About Balboa

What is Balboa?

Balboa is a type of Swing dance originating from Southern California in the 1930’s. Swing dance is mostly associated with the music at the time, the Swing and Jazz era in America from the 1930's. You may have heard of Lindy Hop, this is the most popular Swing dance. Other dances that come under the 'Swing' bracket are the Charleston, Blues and of course, Balboa.

Dancers typically wear suede sole shoes and dress in vintage clothes for special social events.

What isn’t Balboa?

Unlike Ballroom and Latin dances, Balboa isn’t choreographed, in this sense it is most like Salsa. When I say choreographed, I mean that when learning the dance, it is not a sequence of steps that both partners learn. Balboa is a dance that is led. There are two roles: the leader (the man) and the follower (the woman) who essentially learn different things. The leader will learn to lead moves through his ‘core’ and due to the full body connection (or close hold) the couple are in, the woman will feel the movement and respond accordingly, hence why she is called a follower. It is also for this reason why you may get women asking women to dance, because a woman can learn to lead!

Balboa does not use up the dance floor like Ballroom and Latin dances. Because Balboa was originally developed in the era of crowded dance floors, steps are small and, if dancing Pure Balboa, you don’t even have to move far off your spot!

Typically, Balboa is danced in an 8 count. BUT this is not imperative. Advanced leaders can vary footwork so for example, start a basic (1-4) put a move in, then finish the basic (5-8.)

You don’t need a partner! When learning Balboa (and any type of Swing dance) classes will work on a rotation system, so you get to dance with everybody!

This links to the very important point that Balboa is a social dance. Social dances usually take place in the evenings, and involve a load of dancers, dancing with each other to Swing music. Lovely!

Pure Balboa:

So Balboa is close-hold partner dance with two roles, lead and follow. The leader leads the dance through the connection between the couple. Pure Balboa involves dancing in the closed position the whole time.

Pure Balboa consists of weight shifts and shuffle - type movements and steps so the couple create an image as if they are ‘floating’ across the floor. There is room for improvisation and styling from the follower for example with footwork variations. Just a few of the steps involved are the Maxie Basic, paddles, scoots and pivots.


Bal-Swing is a combination of Pure Balboa and yet another dance invented in 1930s Southern California called "Swing." In it's original form, "Swing" was a melting pot of many different steps, turns, and kicks - it was danced before Lindy Hop was brought to the West Coast of the U.S.

From the late 1930s onwards, the dance evolved into the modern dance Bal-Swing when it adopted Pure Balboa as its basic steps. Bal-Swing steps such as the come-around, the out-and-in (as seen in ‘crossovers’),lolly kicks, and toss-outs (local names may vary) are also major basic moves in modern Bal-Swing.

Written by Robert White and Navella Caretto © 2011