Balboa (original Balboa or Pure-Bal) is a dance that originated in Southern California during the 1920s and 1930s. Balboa also now refers to a fusion of dances that originated from that era.
The original Balboa dance is a form of swing dance that started as early as 1915 and gained in popularity in the 1930s and 1940s. It is danced primarily in close embrace, and is led with a full body connection. The art of Balboa is in the subtle communication between the lead and follow, including weight shifts, which most viewers cannot see. As a result, Balboa is considered more of a "dancer's dance" than a "spectator's dance". Its exact origins are obscure, especially as most of the original Balboa dancers have since died.
Balboa is danced to a wide variety of tempos. Because the basic step takes up such a small space, Balboa can be danced to fast music (over 300 beats per minute). Balboa is also danced to slow music (under 100 beats per minute), which allows more time for intricate footwork and variations.
Modern Balboa dancers sometimes distinguish between two types of Balboa, "Pure Balboa" and "Bal-Swing." In Pure Balboa, dancers stay in close embrace for almost the entire time, their torsos touching, doing variations based on footwork, turning as a couple and moving as a couple. Bal-Swing, in contrast, incorporates movements in which there is more space between the partners and thus more latitude for dynamic movements, including turns for one or both partners, and so forth.