Balboa as a dance takes its name from the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach in California, where it evolved in the 1920s and 30s. It is said it developed as a style there because of the packed ballrooms, where the dancefloors were far too crowded for any but the tightest partner dance.
Balboa is a much more compact and subtle dance than Lindy Hop, done almost entirely in a closed position (no breakaways or ‘swingouts’) and mostly on the spot. It has an 8-beat basic step, and very small footwork, meaning that it can be danced from medium to extremely fast tempos. Followers often wear high heels to dance Balboa, and leaders wear smooth soled shoes that allow them to slide on the floor.
“Bal-Swing” is a style of Balboa that incorporates some of the open positions from other swing dances. Many Lindy Hoppers around the world also dance Balboa and Bal-Swing, and vice versa. Some people call Balboa the “dancer’s dance”, as it is not as flashy or spectacular to watch as Lindy Hop, but a challenging and satisfying dance in terms of the strong connection to your partner, its pure style of lead and follow, its elegance, and the subtlety of its movements and improvisation.