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The Balboa is mainly a footwork dance done to Big Band Type Music. The Balboa Dance Origins history title

    The Balboa is a form of the Swing dance family. The original Balboa is a hybrid of the Charleston, Jig Trot, Swing and appropriated steps from the 1920's Collegiate Shag which later Arthur Murray would try to refine in the mid 1930's thru his studio chain (I know swingers don't like to hear Arthur Murray, but that's the way it goes) but his version was called the 'Arthur Murray Shag' became stale and way to boring.

    Later, many dancers started experimenting and started to add steps and twist and kicks back into the dances using the Shag as a model in and near Balboa Island in Newport Beach, California (Balboa Pier), namely the Balboa Pavilion with this new Balboa dance being born out of it's predecessors of the Shag, Jig Trot/Walks, Charleston and Swing mixture. It was originally called the 'Bal-Hop' and 'Balboa Shuffle'. The Balboa was used as well for very tight dance spaces and a chance to catch your breath (Jockeying) while dancing to fast Jitterbug music. It had finally come full circle and was getting very popular with the swing dancers in Southern California.

    The Newport Beach "island clubs" in Southern California, such as the Rendezvous Ballroom (1928-1966) which was directly across from Balboa Island (the island was established in 1905,) and the older Balboa Pavilion started having 'swing dance night's' (meaning music style rather than dance) in the early 1930's that continued well into the mid 1980's, however originally, the older Pavilion did not allow Jitterbug dancing due to structural problems which indirectly lead to a popularity of the Balboa. Over the years the dancers who did Collegiate or the Murray shag, Charleston, Jig Walks, Foxtrot, and Lindy merged the dance into a more energetic style. Most of the Balboa dancers were of today's older West Coast Swing crowd, with a few newer Lindy dancers finding the beauty of this dance as well today with some strictly dancing the Bal.

    After a while the newer swing dancers coming on to the scene, not aware of the Balboa, would incorrectly refer to the Balboa as "The Shag" since most of the swing dancers that knew how to do the Shag also went to "Balboa Island - Swing Nights," and these swing dancers would be called uniformly "Balboa dancers." The Balboa became a dance of the Swing dance family and was reported many times as a new dance. Basically the dance evolved thru crowded dance floors and high tempos. A dancer getting tired would pull his partner close and do Balboa to catch their breath, then swing out again or it was just plain to crowded to dance and they did or had to do the Balboa all night.

    Balboa is mainly a closed position swing form, that uses very little break-away's, only a few turns, and usually fast footwork. Most written articles of the time report that the Balboa was replacing the Fox-Trot in swing circles. Most of the larger Ballrooms were so crowded that they had signs posted "No Breakaways" which meant No Jitterbug dancing (such as the Paramount in L.A.) and the Balboa worked real well for overly crowded dance floors such as the paramount.

There were a few different styles of Balboa such as the:
    1) "Swing-Bal." (Has some swing steps / Breakaways thrown in, uses swing timing, to be clear... not shag timing, but does have some converted shag patterns).
    2) Slow Balboa (similar to Rhumba), that is very, very smooth!.
    3) and "Fast Balboa" that is any style you happen to know, done real fast ... LOL :).
    4) Bal-Hop or the Balboa Hop was the original name, which originally was more similar to Collegiate Shag.
    5) Plus there is Single Bal, Double Bal and Triple Bal (Swing Rhythm) to mix.

    The origin of the Balboa (not the Shag) is not very clear but can be said to be The "Rendezvous Ballroom" across from Balboa Island in Newport Beach, CA. around 1934/5 to about 1941. The basic rhythm for the dance is a Double Shuffle Swing Rhythm. Some original music was Dorsey's "Melancholy Baby" or Artie Shaw's "Begine The Beguine" (as reported by an early Photo Play magazine article.) Celebrities like Jackie Cooper and Bonita Granville were also avid Balboa dancers.

    There is an interesting article in the Oakland Tribune (Women in the News Section) that says of a new dance introduced by the "International Association of the Masters of Dancing" called ... you guessed it ... "The Balboa," which is suggested to replace the Bunny Hug, Grizzly Bear and Turkey Trot dances. It says it is a mixture of the One Step, Two-Step and Waltz and was done to the song "Too Much Mustard"... Interesting to say the least as the year was June 6th, 1915 (yes, I'm sure it was not the same dance ... couldn't be ... maybe ... dunno?.)

    Balboa is still done today in some circles and even has a few dedicated 3 day events across the nation, however today it is still mainly danced in the Lindy Hop circles.

Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

Balboa Is. Newport, CA. ?1935? None Swing

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music Titles

n/a 1936 - The Balboa Balboa, The
Balboa Bash (Yaw, Kent) non Balboa
Begin The Beguine [MP3]
Casa Loma Stomp
Scotch and Soda
Swing, Brother Swing
Three Little Words
White Heat
Stan Kenton's - Back to Balboa [CD]

Night Clubs



Bobby McGee's (S. Ca.) n/a Balboa Island
Pavilion (CA) Newport Beach (CA)
Rendezvous Ballroom (CA) Northern California
Southern California
San Diego, Long Beach etc.
Seattle, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona

Films / Movies

Instructional Videos

Ballets / Stage / Contests

Balboa - Tony Curtis WoS #10 - Balboa/Bal-Swing DVD 1 1938 - Rendezvous Swingeree Contest
Dance Party (1983 filmed at Bobby Mc Gees - see top) WoS #11 - Balboa/Bal-Swing DVD 2
Pigskin Parade (1936) Judy Garland (see clip at top) WoS #12 - Balboa/Bal-Swing DVD 3
Start Cheering (1939)


Vita Phone Short - (Skinny Ennis) 3/1941 - Hollywood & The Great Fan Mag.
1942 - Photo-Play Magazine:
(Movie Mirror's - Dancing School section)

Other Related Dances ...

Arthur Murray's Shag Dixieland Bal. (aka Murrays) Jig Trot Swing Bal.
Bal-Hop (Balboa Hop) Double Bal. Jig Walk Triple Bal.
Balboa Shuffle East Coast Swing Jitterbug West Coast Swing (WCS)
Charleston Fox-Trot Lindy Hop Zydeco (Dixieland)
Collegiate Shag Hollywood Style Savoy Style

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


Ann Mills Jackie Cooper n/a
Arthur Murray Johnny Downs
Bart Bartalo Judy Garland (Pigskin Parade)
Betty Grable Lolly Wise
Bonita Granville Maxie Dorf
Dean Collins Marion Gouldy
Gil and Nicki Brady Tony Martin
Hal Takier Venna Archer
Jack Arkin Willie Desatoff (see clip at top)

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...



Date Published


n/a n/a n/a n/a

Musicians/ Bands



Artie Shaw n/a n/a
Charlie Barnett
Jimmy Lunceford
Ray Condo
Shorty Rogers (7/11/1953)
Stan Kenton
The Dorsey's
Woody Herman
Melancholy Baby

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches

Balboa Island Jig Walk Shag Tap
Balboa Peninsula Kick Smooth Pavilion / Pavilion
Bounce Newport Swing Swing Abbott's Landing
Double Bal, Bal

Links: Balboa Pavilion Website | Steve and Heidi's Balboa-Swing Website

One version of the Basic Step ...

Leader is Left foot start. Closed position, Ballroom hold, partners face each other.
Ladies lean in-towards man. [\
Slight Rhythm Bounce when doing steps, Start on count One. Kicks are very small.
Step-Step-Kick-Step --- Step-Step-Kick-Step
Kick-Step-Step-Step --- Kick-Step-Step-Step
Counts: 1-2-3-4---5-6-7-8 , repeats ... plus can do other variations of these steps.
Partners face each other. Ladies lean in-towards man