Social Ballroom Dancing/Cha Cha Cha
The Cha Cha Cha is a popular social dance characterized by the "cha-cha-cha" rhythm during the 'chassé' (side-close-side step). Although originally called the Cha Cha Cha it is now commonly referred to simply as the Cha Cha.
The name of this dance is said to arise from the sound of sandals slapping against the floor in the cha cha chassé.
The Cha Cha is a true Latin dance, which originated in Cuba where it evolved from the danzon, an older form of Cuban dance. The primary difference in Cha Cha is the addition of a triple step that replaces the slow step in Mambo/Rumba. Cha Cha became a popular social ballroom dance in the United States in the early 1950's.
Presently there are two flavors of Cha Cha, differing by the place of the cha cha cha with respect to the musical bar.
- Ballroom Cha Cha and street Cha Cha in Cuba count "two-three-chachacha"
- Country/western Cha-cha-cha and Latin street Cha-cha-cha in many places other than Cuba count "one-two-chachacha" or "chachacha-three-four".
See Cha-cha-cha article for the history of the music.
Tone of the Dance
The cha cha is a lively, sassy, groovy dance.
Most Cha Cha steps are danced in one of two holds, closed and open.
In closed hold the man places his right hand on the woman's left shoulder blade while she lightly rests her hand on his right arm. He then holds her right hand with his left at eye level.
In open hold the man holds the woman's left hand in his right and her right hand in his left, at about waist height.
Many institutions (such as the IDTA) have strictly defined names for some steps. This is less important for social dancing and many studios have developed their own names. Therefore the names below may be very different than those you are used to.
|4||Small sidestep with Right foot||Small sidestep with Left foot|
|&||Close LF to Right foot||Close RF to Left foot|
|1||Small sidestep with right foot||Small sidestep with left foot|
|2||Small step forward with Left foot||Small step back with Right foot|
|3||Replace weight on Right foot||Replace weight on Left foot|
|4||Small sidestep with Left foot||Small sidestep with Right foot|
|&||Close RF to Left foot||Close LF to Right foot|
|1||Small sidestep with Left foot||Small sidestep with Right foot|
|2||Small step back with Right foot||Small step forward with Left foot|
|3||Replace weight on Left foot||Replace weight on Right foot|
Crossover breaks/New Yorks
Arm Pit turn
Back breaks (fifth position)/Hand to Foot
General Technique Tips
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. When weight is released from a foot, the heel should release first, allowing the toe to maintain contact with the floor. Feet should be placed a comfortable distance from the base (i.e. below the hips), not too close as a full movement cannot be developed, and not too large as this makes it difficult to keep up with the music.
In general, the basic technique taught to beginners is to keep the supporting leg straight. A more advanced dancer however might like to try to keep both legs as straight as possible throughout the dance. As with all Latin dances, knees and thighs should pass one another quite tightly, and though feet should be turned out, this should not be to the extent of exposing the inner thigh. If the inner thigh is exposed the legs can bow, and an undesirable gap between legs is often visible, breaking the line from head to toe.
For a cha cha, hips should move smoothly. In American Rhythm style, hip movement is achieved through the alternate bending and straightening action of the knees. In International Latin style, the weighted leg should be 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.
In general, hips should not rise or fall, but stay on approximately the same horizontal level. The bottom half of the body (i.e. navel down) should be isolated from the chest and shoulders, which should remain primarily still.
International Ballroom dancing usually begins with a prep step on count 1, break on count 2 and cha cha cha on 4 and 1. Beginners often have a difficult time hearing the latter rhythm or adding in the prep step. Breaking on counts one and two followed by the cha cha cha on counts 3 and 4 is often more natural for some people and is perfectly acceptable for Country Western, social, and beginning dancers.
Cha Cha Cha Chasses may be replaced by: Lock Step Fwd, Lock Step Bwd, Hip Twist Chasse, Crossover Chasse, Ronde Chasse, Ronde Close Chasse, Open Hip Twist Chasse and Forward and Backward Runs where applicable.