Two Popular Rhythms -- Cha and Foxtrot
by Joan & Ralph Collipi
A Cuban innovation of the old
Latin form, Danson, the Cha Cha Cha is said to be a combination of
the Mambo and American Swing. A close look shows its rhythm to be
that of a triple Mambo, its style that of the Rumba, and its open
swingy variations that of the Triple Lindy. It is not as heavy in
quality or as large in foot pattern as the Mambo, nor has it the
smooth sophistication or the conservative figures of the Rumba. But
it reflects a light breezy mood, a carefree gaiety, and a trend, in
the challenge steps, for dancers to ad-lib variations to their hearts
content. Consequently, one sees variations in almost every known
Cha Cha Rhythm -- In 4/4
the catchy rhythm and delightful music of Cha has brought dancers and
musicians alike a treat in its undeniable Latin flavor. Like the
Mambo, this dance was originally done starting on the off-beat of the
measure, but there is widespread acceptance of the on-beat rhythm as
an easier way to learn. Cha will be described here as starting on the
first beat of the measure with the accents on beats 1 and 3. The
first two counts represent the break beats, and counts 3 and 4
represent the familiar "cha cha cha" triple.
Cha Cha Style -- The Cha
danced in either a closed position or an open position facing partner
with one or both hands joined. The Cha, with its light bouncy quality
is delightfully latin, as it carries with it some of the subtleness
of the rumba movement. The foot should be placed nearly flat on the
floor and the knees are easy and lead forward with the step. The back
step is a toe step(instead of a flat step, which tends to give the
appearance of a sag), holding the body firmly so as to avoid the sag.
The Cha triple is taken with very small steps in place or traveling,
but kept very close to the floor.
The upper body is held comfortably
upright and the head focuses on the partner in a somewhat flirtatious
manner. The arm and hand, when free, are held up parallel to the
floor in a bent-arm position, palm down.
There's a little bit of latin in all of us, that's waiting to pop out when we hear that latin beat, so relax and let's "Cha Cha Cha."
The Foxtrot, as a present-day
of relatively recent origin. The only truly American form of ballroom
dance, it has had many steps and variations throughout the years. The
Foxtrot gets its name from a musical comedy star of the years
1913-1914, Mr. Harry Fox, who danced a fast but simple trotting step
to ragtime music in one of the hit Ziegfeld shows of that time. As an
additional publicity stunt, the theater management requested that a
star nightclub performer and dance teacher, Mr. Oscar Duryea,
introduce the step to the public but found that it had to be modified
somewhat, since a continuous trotting step could not be maintained
for long periods without exhausting effort. He simplified the step so
that it became four walking steps alternating with eight quick
running steps. This was the first Foxtrot.
Since that time, under the
Vernon and Irene Castle and a series of professional dancers, the
Foxtrot has been through a gradual refining process and has developed
into a beautifully smooth dance. It claims considerable popularity
Music from ragtime through the
down to modern jazz and swing has had its effect on the Foxtrot. The
original Foxtrot was danced to a lively 2/4 rhythm. Its two parent
forms were the One Step and the Two Step. Both of these forms are
danced today but have given way to a slower, smoother 4/4 time and a
more streamlined style. It is danced to three different tempos: slow,
medium, and fast. The slow Foxtrot is currently more popular, brought
on by the tempo introduced by the Big-Band Era. The fundamental steps
of the Foxtrot can easily be adapted to all three tempos of the
Foxtrot Rhythm -- The
Foxtrot in 4/4 time, or cut time, has four quarter-beats or their
equivalent to each measure. Each beat is given the same amount of
time, but there is an accent on the first and third beats of the
measure. When a step is taken on each 1-2-3-4, it is a One-Step
rhythm and these are called "quick" beats. When steps are
taken only on the two accented beats, 1 and 3, they are twice as long
and are called "slow" beats. A use of these quick and slow
beats and a combination of them into rhythm patterns form the basis
for all of the modern Foxtrot steps. For example, any one measure of
4/4 Foxtrot time can have all four possible combinations of slow and
Foxtrot Style -- Foxtrot
truly reflects its American origin. It is the least affected of any
of the ballroom dances. Completely without stylized or eccentric arm,
foot, head, or torso movement, the Foxtrot is a beautifully smooth
dance. The body is held easily erect and follows the foot pattern in
a relaxed way. The dancer normally glides along the floor and blends
the various steps together without bobbing or jerking. This gliding
effect is accomplished by long reaching steps with only as much knee
bend as is needed to transfer the weight from step to step smoothly.
It gives the Foxtrot a streamlined motion and a simple beauty of form
which can be enjoyed without strain or fatigue, dance after dance. As
one becomes more and more skillful at putting together steps for the
Foxtrot, there will be increasing joy derived from the tremendous
variety of quick and slow combinations.
Let's enjoy the Foxtrot and
each one of us someday dancing like Fred and Ginger. We can dream,
a 1990 NSDC/ROUNDALAB Educational Panel handout and published in the
ROUNDALAB Journal, Winter
1991. Published in the Dixie Round
Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, June 2012.
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Sandi & Dan Finch
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