Latin Cha Cha

The Cha-cha-cha (in Spanish cha-cha-chá) is a Latin American dance of Cuban origin. It corresponds to the Cha-cha-cha music introduced by Cuban composer and violinist Enrique Jorrín. See Cha-cha-chá (Cuban dance) for a description of the Cuban evolution of the dance.

In ballroom dancing, it is increasingly popular to call the dance cha-cha.  The cooler dance teachers Pierre Margolie from the United Kingdom, a founder of the Latin American Faculty of the ISTD, visited Cuba in 1952 to discover mambo (some say, rumba) danced with the triple step in place of the slow one. He brought this dance idea to Europe and eventually created what is known now as ballroom Cha-cha-cha.

There are three flavors of Cha-cha-cha dance, differing by the place of the chachacha chasse with respect to the musical bar. Ballroom Cha-cha and street Cha-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".

Guajira, a product of triple Mambo via Danzon predates all the "social" versions. The Guajira rhythm, is still used as the basis by Cubans and Puerto Ricans, who are of the belief, that the other versions were anglicised to suit the American market. As is usual with the more authentic forms of dance, a very limited variety of steps is used. It can still be seen danced in many South Florida night clubs.

Cha Cha is either danced to authentic Latin music, or more contemporary Latin Pop or Latin Rock. The music for the ballroom Cha-cha-cha is energetic and with a steady beat. The "Latin" cha-cha-cha is slower, more sensual and may involve complicated rhythms. "Cowboy" Cha-Cha-Cha is danced basically to any "four to the floor" music; in addition there are a number of C/W novelty dances with the names that include "cha-cha-cha".

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.

International Latin style Cha Cha
Cha cha cha is one of the five dances of the "Latin American" program of international ballroom competitions (where it is officially has become known as "Cha cha").  The basis of the modern dance was laid down in the 1960s by Walter Laird and other top competitors of the time.

In general Cha cha steps should be kept compact and the dance is danced generally without any rise and fall. The modern ballroom technique of Cha-cha (and other ballroom dances) is a result of gradual evolution, and in many respects the technique differs significantly from the earlier days. Also, the International Style diverged from the technique of the American Style Cha-cha.

Basic step of cha-cha-cha
The basic pattern involves a checked forward step with the left foot retaining some weight on the right foot, the knee of the right leg being allowed to flex 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 chasse. A step to the side is taken with the left foot, the right foot is half closed to 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.

While one partner dances the bar just described the other partner dances as follows. A step is taken 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 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 extends over two bars.

The checked first step is a later development in the International Chacha. Because of the action used during the forward step (the one taking only part weight) the basic pattern turns left, whereas in earlier times chacha 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 there has been two schools of dancing the 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.

Related Classes: Latin Rumba, Latin Samba, Salsa, Jive, Paso Doble
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