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,,
in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, March 2022.