Cha Cha

Cha-cha-cha is a dance of Cuban origin. Cha-cha-cha is one of the five dances of the “Latin American” program of international ballroom competitions. It is danced to the music of the same name introduced by Cuban composer and violinist Enrique Jorrín in 1953. This rhythm was developed from the danzón by a syncopation of the fourth beat. The name is onomatopoeic, derived from the rhythm of the güiro (scraper) and the shuffling of the dancers’ feet. Like the slower bolero-son (“rumba”) it is danced on the second beat.

In general, steps are kept compact and the dance is danced generally without any rise and fall. The modern ballroom technique of Cha-cha-cha (and other ballroom dances) does undergo gradual evolution, particularly in competition dancing, but in essence is still firmly based on its Cuban origin in the 1950s.

Cha-cha-cha may be either danced to authentic Cuban music, or Latin Pop or Latin Rock. The music for the international ballroom cha-cha-cha is energetic and with a steady beat. The Cuban cha-cha-chá is more sensual and may involve complex polyrhythms.

Styles of cha-cha-cha dance may differ in the place of the chasse in the rhythmical structure. The original Cuban and the ballroom cha-cha-cha count “two-three-chachacha”. Some other styles of dance, such as Country/western may count “one-two-chachacha” or “chachacha-three-four”.

Basic step of cha-cha-cha
The basic pattern involves the lead (the man) taking a checked forward step with the left foot retaining some weight on the right foot, the knee of the right leg must stay straight and close to the back of the left knee, the left leg having straightened just prior to receiving part weight. This step is taken on the second beat of the bar. Full weight is returned to the right leg on the second step (beat three.) The fourth beat is split in two so the count of the next three steps is 4-and-1. These three steps constitute the cha-cha-cha chasse. A step to the side is taken with the left foot, the right foot is half closed towards the left foot (typically leaving both feet under the hips or perhaps closed together), and finally there is a last step to the left with the left foot. The length of the steps in the chasse depend very much on the effect the dancer is attempting to make.

The girl takes a step back on the right foot, the knee being straightened as full weight is taken. The other leg is allowed to remain straight. It is possible it will flex slightly but no deliberate flexing of the free leg is attempted. This is quite different from technique associated with salsa, for instance. On the next beat (beat three) weight is returned to the left leg. Then a cha-cha-cha chasse is danced RLR.
Each partner is now in a position to dance the bar their partner just danced. Hence the fundamental construction of Cha-cha-cha extends over two bars.

The checked first step is a later development in the International Cha-cha-cha. Because of the action used during the forward step (the one taking only part weight) the basic pattern turns left, whereas in earlier times Cha-cha-cha was danced without rotation of the alignment. Hip actions are allowed to occur at the end of every step. For steps taking a single beat the first half of the beat constitutes the foot movement and the second half is taken up by the hip movement.

Over the history of the dance, there have been two schools of dancing the Cha-cha-cha chasse. In one school, both knees are allowed to be flexed on the count of ‘and’ to eliminate an increase in height as the feet are brought towards each other. In the other school the leading foot is placed with the checked knee and the “bopping” is eliminated by hip action.

Footwork
In general, steps in all directions should be taken first with the ball of the foot in contact with the floor, and then with the heel lowering when the weight is fully transferred; however, some steps require that the heel remain lifted from the floor. When weight is released from a foot, the heel should release from the floor first, allowing the toe to maintain contact with the floor.

Hip movement
In traditional American Rhythm style, Latin hip movement is achieved through the alternate bending and straightening action of the knees, though in modern competitive dancing, the technique is virtually identical to the International Latin style. In the International Latin style, the weighted leg is almost always straight. The free leg will bend, allowing the hips to naturally settle into the direction of the weighted leg. As a step is taken, a free leg will straighten the instant before it receives weight. It should then remain straight until it is completely free of weight again.