Resources‎ > ‎Music & Videos‎ > ‎

Cha Cha - What Is it?

posted Mar 5, 2014, 10:24 AM by Joreth InnKeeper   [ updated Jul 17, 2014, 4:55 PM ]

So you think you want to try ballroom dancing but you have no idea where to start?  Should you go for Latin or smooth dances first?  What are Latin and smooth dances?  Should you pick a class that covers "all ballroom" or start with one dance at a time?  How do you choose one if you don't even know what they look like?  Or maybe you don't want to learn how to dance but someone you know keeps talking about this cha cha stuff and you want to know what they're talking about.

The cha-cha-chá (or just cha cha) is a dance that was invented in the early 1950s.  A Cuban composer created a new style of music that came to be called cha-cha-chá and people came up with a dance to go with it's syncopated rhythm.  In ballroom, it is considered a Latin dance or a rhythm dance (as opposed to a "smooth" dance) and it uses Latin Hip Movements which is achieved through the bending of the knees and not just swinging the hips as many people mistakenly think.  

Here is a video that has helpfully put together several different dance clips to show what cha cha looks like.  It includes videos of both professionals and amateurs, so you can see both the spirit of the cha cha and what you can expect to begin learning when you start taking lessons. 

What Is Cha Cha Cha?

Very unusually for ballroom dances, this dance starts its first step on the second beat of a song or measure, not the first beat.  Most dances start out with a step, such as ONE-two-three for the waltz or one-and-two, three-and-four, five, six for the East Coast Swing, or even one, three, four for Foxtrot or Rumba (better known as slow, quick-quick).  But the unique identifying step for the cha cha is starting on the second beat with a split fourth beat.  What that means is that, when a couple is poised to begin dancing, they will pause until a second beat in a measure to take their first step (or they may add a "cheat" step to help them get on the right beat), and then they will dance two, three, four-and-one, two, three, four-and-one.  The fourth beat is split into two separate steps with one foot landing on the "four" and the other foot landing on the "and", which leads into the next measure, giving it a syncopated rhythm.  This is why it's called the "cha cha cha"; the steps can also be counted as two, three, cha cha cha, two, three or rock step, cha cha cha, or slow, slow, cha cha cha.

This dance is arguably the dance one can find the most music to dance to in non-competition settings.  Most popular Western music like pop and rock and R&B from the 1950s through today have a beat that can be danced the cha cha to; it does not require Cuban music specifically, nor even Latin music in general.  If one had to choose only a single dance to learn, the cha cha will probably have the most opportunity to do in public or social settings.  It is not, however, as popular as the flashy swing dancing or salsa, or as easy as the merengue, or may not have the romantic appeal as the Nightclub Two-Step or the rumba.  But it will impress non-ballroom dancers and provide plenty of chances to show off dance skills with the abundance of music that it can be danced to.