Raymond Matson (06/01/1948/ - 16/05/2023)

Raymond was one of the organisers of the first ever Israeli Dance camp. He passed away in May,  2023 (aged 75). This page is a tribute to him and a way of remembering his contribution to Israeli dance, his love of life and his amazing laughter.

Below are our tributes...

Auckland (Mayaan Israeli Dance Group)

Raymond has been a massive part of Israeli dance in New Zealand and we will miss his passion, enthusiasm and colourful clothing.  He was always filled with laughter and energy and had the ability to make everyone feel welcome - regardless of their level of skill / experience.

He was a unique personality who brought life and fun into the circle and we are richer for having known him.

Auckland (International Folk Dancers)

Whether we ever knew Raymond or not, many of us Auckland international dancers have reason to thank him for his contributions to our dance life. On one of the trips he and Stan Morris took to Israel, they persuaded Moshe Telem to come as a visiting tutor to New Zealand.  Raymond and his group, brave and energetic, then held a first national Israeli Dance camp (1989).  Raymond continued to play a part in the annual series of weekend ‘camps’ that became known as Machol Pacifica.

My group owe much of our extensive repertoire of marvelous Israeli dances to those teachers and choreographers, those camps.  And Hora Ti, a dance Raymond learnt at Hora Keff in the USA, then taught at the last national gathering in Hamilton that he was active in, is one of our current and favourite dances.  He danced and taught that when he was almost too ill to do it, but did it splendidly, with his trademark light-footed grace.

As a performing-group leader he made his own special contributions to our occasions.  I remember them particularly for imaginatively costumed exotic presentations from the more ethnically Middle Eastern Israeli repertoire.

Raymond was an effervescent welcoming host and colleague too, and deserved a good send-off.

– Rae Storey

Christchurch (Waimari Rd)

It’s sad to lose another of our long term dance teachers with the loss of Raymond.

We could always be assured of a warm welcome with hugs & kisses.  I remember Raymond for his dance style, especially the Chassidik.  He was so light on his feet it was a joy to watch him.

Pat Prendergast


Christchurch (Opawa / Huntsbury)

It’s important to remember Raymond’s huge contribution to the promotion of Israeli Folk Dancing in New Zealand. He and Stan Morris ran the first Dance Camps and our Group first went to a Camp in Hamilton and met him there.

He was always so friendly, inclusive, respectful and kind. He made friends with the visiting teachers and put them at their ease.

When teaching he liked to explain the meaning or story of a dance. He taught thoroughly and for many, many years with infectious joy and fun, lighting up the hall with his contagious laughter.

It was always a pleasure to meet him again and dance or teach with him.

May his memory still live on.

Val Clements on behalf of Gerrit and the Opawa/Huntsbury Dance Group.

Christchurch (DDAD Group)

A life has come to an end here on earth but a legacy continues on.  The blessings of the many years of a shaker and maker paid into a future of which I am now undoubtedly a benefactor.

I only met Raymond in his later dancing years. Perhaps for numerous reasons I didn’t really get to know Raymond very well.  I only began contributing to teaching and workshops in recently years, with our DDAD classes in Christchurch only budding in the later throws of 2017.

However, as I was “growing up” in the Israeli dance community, I can vividly recall this vibrantly attired, smiling man always there greeting everyone he knew with all the hugs and amor of a pedigree maker of the party…perhaps myself also being a male, complete with ruff looking beard, could well have posed a disadvantage in getting to know Raymond better at those busy, full-on workshop annual weekends. There always were such a lot of ladies!

However not lost on me was the most upright dance poise and care for the dance formats that Raymond displayed. I can clearly recall Raymond taking us through ‘Badad’ in Whanganui 2014, even though he had much health troubles with his legs, he persevered with such grace and dance style, taking us all into this lovely dance…I still hold my arms out in an attempted upright balance to remember his style when we do this dance today (...and I’m sure I don’t do his style justice at all!).

It does us well to remember the person and their efforts put in to establish a vocation and art with such rich heritage as Israeli dancing, here in NZ, that we now benefit from even though we individually may not have been there nor worked in the forming, nor in shared their youth.

I hope this tribute can be accepted as honouring an elderly gentleman, once young, who from what I understand, with Stan Morris was a shaker and maker to form what we still enjoy and hold dear today.

May dance still be his joy, though no longer here with us.

Gerrit Venema

Hawkes Bay (International Dancing Group)

I met the colourful character that was Raymond Matson at the 1989 national dance camp weekend. This was organised and hosted by Hamilton Israeli Dance Group's "number one and number two" Raymond Matson & Ann O'Brien. The popular Moshe Telem was their guest Israeli dance choreographer and tutor, along with Auckland-based international dance tutors Sylvia Vowless, Frank Broekmans, Willem de Hass, and Stanley Morris. Thereafter I was hooked — especially by the free and easy Israeli dances based on a variety of ethnic styles with their infectious music. I was enthusiastically greeted by Raymond at every subsequent camp I managed to afford to attend, until he could no longer dance for health reasons.

Raymond taught the Hamilton group for over twenty-five years and was generous with sharing his knowledge and resources about the dances. His annual attendance at Flora Keff Camps in America for ten years kept his repertoire right up to date with the latest offerings from well-traveled choreographers and experienced teachers. We owe Raymond and Stan a lot for creating such links to our small far-flung country so that we too could enjoy his vibrant passion for community dancing. It has kept me fit, healthy, socially involved, and passing on the same vibrant enjoyment he had with his dancing to others.

Raymond also supported Folk Dance New Zealand in its aim of keeping folk dancing. He served on the committee between 2000 and 2002. My fondest memories of him were his performances (usually with Raymond and others) in costume, at camp parties. We will miss his cheerful laughter, effusive greetings, and following his precise dance steps around the circle of friends.

Elaine Prakash

Tauranga Israeli Dance Group:

Raymond contributed hugely to Israeli dance in NZ, and we’ll miss him!

Our first dance camps in the 90’s were hosted by Hamilton, and Raymond always stood out!

Flamboyant, dressed in bright colours, with an infectious laugh, he was always welcoming.

‘Hello my dear, lovely to see you!’ he would say, followed by hugs and kisses!

He knew so many dances, was a lovely dancer, light on his feet with small precise steps.

Dancing was his passion, and he attended numerous dance camps in the US, sharing dances with us here. He would be at every camp in NZ! Even in his last years of dancing, when it was difficult & painful for him, he was there!

We have fond memories of dear Raymond, a vintage of NZ Israeli dance, who leaves an amazing legacy!

Maria Berben.


The end of an era... the world has lost one of its characters, Israeli Dance has lost a man with real passion! Bright clothes, BIG hugs and kisses at the start and end of each camp, so light on his feet. He leaves a wonderful legacy of Israeli Dance around New Zealand; I for one am very grateful.