Cha Cha
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Free cha cha lessons & introduction!

This dance has wide application because cha cha music is popular in all music genres, including country, funk, and hip-hop. Popular mainstream artists such as Santana, Marc Anthony, and Jennifer Lopez are putting out great cha cha music. This is a party dance! Whereas the Rumba might have an intense expression, the interpretation of Cha Cha music should produce a happy, carefree, party-time-like dance expression. We also offer a free online video that demonstrates how to achieve Cuban Motion, necessary for really pulling off cha cha like a pro.

Free Video Instruction
An Introduction to Cha Cha

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Cha Cha Learning Area


The Moves

The cha cha is similar to rumba and to mambo. The difference is that the “slow” step of the rumba and the mambo is replaced with a triple step.

The step timing is counted 1,2,3, 4&,. Several steps would be counted:1,2,3, 4&1, 2,3, 4&1, 2,3, 4&1,2, 3. The cha cha may also be counted using quicks and slows. The count using quicks and slows would be: Slow, slow, slow, quick, quick, slow, slow, slow, quick, quick. Notice that five steps are taken to four beats of music. The dance may also be counted: One, two, three, cha cha cha, two, three, cha cha cha.

In the music, the heavy beat is the one beat, the first beat of the measure. Cha cha music is written in 4/4 time, with four beats to each measure. The music tempo is 110 to 130 beats per minute.

All steps should be taken to the inside edge of the ball of the foot. As with all Latin dances, the footwork is ball-flat, ball-flat for all steps. Cuban motion is an essential element of the dance. Cuban motion, especially the hip action, comes mainly from the alternate bending and straightening of the knees.

Typical figures of the cha cha include crossover breaks (also called New Yorkers), spot turns, the cross-body lead, fifth position breaks, and the back spot turn also called the natural top. Notice that these same figures are used in mambo and in rumba.

Like the basic for rumba and for mambo, a full basic of the cha cha can be thought of as having a forward basic, which takes 4 beats of music, and a backward basic, which takes four beats of music. So, eight beats of music are required to complete one full basic.

In cha cha, five steps are taken to four beats of music. Each forward and backward basic can be considered to contain the following five steps: a break step, a replace step, and a triple step chasse. Tips: 1) Try to make complete weight transfers with every step. A mistake is to shuffle your feet. 2) Avoid taking steps that are too large. 3) Avoid bouncing. 4) Gentlemen, maintain good posture, keep your head up, and avoid looking at your feet 5) Avoid trying to shake or twist your hips. Hip action should be a natural result from correct foot and leg action. 6) Practice counting and learn to dance with the break step on the second beat of the measure.
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The Music

Cha cha music can be found in many music genres —from beach music, to hip hop, to rock and roll. The music tempo is usually 110 to 130 beats per minute. For beginners, the best tempo range is 100-110 beats per minute.

Click on the link below for helpful examples of both cha cha songs and CD's which feature great cha cha music.

Cha Cha Music Examples >>
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First seen in the dance-halls of America in the early 1950’s, Cha Cha is the newcomer of the Latin American dances.
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Tips & Info

Almost all beginners do these things wrong:

  • They dance on the wrong beat of the music.
    Many beginners make the "break step" on the first beat of the measure (count 1), rather than making it on the second beat of the measure. This error is okay for night club social dancing but most experienced dancers will prefer that you dance on the correct beat. Breaking the problem requires being able to correctly count the music, understanding where the measure begins. (My videos discuss how to count the music.)
  • Cuban action.
    Beginners almost never get the Cuban motion that is essential for characterizing the dance. This action CAN BE LEARNED. The secret begins with the footwork and the leg work, specifically the bending and straightening of the legs. A mistake is to bounce or to shuffle the feet, not allowing complete weight changes to occur.

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