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Round Dance Tips by Tim Eum—

Cha Cha Basic

Cha Cha is an offshoot of Mambo, and both had their roots in Cuba and then in New York. In the middle of the 19th century, Cuba was the cultural center of the Hispanic world and the most economically prosperous of the Spanish colonies. Here was where Hispanic music and dance developed. Many Hispanics migrated to New York, and they brought their music and dance with them. Mambo was developed in New York in the 1930’s. One of the variants of Mambo was the “Triple Mambo” and the swishing of the feet on the floor created a “cha cha cha” sound. Arthur Murray (of Dance Studio fame) took this and simplified it, creating the “4&1 Cha Cha." He also slowed it down slightly and made it more methodical. By the 1950’s, Cha Cha was enormously popular in nightclubs in North America. This continued until the 1960’s when other dances became more popular. 

In Ballroom, the recommended tempo range for the American Style Cha Cha is 28 to 30 bpm (bars per minute), while for the International Cha Cha Cha, a slightly faster 32 bpm. Cha Cha can also be adapted to much of the modern 'disco' style music with a strong 4/4 phrasing and heavier emphasis on the first and third counts, especially those with a Latin sound. 

Round Dance Cha Cha is a little different than Ballroom Cha Cha. Whereas Ballroom dancers use the “4&1 Cha Cha” technique, Round Dancers rock and recover on beats 1 and 2 and cha/cha cha on beats 3 and 4 of the music. 

CHA CHA BASIC — Go sideways on the cha cha cha. 

The Cha Cha Basic is a two-measure figure that goes “rock forward, recover, side/close, side; rock back, recover, side/close, side;” 

After the rock, recover, the cha cha cha should be done sideways like a very quick side two step. Doing this will give you sideways momentum that carries well into other Cha Cha figures like New Yorkers, Fence Lines, Hand to Hands, and many others. Not doing this will make going into the following figure more difficult.  

Note that a Half Basic has the side cha in it. There are defined figures where the cha cha chas do go forward or back but you should use these only if you are doing a forward or backward progressing figure like a Chase. 

MAMBO BASIC — Rock forward, Recover, Side, - ; Rock back, Recover, Side, - ;

The Mambo Basic is just like the Cha Cha Basic but with only a single step side on the third beat instead of the 3-step “cha/cha, cha.” Don’t forget the rhythmic hip action that all Latin dances should be done with. You’ll have more fun if you do the hips.


Tim Eum originally prepared these Tips for
Calls 'n' Cues, (WASCA);
reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council
(DRDC) Newsletter, December 2009

 

 


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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