The Balboa is a swing dance form that originated in Southern California, taking its name from the Balboa Peninsula at Newport Beach, south of Los Angeles. Although popular in the 1930's, the dance became reduced to a small number of dedicated practitioners in later years. In the 1980's, Jonathan Bixby and Sylvia Sykes re-discovered some of the original dancers—Maxie Dorf in particular—and started re-popularizing the dance. Initially, this resurgence of the Balboa was regarded mostly as an interesting historical curiosity, useful for getting back your breath when dancing Swing to a particularly fast tune. However, in more recent years there has been an explosion in the popularity of Balboa, and in the "Bal-Swing" variants that include many more moves adapted from regular swing dancing.

The Balboa is mostly danced in a closed position, with the dancers touching torso to torso so that the follower can feel the rhythm from the leader. Balboa is most often danced to very fast music, and the dancers consequently take very short, shuffling steps.

This shuffling style means that for any pair of beats where the dancers take an even number of steps (i.e. beats 1 and 2, and beats 5 and 6), they normally just do two small steps. For a pair of beats where the dancers take an odd number of steps, they will normally step on one of the beats and hold still on the other (possibly sliding the free foot forwards or backwards close to the floor as they hold).

Putting this together, we can write the basic Balboa rhythmic pattern as 12x456x8, where each digit means that the dancers take a step on that beat, and the "x" indicates that the dancers hold on the corresponding beat (i.e. on beats 3 and 7). This is the most common pattern, but it's not the only rhythm—sometimes moves will have a pattern that changes the "step-step-hold-step" to "step-step-step-hold". Patterns like this could then be written as 123x56x8 (hold on 4, 7) or 123x567x (hold on 4, 8); these rhythm patterns are used in the Cross Overs and Come Around.

Regardless of the rhythm, the follower's steps always mirror the leader's. If the leader is stepping on his right foot, the leader is stepping on her left. If the dancers are in a closed position, then if the leader is stepping backwards, the follower will necessarily be stepping forwards (in order to stay in closed position).

Because Balboa sticks to an eight-beat rhythm throughout the dance, the moves of the dance typically align with the phrasing of the music in the same way. Exactly what this alignment is depends on when the first move starts; the counts in this section are all given on the assumption that repeating four-beat rhythm (12x4) of the Balboa Basic aligns with the bar phrasing of the music.

Although Balboa is very different in style from Lindy Hop, it is easy to transition back and forward between the two dances. This is partly because of the rhythmic pattern of Balboa—as for an 8-beat pattern in Lindy Hop, the rhythmic structure is an even-odd-even-odd eight-beat rhythm.

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