Balboa. To some, it means boring. To some, it means confining freedom. To some, an excuse for not being able to dance Lindy fast. To others, however, it means a dance you often taste more than you see. It means freedom by framework. And it means dancing comfortably to fast swing music all night long, all life long.
by: Bobby White
To me, it’s a poem. A subtle poem, one that might sit with you a while before you realize how much you like it—how well it puts a thousand possible words into one, how beautiful the white space around it is.
Balboa is not just one dance, but three. There’s what the old timers called Balboa, a pre-swing dance that originated an hour’s drive south of Los Angeles. They tell us it was done on dance floors cramped with elbows and body heat and date night perfumes. In this thick jungle, the dance evolved accordingly—chest-to-chest, hardly moving, feet shuffling to the music like wire brushes across the surface of a drum. Hidden from spectators, the dancers moved glued together as one, floating, drifting this way and that, meditating in a sea of swing.
Then there was Swing, the dance the L.A. kids invented when big bands became big and no one from New York was around to show them the Lindy hop. All they knew were the box steps, trots and Charlestons that a few had learned. From that lazy ballroom shaped canvas, it was only a matter of time before they were twisting, turning, and stretching to the swing of the music in an orbiting dance. Their freedom lead to function.
On the dance floors of masonic temples and high school gyms, Balboa and Swing met, and a new dance—Bal-Swing—was born, melting the two philosophies together—an introverted performance dance, an engineer’s game, a meditative explosion. A dance jungle gym with bars strong enough to climb and swing from.
Lindy is only one of our family’s elders. Balboa, Swing and Bal-Swing are three other beautiful answers to the question, “Grandma, what does it mean to truly swing?”