camps and organizations including Maine Folk Dance Camp, Stockton Folk Dance Camp at the University of the Pacific, Mendocino Folklore Camp, the EEFC Balkan Music and Dance Camp, Kolo Festival, in San Francisco, Texas Folk Dance Camp, New Mexico August folk dance Camp, Santa Barbara Folk Dance Symposium, Montreal International Folk Dance Camp, Ontario Folk Dance Camp and the Bulgarian Festivals in Vancouver, B.C.  

Back in The Netherlands Jaap got involved in setting up and running Bulgarian Dance Taverns very much like the Tanzhause approach in Hungary, were people can meet, eat drink and dance without having to take classes or having to have any formal dance training.

Life music is provided by both Dutch mussicians specializing in Bulgarian folk music and Bulgarian musicians often found playing for tourists on the streets in downtown Amsterdam.

The program consists of “generic and pan-Bulgarian” dances, or as they say in Bulgarian: “megdanski svatbarski hora” This has been a very succesful concept bringing together the Dutch recreational folkdancers and people from the Bulgarian immigrant community in Holland. (see internet website http://www.zajednica.nl/ under Bulgaarse Dans Taverne). Some of the most populair dances have been recorded recently and will be released on a new CD called “Kusmet and friends” featuring the Dobrudzan singer Galina Durmushliyska.

Jaap holds an M.S. in Counseling Psychology from California State University Sacramento. After a succesful stay of 16 years in the United States Jaap returned to the Netherlands in 1999, were he now lives with his son Lubomir and continues to combine his dance teaching career with a practice as a consultant in multi-cultural counseling and education.


You can find Jaap dancing at Youtube.

A lot of my dance notes you can find at the archive of syllabi at the Stockton Folk Dance Camp.

Some more information about Jaap you can find on the website of the Phantom Range.