What’s that swing dance where people shuffle their feet, slidin’ and glidin’ on the dance floor, as they dance to fast (and even really fast!) swing music? Balboa is the dance!
Why should I learn Balboa? Why should I learn Balboa from Mike & Mary?
Question: Why should I learn Balboa?
Answer: For a variety of reasons!
1. The history of the dance – Balboa is one of the original dances of the big band swing-era. To be a versatile and well-rounded swing-era swing dancer, you should have Balboa in your repertoire – it’s that simple. A lot of the original swing dancers were very proficient in both Lindy Hop and Balboa. And almost all of today’s top national level instructors and swing dancers are adept in both Lindy Hop and Balboa.
2. Small dance floors/fast music. Because of Balboa’s efficient basic step, the dance is well suited to small/crowded dance floors. And the dance is also great when the music gets fast (and really fast!). Balboa is often danced to music in the 200-300 bpm range. It’s really cool to dance effortlessly to fast music while other dances just watch and wonder how you do that! (Note that even though Balboa is often danced to faster music, it can be danced to a variety of tempos.)
3. Emphasis on the footwork. Balboa often emphasizes intricate and precision rhythmic and syncopated footwork variations; these aspects are sometimes sacrificed in Lindy Hop where macroscopic turns and movements tend to define the Lindy Hop aesthetic, especially with faster music. Playing with footwork variations and developing precision in your Balboa can translate to cleaner and more interesting footwork in your Lindy Hop.
4. Emphasis on active followers. Balboa followers are taught to be “active” followers. Given the often close connection in Balboa and the generally faster tempos of the music, a follower really develops active follower skills in Balboa. In addition, and just as important, Balboa requires the leader to be precise and unambigious in his leads. Balboa is a great dance for helping leaders become better leaders (assuming the leader really makes an effort to learn the dance.)
5. Emphasis on the music. Balboa is very much a “musical” dance – the music is really important to Balboa dancers. You have to have a good feel and understanding about what is good swing music in order to really appreciate Balboa. And Balboa events, especially the All Balboa Weekend (ABW) (see info below about ABW), have had some of the best music (both live and DJ) that Mike & Mary have experienced. (One reason for that is good Balboa dancers demand good music!)
6. Balboa is easy to learn, but also a challenge. Balboa is probably a bit easier to learn initially than Lindy Hop, but Balboa (much like Lindy Hop) will keep you engaged in learning all the different nuances and concepts for years to come. Balboa truly is a life-long dance!
The bottom line – you should learn Balboa!
Question: Why should I learn Balboa from Mike & Mary?
o We just don’t “dabble” in Balboa: we love the dance, we study the dance, and we’re always looking for ways to improve our Balboa dancing and teaching methods. We’ve taken private lessons from national level Balboa instructors. We’ve attended the annual All Balboa Weekend (ABW) in Cleveland for 11 of the 15 years of it’s existence (not to sound harsh, but you really can’t call yourself a competent Balboa dancer, or especially a Balboa instructor, unless you attend ABW on a regular basis – it’s that quality of an event!); plus we’ve attended other Balboa related workshops and events since we started swing dancing (too many to remember the exact number!).
o We actively promote Balboa. Not only have we taught Balboa locally through Hepcats classes and workshops, we’ve taught Balboa at numerous regional level workshops and other events. And at Hepcats swing dances you’ll certainly hear great swing music that is very well suited to Balboa. Mike Richardson (the Hepcats primary DJ) is a very well known and respected swing dance DJ, and great Balboa music is one of his specialties!
o We were lucky in that we learned both Lindy Hop & Balboa at about the same time, and have since learned to greatly appreciate how both dances contribute to our love of each dance, and how both dances contribute to our understanding and appreciation of the history of those dances, and the history and culture of the swing-era.
o Don’t take this the wrong way, we also really love Lindy Hop! We love exploring Lindy Hop and discovering new things about the dance. But we believe too many people don’t really understand or appreciate Balboa and what a unique and dynamic dance it is, and that it’s not just that “dance some people do to fast music”. Give Balboa a try!
What is Balboa?
Tradition holds that Balboa developed in the 1930’s in southern California as a result of very crowded dance floors.
Originally, Balboa was danced in closed position, but patterns and steps in the open position also developed. Today, this is often called Balboa-Swing (or Bal-Swing), although the original Balboa dancers just called their dancing “swing”. Balboa emphasizes cool footwork, without a lot of upper body movement, with the dance partners both in closed position (often called “pure” Balboa) and open position (Bal-Swing).
Because of it’s simplicity and economy of movement, Balboa is well suited for dancing comfortably to faster music, i.e. 190 to 250 beats per minute or higher. This has meant that Balboa is sometimes thought of as a fast dance. Indeed many of the original Balboa dancers could dance at extremely fast speeds, but they also liked to dance Balboa to slower music.
Balboa has lots of fancy footwork, although the feet often “shuffle” and hardly leave the floor. The upper body remains still and the dance does not normally travel much around the room on the social dance floor.
Balboa continues to grow in popularity in the swing dance community and is a dance every swing dancer should have in their repertoire!
So dance fast – – dance cool – that’s Balboa!
What does Balboa look like?
Check out this video of one of Mike Richardson’s birthday dances, dancing Balboa. The song was c. 230 bpm! (You can also find other examples of Balboa dancing on You Tube.)
Where can I learn Balboa?
(1) Mike & Mary Hepcats sometimes teach Balboa, either in a class or workshop format. We don’t teach Balboa as often as Lindy Hop, so when we do offer Balboa clasess, take advantage of that! Keep an eye out on the Hepcats classes web page for info.
(2) Private lessons. Want to learn Balboa but don’t want to wait for the Hepcats group classes – and- want to progress at a much faster rate? Take private Balboa lessons with Mike & Mary! Private lessons are an excellent way to learn Balboa, given the unique and sometimes subtle character of the dance. For Balboa, the individual attention from working one-on-one with the instructors is a big help in progressing at a much faster rate.
Contact Mike Richardson at 859-420-2426, firstname.lastname@example.org for more info on learning Balboa.
Out-of-town opportunties to learn Balboa (not all inclusive, just a few in this general geographic area):
o June 11-14, 2015: All Balboa Weekend (ABW), Independence, OH (about 15 miles SW of Cleveland). About a 5 hour drive from Lexington, this is the premier Balboa event in the Lindy Hop/Balboa swing dance community for live music for dancing, workshop classes, and competitions. For Balboa dancers this is a must attend event. (Not to sound harsh, but you really can’t call yourself a competent Balboa dancer unless you attend ABW on a regular basis – it’s that quality of an event!)
o July 31-August 2, 2015: Bal-ast Off, Huntsville, AL. A new Balboa event in the swing dance community (I believe 2015 will be the 2nd year for the event). About a 4-5 hour drive from Lexington.
o Nov. 20-22, 2015: Music City Shuffle, Nashville, TN. Another new Balboa event in the swing dance community; 2015 will be the 2nd year for the event. About a 3.5 hr drive from Lexington.