Jaap Leegwater (dances of Bulgaria)

Jaap is known by many folk dancers worldwide for his fun teachings and dances like Karamfil, Dobrudžanska Pandela and Mari Marijko. Jaap specialized in Bulgarian dance and choreography at the State Choreography Schools in Sofia and Plovdiv in Bulgaria. In addition he carried out field trips recording and learning authentic dances in villages of all 5 ethnographic regions of Bulgaria. Jaap taught workshops and camps in Europe, Northern America and Asia. His dances were recorded and issued on the labels Nevofoon (Holland), Worldtone (America), Balkanton and Gega (Bulgaria). As a musician, Jaap played and recorded with several folk dance bands in The Netherlands (Kaleb, Ranja, Zadar and the orchestra of dance ensemble Paloina, and in America with The Bi-Coastal Band, for many years the house band of Stockton Folk Dance Camp. In 1984, Jaap received the “Kiril i Methodi” award from the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture in recognition for his work in promoting Bulgarian folklore outside Bulgaria. Jaap is a dear and special friend of the Texas folk dance community and we are thrilled to welcome him back to our dance floor.

Andy Taylor-Blenis (international dances and warmup stretches)

We are delighted to welcome back a beloved SAFDF legend! Andy holds a B.F.A. in dance with a minor in social anthropology. She is well versed in modern, jazz, and folk dances of Portuguese, Scottish, French, Hungarian, Armenian, Mexican, and Balkan origins. She holds a teaching certificate in Scottish Country Dance and is registered in St. Andrews in Scotland. Andy is also currently artistic director at the Boston branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society — the first branch established outside the United Kingdom in 1950. She is also a former performer of the modern dance company Prometheus. Andy has contributed endless teaching, choreography, and inspiration to SAFDF over many years. This year she again brings us her one-of-a-kind stretches between teaching sessions!

Mihai David (dances of Romania)

Mihai was born in 1946 in Bucharest, and began dancing to his uncle’s balalaika music. At age eight, Mihai attended the Pioneers Youth Palace where youth interested in dance were schooled. Two years later, he was selected to attend the School of Choreography in Bucharest and continued there for eight years, studying classical ballet, character dance, modern dance, and folk dance. While at the school, he danced with the UTM (The Young Communists) ensemble, directed by Theodor Vasilescu (the UTM considered to be the best amateur ensemble in Romania). Even before his graduation at the age of 17, he was dancing with the Romanian State Folk Ballet Ciocârlia, became one of their lead dancers, and continued touring with the troupe throughout Europe for two years. He later joined another professional group, The Music Hall Ensemble. Eventually, after touring other countries, Mihai defected to the West in June 1966 and emigrated to the USA in January 1967.

In the USA, Mihai danced in various ensembles, and had his own exhibition group within the Romanian community in Detroit. In 1969, Mihai dropped into The Intersection, a folk dance coffeehouse, where Dick Oakes got him invited to teach Romanian dances and his folk dance teaching career was launched. Since then, Mihai has devoted himself to teaching Romanian folk dance and has introduced many of the most popular Romanian dances being done in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the Orient. His teaching tours have taken him throughout the western hemisphere, the Orient, and Australia. Mihai has conducted several tours throughout the Balkans and the Middle East.