My Magic World of Music & Dance
By: H. Leon Raper
Come with me into my magic world
Where, if only for a fleeting moment,
Where friends and lovers
Where time seems to stand still,
Where the rest of the world does not exist
Let me show you the world in which I live.
Please, take my hand,
Mr. Raper was born and raised in Phoenix Arizona, but moved to California in 1956 where he lived for over 31 years. His interest in dancing started in 1967. After which he danced in over 400 swing dance contests (including the 1973 World Championships). He has also taught dancing for many years and was one of the dance instructors for the Greater Phoenix Swing Dance Club and several other dance clubs.
Dance Club Founder
Mr. Raper was the founder and past president of three different swing dance clubs: "Jitterbug Club of America" in Orange County California (1974); "Flagstaff Swing Dance Club" in Flagstaff, AZ (1993 - still going); and the "Verde Valley Swing Dance Club" in Camp Verde, AZ (2000).
November 2010 Golden Star Winner of California Swing Dance Hall of Fame. Founder of the Swing Dance Research & Historic Assn (SDRHA); a member of the World Swing Dance Council; a charter member of the Los Angeles Swing Dance Club; a member of the Greater Phoenix Swing Dance Club, and a past member of the California Swing Dance Club, Competition Swing Dancers Association in Los Angeles, CA; National Teachers Assn., United Country Western Dance Council, and Country Western Line Dance Association, ASCAP and BMI.
As an author, He has published two online books: "Who's Who in Swing Dance" and "Raper's Dance Dictionary". HIs other writings include the "Jitterbug Newsletter", the book "Competition Swing Dancing" and many articles on dance which have been published in many of the major dance publications. As a dance instructor, he specialized in swing dance and other dances for many years and has written and published lesson plans for many dances including west coast swing, lindy hop, retro swing, rhythm 2-step and waltz which can be found on the Internet at Raper's Dance Teachers Corner. He also created Raper's Dance Corner, Raper's Ballroom Dance Corner, Raper's Swing Dance Corner, Raper's Balboa Dance Corner, Raper's Lindy Hop Dance Corner, Raper's Shag Dance Corner, and many other sites on the Internet some of which can be found through Raper.com.
1960's - Getting Started
Early in 1967 Mr. Raper saw an advertisement from a dance studio in Anaheim California. They had an introductory offer of five lessons for $25 and the dance instructor was beautiful. Like so many newcomers to dance, he was convinced he could learn all there was to know about social dance in the five lessons. After about the third lesson, he was beginning to realized that learning dance was a little more challenging than he thought. When they tried to get him to sign a $2,000 contract for dance lessons he quit the studio, but he didn't quit dance. He was hooked.
Mr. Raper then joined a ballroom dance class at Dale's Dance Studio in Whittier California. It was there he spent two nights per week, 2 hours per night, for over 1-1/2 years learning most of the ballroom dances which included West Coast Swing. He also went out dancing many nights per week trying to perfect mhis skills as a dancer.
Mr. Raper's arts background, being a musician & recording artist gave him the desire to become a good dancer. His engineering and computers background at Rockwell, Int'l made him want to really understand the mechanics of movement and dance. He wanted to be able to write dance. During this time period he was also going dancing at the Golden West Ballroom in Downey, CA. He then studied Skippy Blair's Universal Units System which supplied him with a box around dance Units.. He also met Laure Haile who wrote the "Dance Notebook" for the Arthur Murray Dance Studios. Studying Laure's "Dance Notebook" provided him with excellent techniques for writing dance. It also helped him develop a real understanding of the mechanics of movement. From this he became a dance techno-junkie allowing him to rapidly expand his knowledge and abilities with advanced forms of dance. He also studied with many other highly recognized dancers in the business including Dean Collins, Jack & Teddy Pina, Willie Desatoff, Kenny Wetzel and many others. In addition he attended many dance workshops with top instructors.
In 1968, one evening after the dance class was over at Dale's Dance Studio, Dale took the dance class to see a swing dance contest at Stan's Night Club in Downey California. It was the most exciting thing he had ever seen. The World Swing Dance Champions (Pat & Darleene) happened to be dancing that night along with some of the best swing dancers in California. While the World Champs were dancing, Pat put Darleene into a triple shoulder spin like a propeller spinning three times around his shoulder. He was so impressed by everyone's dancing that he decided that is what he wanted to do with his life. So, he began entering contests and spent several years and danced over 400 contests against the same people. It took him two years of hard work to develop that triple shoulder spin, but he finally perfected it - including a great deal of other competition dancing material.
In 1968 Mr. Raper joined Dean Collins' "California Swing Dance Club" that met at Stan's Night Club in Downey, CA.
In 1969 he became a founding charter member (#17) of the "Los Angeles Swing Dance Club." He also became very active in the development of the club's bylaws. He is still a charter member of the LASDC today.
1970's - 1980's
May 1971, Mr. Raper started writing and publishing the "Jitterbug Newsletter" with the intent that it would be a central point of communications for the swing dance community throughout the U.S. It was printed and mailed free to anyone in the U.S. that wanted it -- at his own expense. The mailing list was to over 500 swing dancers. The final issue was published in May of 1975.
July 7, 1973 Mr. Raper and his partner (Colleen Johnson) danced in the World Championship Swing Dance Championships at the Palladium in Hollywood, CA. They didn't win, but it was great dancing to Les Brown's Band in front of over 2,000 people.
January 1974, he wrote the book "Professional Competition Dancing." At that time, as far as he knew, it was the only book ever written on judging and scoring techniques for competition dancing.
Mid 1974, Mr. Raper founded the "Jitterbug Club of America" which held its dances in the Off Broadway West at the Grand Hotel in Anaheim, CA and later at Alias Smith & Jones in Santa Ana, CA. His out of pocket expenses were over $5,000 to keep the club going.
1974-1985, He just went dancing for the enjoyment and honed his dance techno-junkie skills by studying advanced forms of dance and teaching private lessons. He was also a judge for many dance competitions.
1985, Mr. Raper moved to Flagstaff Arizona and started teaching dance classes -- sometimes three classes per week and mostly west coast swing. Since then he has also taught classes Sedona, Cottonwood, Camp Verde, Beaver Creek and Phoenix Arizona for the Greater Phoenix Swing Dance Club.
Early 1993 was the start of his Internet listing of all the swing dance clubs throughout the world. He still updates the site on a regular basis. The web site also contains links to a great deal of other dance information. This was in the early days of the Internet, with primitive browsers and editors. All the code had to be written in HTML by hand.
October 1993, Mr. Raper founded the Flagstaff Swing Dance Club, Inc. in Flagstaff, AZ and served as president and dance instructor until October 1995. Then he turned the club over to a new board of directors. The club still meets on a weekly basis.
Early 1994, He founded the Swing Dance Research and Historical Association (SDRHA). The association goal was to gather information pertaining to the history of Swing Dance.
1995, Mr. Raper published his book "Who's Who in Swing Dance" on the Internet. The book gives long overdue recognition to those who have contributed the most to the art, science and betterment of Swing Dance. The book covers the period from the late 1920s (when the Charleston was making its transition to the Lindy Hop) to the present. Today there are several web sites containing this type of information, but Mr. Raper's was the first on the Internet.
2000 to Current
January 2000,Mr. Raper founded the "Verde Valley Swing Dance Club" in Camp Verde, AZ. However, there wasn't enough support so the club folded.
May 2000, He published his book "Raper's Dance Dictionary" on the Internet. The book includes the definition of many terms used for social dancing. It also indicates if there are different interpretations for some terms and what each interpretation is. It goes much further than a normal dictionary. It is really an encyclopedia of social dance.
Early 2005 He started taking lessons in International Standard and American Smooth Ballroom Dancing.
Early 2007 He studied International Standard with John Berry -- one of the most knowledgeable dance coaches that he have ever met. He also studied International Standard for many years with the great National dance instructor Jenell Maranto.
September 2008 California Swing Dance Hall of Fame, Golden Star Nomination.
September 2010 California Swing Dance Hall of Fame, Golden Star Award.
September 2015 World Swing Dance Hall of Fame, Special Recognition Award
Enjoy the Journey
Over his many years as a dance instructor, he has taught West Coast Swing, Lindy Hop, East Coast Swing, Hustle, Flying Lindy, St. Louis Shag, Balboa, and advanced competition material such as aerials, lifts and drops. He has taught ballrooms full of people how to safely execute aerials. He also taught Country/Western (2-Step, Half-Time, Pony, Chocolate City, Line Dances, Shuffles, etc.), Waltz and Latin (Salsa, Cha Cha, Rumba, Mambo, Samba, Tango).
Mr. Raper feels the desire to dance is a highly contagious disease for which he hopes they never find a cure. The more you dance the worse the disease gets and the more it spreads to others. He thinks dancing is the best physical and mental therapy known to man. It helps bring new relationships together or helps restore relationships that have fallen into difficulty. It helps build one's self confidence, shows people how to meet new people and build that bond of friendship with others that is a necessary component of a happy life.
A good friend of Mr. Raper's, Jack Carey, once made a very profound statement that has stuck in Mr. Raper's mind since the late 1960's. It was in response to a new dancer's question. The person asked Jack, "how to you become a good dancer?" Jack's response was, "you live it!" That is the way Mr. Raper has lived his dance life and he has repeated Jack's response thousands of times to others over the years.
Web Site Feedback
H. Leon Raper