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Lindy Hop / Big Apple / Cake Walk / Balboa / Shim Sham / Stepptanz

The Balboa is another form of the Swing Dance family. The original Balboa is a sort of hybrid of the dances Charleston, Jig Trot, Swing and appropriated steps from the Collegiate Shag (1920's), which later possibly Arthur Murray would try to refine in the mid 1930's thru his studio chain (Even if we know swingers don’t like to hear Arthur Murray, but that's the way history possibly went) but his version became stale and way to boring. Later, many dancers started to add steps and twist and kicks back into the dance at Balboa Island in Newport Beach, California (Balboa Pier), with a new Balboa being born out of this Shag, Jig Trot/Walks, Charleston and Swing mixture, as well as very tight dance space and a chance to catch your breath (Jockeying) while dancing fast. It had finally come full circle and was getting very popular with the swing dancers in Southern California.

The Newport island's clubs in California, such as the Rendezvous Ballroom started having swing dance nights in the early 1930's that continued well into the mid 1980's. Over the years the dancers who did 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.

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 "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.

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" (such as the Paramount in L.A.) and the Balboa worked real well for overly crowded dance floors.

There are a quite a few different styles of Balboa, amongst others such as the:

  • "Swing-Bal." (with some swing steps thrown in, uses swing timing, to be clear not shag timing, but does have some converted shag movements).
  • Slow Balboa (similar to Rhumba), that is very, very smooth!
  • and "Fast Balboa" that is any style you happen to know, done real fast. :)
  • 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" on Balboa Island in Newport Beach, CA. around 1934/5 to about 1941. Some original music was p.ex. Dorsey's "Melancholy Baby" or Artie Shaw's "Begine The Beguine" (as reported by a Photo Play article.) Jackie Cooper and Bonita Granville were very known avid Balboa dancers.

Source: www.streetswing.com/histmain/z3bal1.htm