What is The Experiment?

The Experiment is a uniquely intimate and intensive series of dance workshops. Now in its eleventh year, it has grown to seven distinct weeks of just thirty participants each, with each week dedicated to a particular combination of dance and level. Currently four of those weeks are dedicated to Balboa, ranging from intermediate through masters.

Key features include:

  • Up to thirty participants each week live, dance, and play in a luxurious oceanfront estate.
  • Sessions use a series of custom-developed, small-group exercises which let each participant choose what to work on based on their personal interests and goals.
  • A panel of Faculty & Guest Mentors–comprised of top international professionals, up-and-coming talent, and other special guests–serve to moderate and participate in small-group exercises.
  • Each day contains a balance of sessions with ample free time, occasional electives and non-dance activities, and social dancing every night.
  • Truly international, The Experiment regularly attracts participants from at least fifteen countries across five continents, with around half of Balboa alumni coming from outside the US.

In the end, the question “What is The Experiment?” has many answers. It is a unique opportunity to spend a week being challenged and inspired by peers from around the world. It is the premiere workshop for dance geeks, by dance geeks. It is the luxury swing dance camp, yet priced similarly to other week-long camps in the US and Europe. Over the years it has been home to some fierce nighttime laser tag battles, casual bomb defusals, and an inflatable pink unicorn. Ultimately, it is the world’s most personal and personally challenging Balboa workshop.


Faculty & Guest Mentors

Each week features a panel of seven or eight Faculty & Guest Mentors who serve to moderate and participate in small-group exercises. This includes a mix of top international professionals together with up-and-coming talent and other special guests featured through the Guest Mentor Program. While the set of Mentors (particularly Guest Mentors) changes from week to week, it starts with a core of at least four or five of the Faculty Mentors:

Nick Williams
David Rehm
Kate Hedin
Robert White
Laura Keat
Heather Ballew

For an idea of the kinds of people that regularly fill out the set of Mentors in each week, see those who have been awarded as Distinguished Fellows.


Becoming a Participant

Now that The Experiment can accommodate as many as 120 Balboa dancers across four weeks, there has never been a better chance to become a participant.

  • Candidates can be anywhere from intermediate through masters level. (This includes Balboa dancers as well as other kinds of advanced/master dancers with an interest in Balboa.)
  • Candidates do NOT have to be teachers or competitors. The Experiment is designed for anyone who is enthusiastic about dancing and working on Balboa.
  • Candidates do NOT need a partner to apply or to participate–around half of all participants attend without one.

Those interested in participating are required to submit an online application, from which participants are selected and grouped/placed into a specific week. (See: Admission Timeline.) This process serves much like a level test but which must balance a much more complex range of considerations, including interests and personalities, in addition to overall level.

Ideal candidates are simply those who, through a combination of their dancing and attitude, would inspire others to want to participate with them in the same week (both on and off the dance floor). General traits the panel of judges look for include self-awareness, self-motivation, and the ability to cooperate and treat others respectfully. Beyond these basic traits there is no specific required personality type–candidates may be more introverted, extroverted, analytical, creative, etc.

Applying is free and includes a range of questions about an applicant’s background and interests along with a section for sample video. Similar to in a level test, dancing in the video does not have to be flashy or impressive and is used primarily to observe core mechanics and overall quality of motion. Many applicants film themselves in their living room or at a social dance, or one may use non-choreographed contest/exhibition footage.

Finally, it is important to understand that The Experiment receives many more qualified applications than can be accommodated in a single year. This means that not being accepted does not necessarily indicate or imply an applicant is unqualified. Often, applicants must be turned away simply due to the sheer number and distribution of applications for a given year (including relative levels, lead-follow balance, spectrum of interests, etc). Over time, both through the addition of weeks and as dancers naturally progress through the scene, The Experiment continues to offer new dancers the chance to participate while keeping the same intimate format.