Who’s Who in (Pure) Balboa
To original dancers, the word “Balboa” meant “the chest-to-chest shuffling dance that happens between the partnership and doesn’t ask for attention.” Because its entire world was centered around the partnership, we didn’t feel right separating the leaders and followers into different posts like we did with the Bal-Swing dancers. Today, most teachers refer to this dance as “Pure Balboa” and occasionally even as “Strict Balboa.”
Teachers often mention original dancers in class; however, those names may easily be forgotten between leaving the workshop and getting to YouTube. So, to make it a little easier, this is a list of original Balboa dancers often mentioned in classes, with links to clips of their dancing. This will take some time to fully complete, what with all the biography information and clips, but I figured it’d be kinda neat to construct it in front of people’s eyes.
These entries will grow with biographical information over time. Not all the dancers will have a wealth of information, but we’ll try to get what we can. So, enjoy! Names are listed in alphabetical order, so aside from a special section on the “Most Often Discussed,” order does not signify importance. Names may be added, so if you’d like to recommend someone, feel free to mention their name in the comments. Please note that Ray Cunningham began dancing after the war and is mostly known for teaching the post-war closed position dance Lamanu (choose your own adventure in spelling it), hence, he is not listed below.
As always, we strive to be unbiased and accurate. As much of this is an oral history, there may be some mistakes. If you see there is an error, please notify us with the error and any references for the correction and we will try to rectify the situation immediately.
This project is dedicated to Dwight Lupardis, the original Balboa historian whose passion for the dance helped save it in the form of the film The Balboa Project, where many of the clips in this project come from.
Balboa: Most Often Discussed
DEAN & NANCY RAFTERY
Dean is still with us and teaches and dances at many events. In the original swing era there were a lot of regional differences among styles. Dean’s Pure Balboa was apparently part of the “inland flat footers” style. Dean is probably most known for his back-pivots, the move in the clip that is a lot harder than you’d expect. Dean also teaches Lamanu, an obscure dance from the post-war era that no one knows how to spell. (That joke was stolen outright from a New Zealand swing dance thread.) More info coming.
ED & INEZ THOMPSON
Ed apparently first saw Inez when she was standing up on a library ladder. He noticed her legs and asked her out. Ed had a wry sense of humor and really admired the dancing of Willie Desatoff. Ed and Inez primarily danced (Pure) Balboa, though they learned some Bal-Swing later in life. Usually their dancing is 90% Balboa that occasionally goes into five seconds of Bal-Swing. Ed does a move called “Ed’s Hangman,” where their feet sway back and forth in Balboa while their torso remain still. Check out extensive footage of Inez’s dancing in her Bal-Swing followers’ collection.
BOB & MARGE STEINBRENNER
The Steinbrenners were mentioned by a few original dancers as incredible examples of basic Pure Balboa (for instance, according to several Balboa historians like Nick Williams, several original dancers describe the way Marge does the follower’s basic Balboa step as the way to do it). They also do a couple seconds of Bal-swing occasionally in their dancing.
GORDON & MARY ALMOS
Yeaaaaah, takin’ ‘er easy, Gordon.
Go, Mary, go!
JIM & IZZY HIGNETT
Jim’s style is a great example of basic footwork and patterns, while Izzy does some very smooth shuffling & triple footwork. (Look for the triples when the camera zooms in on their feet. They are sometimes hard to distinguish form her regular weight changes, which is one of the things that’s really cool about them.)
ERNIE & ELSIE RUBIN
This couple exemplifies solid basic Balboa patterns in the style the scene teaches beginners today.