History 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, has stated Balboa evolved from the Rhumba.

One thing is for certain -- The "Balboa" got its name from the Balboa Peninsula at Newport Beach, situated on the coast about 40 miles south of Los Angeles in California. The dance was first done at the beach Pavilion and then later at the famous Rendezvous Ballroom. The dance developed in the 1920's. By the early 1930's it had become sufficiently well known to be given its name. The dance spread up the coast through the beach resorts of Huntington, Long Beach, San Pedro, Redondo Beach, Venice Beach, and finally into the greater LA basin area.

"Pure" Balboa

Danced completely in closed position, Balboa evolved in conservative dance halls where space was limited. Some of these dance halls had strict rules or codes of conduct that prohibited the Charleston and other exuberant dances. Pure Balboa is characterized by a fairly upright posture with both partners standing 'chest to chest' in close contact. You never break away from your partner, there are no spins or turns, and you remain completely in contact through the chest at all times. The dance's simplicity and economy of movement make it very well suited to fast tempo music. This fact has meant that Balboa is often mistakenly thought of as just a fast dance. Indeed many of the original dancers could dance at amazing speeds. However, they also liked to dance to slower music and the dance has always been done to music of all tempos


After a while some of the original Balboa dancers tired of doing just pure Balboa and started to introduce fancier variations which forced the 'chest to chest' connection to be broken. In this form anything goes; spins, turns, dips, tricks, and even air steps! All these things are allowed provided the overall style, feeling, and framework remain true in spirit to the original dance. In explicit terms it might be said that these open patterns should be combined with recognizable Balboa footwork.

There's some dispute over exactly when this form got its 'Bal Swing' name. It is clear though that for some time many people originally referred to it as just 'Swing' dancing. Other forms of swing dancing also existed around that time in different areas, these were clearly not derived from Balboa. So only swing dancers in the immediate LA region might have been doing what we now know as Bal-Swing.

The Ray Rand Swingers and other Balboa/Bal-Swing legends

In 1935, Ray Randazzle, manager of the Dianna Ballroom in Culver City (close to Los Angeles), decided to put together a dance troupe. The troupe was named 'The Ray Rand Swingers," and they were hired for special dance events, marathons, competitions and so forth. The troupe became well known throughout the Greater LA area and were nicknamed 'The Big Four' by their local admirers. The four couples were:

Maxie Dorf & Mary McCaslin
Hal Takier & Betty Takier
Lawrence "Lolly" Wise & Lillian Arnold
Gil Fernandez & Venna Cascon

Other legends include Bart Bartolo, Ed and Inez Thompson, John and Ann Mills, Dean Raftery, and Lila and Willie Desatoff.

Willie Desatoff with Valerie

Maxie Dorf with Valerie