Balboa is a form of swing dance that started as early as 1915 and gained in popularity in the 1930s and 1940s. It is danced primarily in close embrace, and is led with a full body connection. The art of Balboa is the subtle communication between the lead and follow, like weight shifts, that most viewers cannot see. As a result, Balboa is considered more of a "dancer's dance" than a "spectator's dance". Balboa is danced to a wide variety of tempos. Because the basic is so small, Balboa can be danced to fast music (over 300 beats per minute). Balboa is also danced to slow music (under 100 beats per minute), which allows more time for intricate footwork and variations.The Balboa is a form of the Swing dance family. The original Balboa is a hybrid of the Charleston, Jig Trot, Swing and appropriated steps from the 1920's Collegiate Shag which later Arthur Murray would try to refine the in the mid 1930's thru his studio chain (I know swingers don't like to hear Arthur Murray, but that's the way it goes) but his version called the 'Arthur Murray Shag' became stale and way to boring.
Later, many dancers started experimenting and started to add steps and twist and kicks back into the dances using the Shag as a model in and near
in Newport Beach, California (Balboa Pier), namely the Balboa Pavilion with a new Balboa dance being born out of this former
, Jig Trot/Walks,
and Swing mixture, which originally was called the Bal-Hop and Balboa Shuffle. It was used as well for very tight dance spaces and a chance to catch your breath (Jockeying) while dancing to fast Jitterbug music. It had finally come full circle and was getting very popular with the swing dancers in Southern California.
The Newport Beach "island clubs" in Southern California, such as the Rendezvous Ballroom (1928-1966) which was directly across from Balboa Island (island established in 1905,) and the older Balboa Pavilion started having 'swing dance night's' (meaning music style rather than dance) in the early 1930's that continued well into the mid 1980's, however originally, the older Pavilion did not allow Jitterbug dancing due to structural problems which indirectly lead to a popularity of the Balboa. Over the years the dancers who did Collegiate or the Murray shag , Charleston , Jig Walks, Foxtrot , and Lindy merged the dance into a more energetic style. Most of the Balboa dancers were of today's older West Coast Swing crowd, with a few newer Lindy dancers finding the beauty of this dance as well today.
At The Hop
Sing Sing Sing
After a while the newer swing dancers coming on to the scene, not aware of the Balboa, would refer to the Balboa as "The Shag" since most of the swing dancers that knew how to do the Shag also went to "Balboa Island - Swing Nights," and these swing dancers would be called uniformly "Balboa dancers." The Balboa became a dance of the Swing dance family and was reported many times as a new dance. Basically the dance evolved thru crowded dance floors and high tempos. A dancer getting tired would pull his partner close and do Balboa to catch their breath, then swing out again or it was just plain to crowded to dance and they did or had to do the Balboa all night.
Balboa is mainly a closed position swing form, that uses very little break-away's, only a few turns, and usually fast footwork. Most written articles of the time report that the Balboa was replacing the Fox-Trot in swing circles. Most of the larger Ballrooms were so crowded that they had signs posted "No Breakaways" which meant No Jitterbug dancing (such as the Paramount in L.A.) and the Balboa worked real well for overly crowded dance floors such as the paramount.
There were a few different styles of Balboa such as the:
1) "Swing-Bal." (Has some swing steps / Breakaways thrown in, uses swing timing, to be clear not shag timing, but does have some converted shag patterns).
2) Slow Balboa (similar to Rumba), that is very, very smooth!.
3) and "Fast Balboa" that is any style you happen to know, done real fast ... LOL :).
4) Bal-Hop or the Balboa Hop was the original name, which originally was more similar to Collegiate Shag.
5) Plus there is Single Bal, Double Bal and Triple Bal (Swing Rhythm) to mix.
The origin of the Balboa (not the Shag) can be said to be The "Rendezvous Ballroom" across from Balboa Island in Newport Beach, CA. around 1934/5 to about 1941. The basic rhythm for the dance is a Double Shuffle Swing Rhythm. Some original music was Dorsey's "Melancholy Baby" or Artie Shaw's "Begine The Beguine" (as reported by an early Photo Play magazine article.) Jackie Cooper and Bonita Granville were also avid Balboa dancers.