What is the Cha Cha?
Originating in Cuba, the cha-cha is one of the most recognized dances in the world. The cha-cha is a tactile, lively, and fast-paced dance.
Origins of the Cha Cha
The cha-cha, also known as the cha-cha-cha, originated in the nation of Cuba and evolved from one of the three versions of the Mambo. It began making its way into Western culture in the late 1940’s and then formally entered it in 1952, when a dance teacher named Monsieur Pierre visited Cuba to observe how the local population was dancing at that time. As he discovered, the new dance had a split fourth beat, meaning that to properly dance to it, you would have to begin on the second beat, rather than the first beat. Upon bringing the dance to England, it was combined with ballroom dance and augmented into what is now known as the modern-day cha-cha-cha, which is now referred to simply as the cha-cha.
Music of the Cha Cha
The cha-cha is danced in a 4/4 timing, meaning the music has 4 even beats, with an accent on the first beat. There is also an additional half beat between the fourth and first beat, giving it a pace that makes it stand out from all other rhythms. If you hear this beat today, most people will naturally associated it with this style of dance. The most common forms of music it’s danced to and that has adopted this rhythm is authentic Cuban music, Latin pop or Latin rock. For international ballroom cha-cha’s, there is more energy and a more steady beat. For the more traditional Cuban cha-cha, the rhythms are more complex, romantic and sensual.
Characteristics of the Cha Cha
The cha-cha consists of three steps. A step to the side with the left foot, then the right foot half closed towards the left foot and then a last step to the left with the left foot. Partners will mirror these steps or take a step back with their right foot, legs remain straight through the second beat, with the weight returning to the left leg for the third beat. A right-left-right chasse is often danced after that, with hop actions allowed to occur with every step. In fact, hip movement is one of the most important parts of effectively dancing a cha-cha. This is achieved by the alternate bending and straightening action of the knees.