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If You've Danced One Chasse . . .

by Sandi & Dan Finch

 Will that one chasse be the same as every other chasse you dance? That would be too simple!

 We have chasses in smooth rhythms, as in thru chasse to Banjo, or ripple chasse. We have chasses in jive, although we usually call them triples, but you will hear jive chasse as a cue. And we have chasses in cha cha, those triple steps at the end of most measures. They are all “side, together, side” in simplest description. But they are all different in execution.

 In waltz, most figures have rise and fall, including the chasse. Rise begins at the end of count 1, continues through 2&, and lowering comes at the end of count 3. At the phase III level, in a thru chasse to semi, the dancers will step through in semi then turn to face each other and close trail feet, then open to semi again as they step forward. Thru semi-chasse at a higher level will have the dancers stay in semi throughout, and their feet will travel diagonally forward (not straight forward) because of the mechanics of semi-closed position. In any case, the steps are relatively the same length.

 In the latin rhythms, the chasse changes, and differences exist between cha cha and jive.

 In jive and cha cha, the first step of a chasse is to the side, then the second step closes, and the third step is to the side again. How do they differ? Let me count the ways. Timing, hip and leg action, footwork, foot placement -- that’s all.

 Timing. Cha cha timing is 123&4, the chasses being the three steps on 3&4. The “&” count represents a half beat, taken from beat 3. The beat value of the steps in a cha cha measure is 1, 1, 1/2, 1/2, 1. Jive timing is 123a4. The “a” represents a quarter beat, taken from beat 3, so the beat value of a jive measure is 1, 1, 3/4, 1/4, 1. In both cases, you dance two steps on the third beat of a measure, but the second of those steps is faster in jive because you have less time to do it.

 In cha chas, the footwork (how you use your feet) is ball flat, ball flat, ball flat. Jive footwork is ball, ball, ball flat, consistent with the bounce and speed of the music. Jive is bouncy with pressure into the floor; cha cha is slower and moves more laterally. Jive is more “up and down” with knee and ankle action, and we don’t think about hip movement. Cha cha has Cuban motion like its sister the rumba. Steps in cha cha begin with a side step, followed by a closing step, and a longer side step to end. Jive—because of its speed and the bounce—should be danced almost in place, in place, side.

 These subtle differences are what makes each rhythm distinctive. Try to master them. You may find that adds more joy to your dancing.

 

From a club newsletter, June 2016, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, April 2017.


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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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Aditional articles and dance helps by
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