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Basic Cha Cha Actions

by Randy & Marie Preskitt

At the start, it is important to teach dancers critically needed basic actions regarding Cha Cha and dancing in general. Without these basic understandings, dancers can develop bad habits that can become compounded when trying to learn the more advanced moves.

The first thing to teach dancers to unlearn is what we all do when at normal rest which is to stand on both feet. It is critical when moving from foot to foot that we learn to place all our weight onto the moving foot. Work dancers with this simple exercise. Step forward on your left foot leaving your right foot behind you. Can you now lift your right foot without any body shifting? Recover back to your right foot. Can you lift your left foot? Now move side left. Can you lift your right foot? This is a simple exercise to teach the dancers to take full weight and also to get to know how it feels.

Next is the action of turning. This can be a big hurdle for some but is a very important action. Turning is never done as the step is taken. Chase is a good practice action. With no turn, step forward left leaving the right foot behind. Turn sharply right face a full half turn. Recover to the right with no turn, and finish with the forward cha. Watch dancers carefully to make sure that they are not turning as they step forward and continue turning as they recover. Turning should be done on the ”&” count, never on the beat.

Now we will apply these concepts to an important phase IV move, the Alemana. First we will describe the woman’s actions as they contain the strong turns. This will be an Alemana to Butterfly for simplicity. Starting from a Fan position, the woman would pull the right foot to the left to close feet, forward left, forward right/left, right then swivel strongly right face one-quarter turn to face the man. It is important that the woman is no longer turning at this point. The woman’s left foot should be starting forward toward the center of hall across the man’s left foot. The woman would now step forward left and then sharply turn right face approximately one half, forward right toward wall then turn one-half right face to face the man, side left/close right, side left. The important part for the lady is to always wait until she is on the moving foot before she does her turn and never turn while stepping.

The Alemana from the man’s position is less involved as it has no turns but his lead can help or hinder the woman in doing her turns. The man’s left arm is important here not only in what he does but also in what he does not do. So for the man: lead the woman to close with his left hand and step forward left, recover right leading the woman to move forward, side left/close right, side left, and then sharply bring the left hand up and out palm to palm as the “stop sign,” which leads the woman to face him. The man would then step back but also behind to match the woman’s direction. The left hand does nothing during this step except to move with the body.

Only after the man and woman have taken this step would the man then move his left hand in a small forward motion to lead the woman to turn right face. The man would then recover forward left with his arm following the move. The man would then (after the step is taken) bring his left arm back through to turn the woman back to face him. He would then side cha with the lady. The important part of this is that the man not overturn the woman by spinning his hand around her head. His leads are done after he takes his steps.

Now we will look at actions for dancing the Hockey Stick. Again from Fan position with the man facing the Wall, the first half of the move would be the same as for the Alemana with two differences. First is that the man should do his cha in place and not to the side, because that would cause him to move in opposition to the woman, which would end with her too far to his right side. The other difference is that the man would not move his hand at the end of the first measure to lead the woman to face him. The man would simply raise his hand, keeping it slightly above and in front of the woman’s head. The second half of the Hockey Stick for the woman is forward left with the foot turning slightly out toward Diagonal Wall. The next step with the right is best taken diagonally out toward Reverse and Wall. At this point, the woman would sharply turn left face to face the man and do a back cha backing toward Diagonal Reverse and Wall. The man would start taking a small step back with a slight right- face body turn, continuing to lead the woman forward with his left hand, recover left facing to Diagonal Reverse and Wall. At this point, he would bring the joined lead hands down from in front of the woman’s head to the front of the body to lead the woman to turn sharply left face to face the man. He would then dance a forward cha leading the woman to back up.

An alternative lead on the Hockey Stick that some dancers may like is for the man to bring his hand around the woman’s head to just over her left shoulder at the end of the first measure. This would leave the man with less of a reach than if his hand was still out in front of the woman and would also require less of an arm movement to lead the lady to turn to face him prior to the back cha. Dancers would need to practice this repeatedly to make sure the lady does not feel this as an indication to turn early, and the man must make sure that he does not pull the hand, which would also lead the woman to make that early turn.

In conclusion, keep in mind that turns and hand leads must wait until the step is taken by both the man and woman. Leading is a very subtle move and must never be overdone.

From the RAL Educational Syllabus, 2020,, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, March 2022.


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