Cha Cha Clinic Notes
by Wayne & Barbara
"CHA CHA CHA" The name itself
seems to promise an exciting rhythm, and it is one of the most
delightful and brightest rhythms we have. Cha Cha is the fun dance of
the Latins. It is exciting and uplifting and can be thoroughly
enjoyed with ease of movement, balance, and control. It's origins are
in the Mambo, and the Mambo is an outgrowth of the Rumba. These Latin
dances have almost identical character and floor patterns. It is the
rhythm that makes each dance different from the other. The tempo of
the music will determine which dance is to be done. The fast tempo is
Mambo; the medium tempo is Cha Cha; the slow tempo is Rumba.
The Mambo originated from religious
voodoo music and dancing in the West Indies where a rattle made from
seed pods called "cha-cha" was used as the guide instrument
to set the timing. Though the Mambo became very popular in the late
1940s, the craze didn't last long, as the dance was very fast. During
the next decade, there evolved a slower Mambo rhythm, then the
addition of a triple step, and finally by the late 1950s, Cha Cha.
The Cha Cha is said to be a combination
of the Mambo and the American Swing. The rhythm is that of Mambo, the
style of dance is similar to Rumba, and it is open and swingy like
the Triple Jive. It is a carefree dance and reflects a light, breezy
The music of the Cha Cha first appeared
in the United States as a form of slow Mambo. The first and perhaps
most famous orchestration is Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White
done by Perez Prado in the 1950s. In the authentic music, a very
definite rhythmical link can be heard between each measure resulting
in an overall rhythm of 123&4 (Sometimes, a more advanced dance
is written to a "4&1" count: 234&1) with a beat
value of 1,1,1/2,1/2,1.
Every step is taken with pressure on
the ball of the foot, with the knee flexed, and as the weight is
taken to the foot, the heel should lower, the knee straighten, and
the heel of the opposite foot should be released as the hips move
softly sideways in the direction of the stepping foot. This movement
is less pronounced on steps having half-beat value. The shoulders
should remain quiet when not in normal dance hold and the free arm
moves fluidly between the dance positions.
The Cha Cha may be danced in either a
closed or open position, facing the partner with one or both hands
joined. Often, the partners are apart from one another completely.
Often, the man holds the woman's right hand with his left, so she
must maintain a certain firmness in the right arm because he leads
Remember, body control is an important
factor to good Latin dancing. This can be achieved to a great degree
by simply keeping the steps small and the knees flexed. The greater
the distance the body weight has to be moved to keep up with the
feet, the greater the chance of the body momentum being propelled too
far, which creates "loss of balance" -- particularly when
moving to fast-tempo music. As each step is taken, the whole body
should move over the foot to give stability.
Acquiring the basic knowledge and
dancing skill of Cha Cha will surely take you to a more enjoyable
world of dancing. Remember, Plato was quoted as saying, "A good
education consists of knowing how to sing and "DANCE" well.
From clinic notes prepared for the URDC annual convention, 1994. This
article was published in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, May 2013.