Balboa today is commonly used as a general term for dances that come from southern California during the 1920s and 1930s, which makes the history very obscure. Most of the original Balboa dancers have passed and many of the swing dancers that followed continued to use their steps and sometimes styles to integrate into their "swing" dancing which some people today call "Bal-Swing".

Balboa is a form of swing dance that started as early as 1915 and gained in popularity in the 1930s and 1940s. It is danced primarily in close embrace, and is led with a full body connection. The art of Balboa is the subtle communication between the lead and follow, like weight shifts, that most viewers cannot see. As a result, Balboa is considered more of a "dancer's dance" than a "spectator's dance".

Balboa is danced to a wide variety of tempos. Because the basic step takes up such a small space, Balboa can be danced to fast music (over 300 beats per minute). Balboa is also danced to slow music (under 100 beats per minute), which allows more time for intricate footwork and variations.

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Origins of Balboa It's hard to get a consensus view concerning the origins of Balboa. Many dance historians state that the dance was a derivation of Foxtrot, others believe it evolved from the Charleston or Collegiate Shag. Willie Desatoff an original Balboa dancer of great distinction believed it evolved from the Rhumba. There were many different pre-existing dances around at the time and several of the old Balboa masters also knew many of these other dances. Balboa is an 8 count dance so a connection with other 8 count dances would be consistent. However, this should not rule out a connection to the 6 count dances, as evolution is a powerful thing! Although we can't be sure as to the precise origins, it does seem likely that early Balboa dancers were probably influenced by their knowledge of other dances around at that time.

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The 1930s ushered in the Big Band era. On weekends at the Pavilion, you could listen to Count Basie, Benny Goodman, and the Dorseys. Phil Harris and his band played regularly on weekdays. The dance step called the "Balboa," with variations sometimes knicknamed the "Balboa Hop" and/or the "Balboa Shuffle" originated at the Balboa Pavilion and swept across the United States. According to Bette Tozer, it was more of a hop than a shuffle. "You go ‘bong, bong, bong,’ hop. It’s the beat." According to dance expert and instructor, Joel Plys, "the dance of Balboa [had] numerous forms. The ‘hoppier’ version is similar to Collegiate Shag. There was a very smooth/shuffly style that was very popular back then and today."

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The Rendezvous Ballroom made for a spectacular display on the Balboa Peninsula. It was one block long and cost $200,000 -- a huge amount of money by the time it opened on March 24, 1928. Its giant 64-foot soda fountain sat on the ground level, with another fountain on the mezzanine and balcony above the dance floor. The lower level fountain was surround by several dozen couches, and the upper level had 50 more for relaxing on. Who was resting? Over 3,000 dancers (1,500 couples!) moved to the music on the beautiful 12,000 square foot dance floor. It was, as some called it, the "Queen of Swing".

Below is an aerial photgraph of Newport-Balboa Harbor. The large black square in the center is the Ballroom's parking lot, and in front of it, the original Rendezvous Ballroom sandwiched between Palm and Walnut Street.

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