Top 40 Balboa Songs at The Balboa Experiment 2014-2017

Over four separate weeks each year David Rehm and his team facilitate The Balboa Experiment. It’s a unique, live-in, learning and sharing experience where many of the world’s best Balboa dancers go to bask in what basically amounts to Balboa heaven (Bal-halla?).

Kyle Smith (International Music Champion), had the idea to run what they call Saturday Selections. Every week each participant and faculty member writes down their one favourite song to dance Balboa to, and on Saturday night the DJ plays that week’s entire list of selections. In order to limit the potential for shenanigans, the only rule is that when your song comes up you *have* to dance.

It was my pleasure and privilege to attend The Experiment as a participant the first four years that they ran the Saturday Selections (2014-2017) and I have collected the data for all 16 separate Balboa weeks. I’ve curated the data into a “Balboa Top 40” using a points system for ranking. The system was simply the number of times a song was chosen, combined with the number of different people who choose that song. The final top 40 (see below) is also limited to only songs that were selected by at least 2 people, although most were picked by 4 or more. So some songs that were chosen in multiple weeks by only one person were excluded. The song chosen by the highest number of different people (10 voters) was Minor Swing, ranked 4th over all. There was a total of 617 votes for roughly 350 different recordings.

There are a couple of interesting things to note from the data. The most popular recording artists were Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman, who were tied with 8 cracking good tunes each on the list. They were followed by Duke Ellington with 4. An honourable mention must surely go to Jonathan Stout for being the only present-day artist to get a recording into the Top 40. It should be no surprise that 30 of the Top 40 were recorded within the years of the swing era (1935-45), but the number of favourites coming out of just one year, 8 of them in 1939, is rather noteworthy. Also of note is the Slow Bal tune that made it in there and a second one (Moonlight Serenade by Glenn Miller) was just squeezed out by a whisker. There are so many other beautiful slow swing tunes and I hope that one day a Slow Bal Top 40 will emerge.  You can see that the tempo range is pretty broad (105-270BPM ), but there is a conspicuous gap between 105 and 170, carefully avoiding the dreaded Lindy zone!

I’ve provided Youtube links to the correct versions of the songs, as far as I am aware, and I apologise if any of the links become broken or if the version I have linked is not your favourite. Please do contact me if you have any corrections or just want to geek out with me.

I hope you find this list helpful in your endeavours as Balboa dancers and DJs.

Updated 2018-04-03: When going back over the raw data I picked up that I had missed an important song and I found a couple of counting errors which did unfortunately change some of the placings and bump two great tunes from the list (Moonlight Serenade by Glenn Miller and Lafayette by Hot Lips Page).
I also wanted to add that Woodchopper’s Ball by Woody Herman was chosen 16 times and would definitely have been on the list, except that Kate Hedin was the only person who chose it each and every time.  A couple of other voters, however, chose two western swing versions of Woodchopper’s, so perhaps this year someone else will choose Woody Herman and send Woodchopper’s Ball straight into the Top 10.

1Rockin’ in RhythmDuke Ellington Live at Newport195922004:00
2MainstemDuke Ellington194221002:50
3Grabtown GrappleArtie Shaw194519002:57
4Minor SwingDjango Reinhardt193719803:14
5Man From MarsArtie Shaw193923003:38
6One Night StandArtie Shaw193920003:15
7Jamaica JamTeddy Powell193922002:43
8CherokeeCharlie Barnet193917603:20
9Special Delivery StompArtie Shaw (Grammercy Five)194125402:45
10Diminuendo and Crescendo in BlueDuke Ellington195620014:20
11Oh Lady Be GoodBenny Goodman193617603:01
12Get Me to the ChurchSinatra/Basie (Live at the Sands)196624402:21
13Roll ‘Em PeteHarry James "Live at the Riverboat" with Ernie Andrews196622405:05
14Business in FGene Kardos (or Fletcher Henderson)193123502:25
15Flying Home - Reunion at NewportLionel Hampton196723608:19
16RigamaroleWillie Bryant193523602:38
17MoonglowBenny Goodman193611003:25
18Airmail SpecialBenny Goodman Swings Again (live)196025406:06
19All The Cats Join InBenny Goodman194418004:22
20Dark EyesJonathan Stout & His Campus Five200426003:22
21I’ve Found a New BabyBenny Goodman ft. Charlie Christian194020602:57
22CariocaArtie Shaw193923803:08
23ScuttlebuttArtie Shaw (Grammercy Five)194520803:12
24Caprice Paganini XXIVBenny Goodman194118402:48
25Stealin' ApplesGlenn Miller Army Air Force Band194420003:22
26What a Little Moonlight Can DoBillie Holiday193526402:58
27Swingtime in the RockiesBenny Goodman193823303:09
28Down South Camp MeetingBenny Goodman (On the Air ’38)193821603:03
29JubilestaDuke Ellington (Recorded by Cootie Williams193819802:49
30My WomanAl Bowlly193217403:13
31Traffic JamArtie Shaw193927002:18
32Chimes at the MeetingWillie Bryant193524503:01
33Buzzin’ Around with the BeeLionel Hampton193727003:09
34Ball of FireGene Krupa194119203:05
35Joshua Fit the BattleSydney Bechet194918003:20
36UndecidedElla Fitzgerald & Her Famous Orchestra Live at the Savoy193920003:19
37CopenhagenArtie Shaw193824002:39
38FaribolesAlix Combelle194221202:45
39Rose RoomDjango Reinhardt193718802:45
40Opus OneTommy Dorsey194417002:51