Balboa is a type of swing dancing that developed in the 1920s and ’30s in Southern California. The name Balboa comes from the Balboa peninsula in Newport Beach where it is believed to have been popular. The movements look and feel like they are loosely based on Charleston, but became something entirely unique. The smaller scale of the movements allows dancers to more easily keep up with the fastest tempos.
When we talk about Balboa (or Bal, for short) these days, we’re often talking about two things: “Pure Balboa” (or “Pure Bal”) and what’s now come to be called “Bal-Swing.” These two were separate dances back in the day, but have blended together over time and are commonly danced together and casually called “Balboa.”
Pure Balboa competition at the California Balboa Classic
Pure Balboa is done in a close, closed position (supposedly due to congested ballroom floors with little space to maneuver), and uses the close lead-follow connection to create a smooth movement with subtle weight changes and footwork variations.
Jeremy Otth and Laura Keat dancing Bal-Swing at All Balboa Weekend
Bal-Swing, originally referred to simply as “Swing,” is another dance that developed around the same time as Balboa, also in Southern California, but maybe not exactly the same parts of Southern California as Balboa. It wasn’t Lindy Hop, it wasn’t Balboa… it was its own thing, it was Swing. And at some point, that was combined with Balboa, except that it could be done in open position and included turns and breakaway movements.
When these two styles of dance are combined, we get a dance with the best of both: dynamic, energetic, graceful, and intimate.