This extremely fast swing dance was invented in the 1930s in California and is a contemporary of Lindy hop. It is often combined with Lindy Hop steps to form a combination dubbed "Bal-Swing". The styling is quite upright, chest to chest, unlike other swing dance styles.
Danced almost completely in closed position, "pure 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 wild kicks of the Charleston and other exuberant dances.
Pure Balboa is characterized by a fairly upright posture with both partners standing chest-to-chest in close intimate contact. In pure balboa you never break away from your partner (unlike the more modern variant "Bal-Swing" which incorporates elements from Lindy Hop and East Coast Swing to allow for a separation of the partnership and a variety of turns).
Named for the Balboa Peninsula in San Diego, California where it was invented, it is an ideal dance for fast-paced swing jazz which is too speedy for Lindy Hop or East Coast Swing. There is a Balboa resurgence going on right now in the United States.
Check out Count Basie's "Swingin' the Blues" or any fast-paced swing to get into the Balboa groove.
East Coast Swing ("Triple-Time")
East Coast Swing, sometimes called the "Triple-Swing", is an upbeat and versatile member of the swing family that can be danced to the classics of Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, and Benny Goodman -- as well as to popular modern groups such as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Lavay Smith, and the Brian Setzer Orchestra.
It is a dance that traces its roots back to the original "swing" — the Lindy Hop, popularized in 1920s Harlem, and later tamed into the simplified "Eastern Swing" by dance schools in the 1940's. Now called "East Coast Swing", this fun dance is distinguished from other dances by its bounce, triple steps, and swaying hip movements.
"Jitterbug" has evolved as a popular term that covers various styles of East Coast Swing and Lindy Hop. Here in Sonoma County, the name "Jitterbug" typically refers to the single-time variant of East Coast Swing.
Jitterbug ("Single-Time" East Coast Swing)
The term "jitterbug" comes from an early-20th-century slang for alcoholics, who were said to be suffering from the "jitters". The term became associated with early types of swing dance, seen as having wild and crazy "jittery" movements.
Popularized by the hit TV show, American Bandstand, the Jitterbug became a huge craze and is still one of the most commonly seen swing dances. With its single-time moves, this dance is by far the easiest to learn.
In the mid- to late-1990s, the Neo-Swing movement brought both Jitterbug and Lindy Hop back into popularity, paving the way for popular modern swing groups such as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Lavay Smith, and the Brian Setzer Orchestra.
Jive is classified as an International Style "Latin" dance, but its origins can be directly traced to the Swing dances brought to Europe by American GIs during the second world war.
This extremely energetic dance most closely resembles an extremely fast triple-time East Coast Swing. It differentiates itself through a light, bouncing action and an emphasized "knee-lifting" movement used to execute a seemingly-unending number of kicks and flicks. Though this bouncing action makes the dance look easy, the Jive is actually extremely difficult to master.
For a variety of music suitable for Jive, try "Hound Dog" by Elvis Presley, "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham, and "Zuit Suit Riot" by Cherry Poppin' Daddies.
A social dance born in Harlem, it is danced to primarily swing jazz and is characterized by "breakaways" in which partners in a couple separate and improvise steps individually. It incorporates movements in which partners swing one another around and sometimes do fabulous acrobatic moves.
Known from the 1930s as "Jitterbug", it was widely danced until the late 1950s when prevailing taste in music shifted to a six beat format (the "Motown" beat). The Lindy Hop owes much to Charleston, Jazz and Tap steps, Ballet, and complex movements from Viennese Waltz. Life magazine characterized Lindy Hop as "America's National Folk Dance." As the dance spread from Harlem throughout the United States, it mutated into variations that survive today including Jive, Bop, Shag, Balboa, and the Imperial.
Lindy music tends to be slower and often smoother than bouncy and boppy Jitterbug and might include "Fly Me to the Moon" by Frank Sinatra or "Wade in the Water" by Eva Cassidy.
West Coast Swing
West Coast Swing is a modern dance, tracing its roots to the 1930's Lindy Hop in which dancers kept revolving around each other in a circular fashion. When the Lindy Hop made its way to California, a "slotted" version of the dance evolved where the leader dances in place while the follower travels back and forth.
It is said that this slotted version was developed by Hollywood movie directors who needed to put the dancers in straight lines in order to get them all in the camera. This space-saving slotted style eventually caught on in crowded Los Angeles clubs where dancers had to squeeze together to avoid hitting each other on the dance floor.
In the 1950's this dance was referred to as "Western Swing" or "Sophisticated Swing", and sometimes it still is. But in the 1960's the "West Coast Swing" name entered into mainstream swing circles in order to distinguish it from Country Western swing dancing.
In 1988, West Coast Swing became the Official State Dance of California.
West Coast music is often blues, which overlaps with Lindy Hop, or contemporary pop, smooth jazz, or hip hop.
Tracy Chapman's "Give Me One Reason", Van Morrison's "Moondance", and "(She's Got) Skillz" by All-4-One all work well for the West Coast dancer.