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Round Dance Tips by Tim Eum—

Cha Cha and the Chase

History:

Cuba in the 1800’s was the heart of “Latin” music, and people loved to dance to it. By the early 1900’s it had developed dance forms such as the danzon, the “son,” and the mambo. By the late 1940’s, Enrique Jorrin modified the Latin music that he played by having a very strong first downbeat and less syncopation. Dancers loved it and some improvised a triple step when they danced their mambo, creating a distinct “cha cha cha” sound. An English ballroom teacher, Pierre Margolie, visited Cuba in 1952. He was enthralled, and upon returning to England, taught the “Cha Cha” as a new form of dance that quickly became popular worldwide.

General Rhythm Characteristics:

The Cha Cha is a playful and lively dance that uses quick steps. It is a Latin dance that features hip motion. Many of the Cha Cha figures begin with “rock and recover” and then finish with a quick chasse (side-close-side). This chasse is what gives the rhythm its name “cha cha cha”. Most all steps are taken by contacting the floor first with the inside edge of ball the moving foot and then taking weight onto the entire foot (i.e., going “flat”). As you take a step and settle your weight onto it, you experience the characteristic hip motion. The basic rhythm of the cha cha is 1, 2, 3&, 4; and thus there are 5 weight change steps in each measure of cha. Many ballrooms teach a “4&1” cha rhythm which is the same except delayed by one beat (2, 3, 4&, 1).

Three Chases:

Chase (4 measures): Man rock forward with left foot turning half right-face while lady rock back with no turn ending in tandem with lady behind man, both recover forward, then both forward/close, forward;

Now man rock forward with right foot turning half left-face while lady rock forward with her left foot turning half right-face ending in tandem with man behind lady, both recover forward, and both forward/close, forward;

Now man rock forward with left foot no turn while lady rocks forward with her right foot turning half left-face to end facing man, both recover, then man back/close, back (while lady forward/close, forward);

End the Chase with a Back Basic, i.e., man rock back, recover, side/close, side ; NOTE: you can modify this Back Basic by going forward/close, forward instead of to the side. NOTE2: Let go of hands at the very beginning and only rejoin at the very end.

Chase with Underarm Pass (2 measures): Start a Chase (above) but keep holding lead hands throughout (man’s left and lady’s right). Thus, Man rock forward with left foot turning half right-face while lady rock back with no turn ending in tandem with lady behind man, both recover forward, then both forward/close, forward;

The second measure is not a "chase"; it is the "underarm pass." Man rock back on right and raises lead hands while lady step forward on her left passing by man’s left side, man recover on left while lady step forward on her right under the joined lead hands and quickly turn left-face to face partner, then both finish with side/close, side ; (Yes, it is really a reverse underarm.)

Chase with Full Turns (2 measures): As in the standard Chase, begin with partners facing and with lead foot free, but let go of hands at the beginning of the figure and do not rejoin until the end.

Man rock forward with left foot turning half right face while Lady rocks back on her right with no turn, both recover forward, then man turns another half right face during the “cha cha cha” (i.e. forward turning ¼ RF/close, back turning ¼ RF) while the lady steps forward/close, forward to end facing partner ;

Man rock back on right with no turn while the lady rocks forward with her left foot turning half right face, both recover forward, then man steps forward/close, forward while the lady turns another half right face during her “cha cha cha” (i.e. forward turning ¼ RF/close, back turning ¼ RF);



Tim Eum has prepared many Round Dance Tips for Calls 'n' Cues, WASCA, for his weekly Rocket Rounds email reports, and for other publications. DRDC is grateful for permission to collect and reprint. A Tim Eum archive.

 

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If you would like to read other articles on dance position, technique, styling, and specific dance rhythms, you may visit the article TOC.



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