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Balboa & Bal Swing

The history

A dance called the Balboa was danced by the people of California back in the 1930s. On the island called Balboa there was a dance hall called "The Balboa Rendezvous Ballroom" where people drove from surroundings to dance. Balboa island is located south of Los Angeles. The dance floor was crowded most of the times, that is why people had to dance on a small space or not dance at all. So partners danced closed tohether and the footwork followed this way of dancing. We usually dance it to faster tempos, but can also be danced to medium music. Balboa is danced in a close position most of the time and it resebles the dance that the people of Chicago called "The Shag". You cal also see the influence of Charleston in Balboa.

Plesna dvorana Balboa Rendezvous
Balboa Rendezvous Ballroom on the Balboa island in California a birthplace to the Balboa Shuffle dance in 1930's.

 

There was a few basic footwork steps, but the basic box step is what people dance mostly nowadays. The dance was at the time also known as the Balboa Shuffle (shuffling your feet) and the ballroom was well known (it had a status similar to Savoy Ballroom in New York.) But the dance soon had to face the influence of jitterbug or swing dance, that started moving across the States. So became the dance called BalSwing, a combinaton of balboa and lindy hop (swing). Actually, the dancers that danced it just called this dance Swing.

Notranjost plesne dvorane na otoku Balboa
Inside the Ballroom. It was huge.

 

Some dancers from that era preserved this dance (Maxie Dorf) and tought young dancers how to dance it. Many thanks goes to Sylvia Sykes and Jonathan Brixby, who started spreading this dance around the world. Balboa (actually people dance the Bal Swing version most of the time) is nowadays quite popular with modern dancers all over the world.

Balboa or Bal-Swing?

The biggest fans of Balboa are the dancers, who adore faster ragtime, swing or swing jazz music. They just love to improvise to the cool music on a small dance surface. It can be danced in a way that gives also followers to do their own basic step variations and enjoy. I reccomend dancing balboa when there is limited space on the dance floor to dance lindy hop or when you love to shuffle your feet around - or when you just want to be closed to your partner. :)

 

When more space is avaliable on the dancefloor I reccomend dancing Bal Swing. The dynamics of this dance is very similar to the one, we feel when dancing and turning in faster six count swing. For both dances it is very suitable for girls to wear high heels. Some legendary dancers back in the day even refused to dance with a woman, that didn't have her high hells on. For leaders it is obligatory to wear dance shoes too and show some respect for your dance partner. In Lindy softer sport shoes are acceptable because of the nature of the dance (if you dance to fast music) but in dances like Balboa, Bal-Swing and EC six-count swing please wear nice shoes!

Balboa in Ljubljana, Slovenija

In Slovenija Balboa is present for several years, since beginning of this century. When Sajles Šinkovec was leading Ljubljana's swing scene he also tought balboa, he is quite a master of this dance. Many of us fell in love with Balboa and now we teach it to the young dancers. This way we are all keeping this dance alive and shuffling!

Balbrella
Dancing the 'Balbrella', a coreography by Sajles

 

Some Balboa and Bal-Swing videos

Bal Swing

A short clip where we can see that dancers move from really closed position to open position - this is what Bal-Swing is all about. It gives a lot of room to improvise too.

Newec Bal-Swing clip

The tempo of the music seems fast, but is really medium for the Balboa dancer.

Older Balboa clip - Hal & Betty Takier

Older clip of the two masters of the dance - a clip from the movie "Maharaja".

Also check out other swing dances: Lindy Hop, EC six count swing, Collegiate Shag, Charleston

 


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