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Cha Cha Dance – For Beginners

Cha-Cha is tons of fun – It’s energetic, lively, flirtatious, and cheeky!! What’s not to love!? Cha Cha is also commonly known by its other name the “Cha Cha Cha”. Whether you are new to dance or a seasoned dancer, learning to dance the Cha-Cha is something I would highly recommend.

In today’s blog, we will be covering the following topics:

  • History and Characteristics
  • Music and Counting
  • Dancing the Basic
  • Dance Frame and Holding Your Partner
  • Putting It All Together


History and Characteristics


Cha Cha evolved from a version of the Mambo, called Triple Mambo. When musicians began slowing down the tempo of Mambo music, it allowed dancers the freedom to dance more rhythmically through their body and add in syncopated steps. A syncopation is a break from the normal rhythm where dancers will add in extra steps. In Cha Cha, these steps are known as chasses, or triple steps. Dancers would insert this chasse between the forward and back breaks done in the Mambo. One of my favorite facts about the origin of Cha Cha is how it got its name – which is from the sound of dancer’s shoes shuffling across the floor. Cha Cha is fun and flirtatious and is characterized by its Cuban Motion (also known as hip action) and rhythmic body action. Cha Cha really hit its stride when arriving in the US in the 50’s and became all the craze.

Trish-and-Abe-dancing-cha-cha
Trish and abe Dancing Cha Cha


Music and Counting


The instruments that makeup Cha Cha Cha are like those you would hear in a Mambo or Salsa. The common instruments you will notice in Cha Cha are Conga Drums, Timbales, Cow Bell, Guitar, more. Learn more about these instruments here: https://www.libertyparkmusic.com/cha-cha-cha-drumming-rhythm-application/#:~:text=%20%20%201%20Mambo%20-%20the%20mambo,will%20be%20reduced%20to%20half%20the…%20More%20

All dances have various rhythms, but there’s always a basic rhythm or count you will begin with. The basic count for Cha Cha is 1234&. For those of you who are completely new, anytime you see an & count, that means one beat of music is split in half over two steps. To break this down further, beats 1,2, and 3 are all going to be whole beat steps, and counts 4& will be two quick steps taken within one beat of music. In other words, you will be dancing a total of five steps in four beats of music. I will break the steps down in greater detail in the next section!


Dancing the Basic


First, let’s cover some terminology. The Cha Cha steps are made up of two main elements: the break step (also known as a rock step) and the chasse. A break step is when you take a step in any direction, then replace your weight back to the other foot without moving it. The movement feels like you are rocking from one foot to the other. In the basic, you will be dancing a forward break and a backward break. Next is the chasse which is French for chase. The chasse is a series of three steps where one foot chases the other foot and you will be stepping ‘out together out.’ Chasses can be done in many directions, including forward, side, back, and in place.


There are a few different ways you can begin your dance, but in this post, I will only cover only one of them. The leaders will begin the Basic Step by stepping out to the left on count 1, then break back with the right foot on count 2, replace forward to the left foot on count 3, right foot side chasse for counts 4& 1, then break forward onto the left foot on count 2, replace back to the right foot on count 3, and finish with a left foot side chasse into the restart for counts 4& 1.


The followers will be dancing the natural opposite of the leaders. You will begin with your right foot to the side on count 1, followed by a left foot forward break step on 2, replacing back on count 3, left foot side chasse for counts 4& 1, right foot back break on 2 and replace forward on count 3, and back into the restart with a right foot side chasse on counts 4& 1.


In this video we demonstrate what the basic looks like: https://youtu.be/zLp9-f9PX1c?t=68

In this video, I break down the musicality with the Basic step (leader’s part): https://youtu.be/2OFnUzTIfdU

Dance Frame and Partnering

Before dancing with a partner, it’s important to make sure you are in good postural alignment for dancing, otherwise, you may have difficulty balancing and end up using your partner to hold you up. (no one likes that!) So, what does it mean to have good postural alignment? It means that your major blocks of weight are stacked one on top of the other so you can move from foot to foot with ease. Your blocks of weight are your head, shoulders, ribs, and hips.


Here is a great video explaining your blocks of weight and how to improve your posture: https://youtu.be/UiGZc-hIExk

Now, you are ready to get into a closed dance frame. Having a good frame is very important because it’s the point of contact between you and your partner that makes leading and following possible. Having a poor frame is like having a bad signal on your phone – it’s difficult to communicate with the person on the other end of the line.


With your weight poised forward over the balls of your feet, begin by facing your partner roughly a foot apart and with the follower slightly offset to the right of the leader. If you are leading, place your right hand on your partner’s right shoulder blade and your left arm will lift with your hand curved toward your partner at about her eye level. If you are following, you will rest your left arm gently on top of your partner’s right arm and follow the curve of his arm to his shoulder. Place your right hand in your partner’s and lightly clasp. Make sure to keep your arms and elbows in front of your body with a slight forward poise to create a positive connection and make it easier to lead and follow.


Putting it Together


Now, it’s time to put it all together! Dancing the Basic in closed hold requires the leader to lead the follower through proper weight transfers. To do this effectively, dancers must maintain a toned frame with the arms held in front of the body. To start, take your partner into a closed hold, make sure to find a nice positive connection by having your weight poised forward over the balls of the feet and simply begin dancing the basic.

Here’s a video of us dancing the Side Basic in Closed Position: https://youtu.be/cnAUcLfPfws

Today, we’re barely scratching the surface of this dance and there is so much more to learn, but it’s a great starting point. Practice, practice, and practice some more! I hope that you enjoyed this post and are hungry for more Cha Cha Cha!!

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below : )

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