– a weekend of Balboa, 6-7 September 2008.

Bouquets and Belgian chocolate to Sophie Yesberg of SwingZing for organising this weekend of most choice instruction in Balboa. The numbers of leaders and followers were roughly equal although, as usual, followers outnumbered leaders. Swing dancing came to Perth in 1998, but Balboa did not become a large part of the scene until the past couple of years.

The pictures of Joel Plys and Heidi Salerno on the advertising flyer did not do our teachers justice. When I saw first saw them in person, there was something about Heidi that made me wonder; did she have a twin? Alas no; and thus hope dies. Oh well, back to the Cloning Board.

For the first class on Saturday, we began with the basics of movement. Not the basic movement that we all knew, but how we move (“it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it”). Balboa is danced to music faster than 180 beats per minute, so any way you can conserve energy and time is helpful. The next classes built on these essentials as we worked on come-arounds (aka break turns) and transitions, two other most common moves in Balboa.

Saturday night was spelled P-A-R-T. Why? Because the Darling Buds of May were once again playing live to about two score and ten dancers. I can see no reason to review my previous panegyric of the band (from the blues workshop weekend several months ago), especially as I was assured by Leah, the bass guitarist of pulchritude, that the night was excellent.

We began Sunday’s sessions with a speculative history of Bal; specifically, where did it come from: the Shag? The Charleston? Even rumba was considered as a forebear; however, we can be sure that when a two-beat dance and a crowded hall loved each other very much, Balboa was born.

The next classes were progressively intricate as we practised Bal-swing. Joel and Heidi may have been tired but they were tireless in observing, correcting and fine tuning. With the various turns and changes in direction, Joel called out the timing and moves: what he called the “leader’s mind”. Mine already contains several voices but it was nonetheless helpful to know which one to listen to.

It was a weekend when too much Balboa was not enough; it’s going to take a lot of practise to absorb all the moves and styling we learned, which can be summed up in the Balboa Commandments:

1. Thy contact with thy partner shall be solely thoracic. Thou shalt not bring thy nether portions into contact with thy partner lest thou bump uglies.

2. Thou shalt move first thy body; thy feet shall follow, and remain under it.

3. Keep thy feet together and thy steps small. Thus shall balance and timing be preserved.

4. Economy of energy shall be maintained by placing weight upon only the tripad, which is the first two toes and the ball of the foot.

5. In movement shalt thou slide or lightly scuff the floor; not step upon it.

6. Thou shalt keep thy weight on one foot or the other. Sharing thy weight causes confusion.

7. Changes of direction shall be indicated by the tilt of the leader’s right elbow, which shall herald the shifting of weight.

8. When in doubt of the appropriate direction, remember that the left foot is to go back and the right, forward.

9. Do not depend upon the leader’s left hand for guidance, for it is a deceitful thing.

10. Preceding a return to the closed position the leader shall press the Balboa button, which is the left side of the follower’s back. The pressing of any other, howbeit soft and comely, shall make thee an unclean thing, like unto the octopus and the groper.

Do these things and thy time shall be long upon the dance floor.

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