Get your Cha Cha on at Arthur Murray Dance Studios
Cha Cha is a fun and lively dance that gets your heart pumping on the dance floor. It’s similar to Mambo and Rumba, although it replaces the “slow step” of both dances with a triple step. This dance is often popular to ballroom dance students, and is often a fixture in many dance classes today. Arthur Murray Dance Studios have well-trained instructors that offer the best Cha Cha classes for beginners and advanced students alike. Just call to schedule an introductory dance class with us for only $20. Or better yet, drop by our studio and ask our instructors to demonstrate the Cha Cha to you. You’ll understand why many love its cheeky and flirty style.
Cha Cha – A History and Definition
Cha Cha’s beat is the popular: Cha Cha’s beat is the popular: “One, Two, CHA-CHA-CHA.” It was initially called Cha Cha Cha when it first arrived in the US in 1954, but was shortened to Cha Cha over the years. Many found it refreshing and easy to learn once they mastered the basic steps. But what made it truly appealing was its versatility. Cha Cha allowed dancers to add their own twists to their dance performance. It became such a hit that it replaced Mambo as the most popular dance during that time.
The follower starts with the right foot, while the leader starts off with the left foot. On the next beat, which is a down beat, the follower counts one or three of a measure. The leader simultaneously adjusts his movement according to the location of the follower. In the first two beats of every pattern, the follower walks forward, then steps three times at the end of each pattern, the Anchor Step. Most dancers, (especially those in the basic and intermediate levels) start the dance with a 4-beat starter step.
Cha Cha’s appeal during the early and late 50s extended not only to the US, but also to the entire world. You may not know this, but before Bruce Lee became known for his martial arts skills, he was first known for his ballroom dancing skills. He was so good that he was awarded Cha Cha Champion of HongKong in 1958. When he went to San Francisco, he carried with him $100 and stayed at the lower decks of the ship. However, it didn’t take long for him to be invited to the first class deck so he could teach Cha Cha to many of the affluent passengers on board.
There are two known versions of the name “Cha Cha”, with the first originating from the religious ritual dances of West Indians. Historians say that Haitian Voodoo band leaders placed “cha cha” plants inside small rattles to create a distinct sound. This rattle, along with three drums and a bell, was used as a “metronome” to set the time when dancing, singing, and playing music.
The second version credits “Cha Cha” to Enrique Jorrin, a Cuban Violinist who invented Cha Cha by stretching the end section of Cuba’s official dance Dánzon for its entire length. Jorrin used the term “Cha Cha” to vocally imitate the shuffling sound of a dancer’s shoes when it struck the floor. The first Cha Cha song he ever played was in 1948, and he released his first Cha Cha recording in 1951, titled “La Enganadora”.
Many credit Pierre Lavelle as the man who introduced Cha Cha to Europe. When he went to Cuba to study dance in the 1950s, Lavelle observed how many dancers added “extra steps” to the typical Mambo and Rumba dances. He went home to England and incorporated those “extra steps” in his dances. Soon, he began teaching it as a new type of dance known as the Cha Cha. It has since evolved into the ballroom dance we all know of.
Regardless of the name’s origin, this dance evolved primarily from Mambo’s slower version of Latin Music known as the “Mambo with Guiro Rhythm” or “Triple Mambo”. It also became the grandchild of Rumba and Swing (American Jazz), since Mambo is a fusion of both these dances.
You can still see their influences even today. Rumba’s techniques are quite similar to Cha Cha, although Cha Cha has more “staccato” in its rhythm. The original Swing Dance, “Lindy Hop”, which was made famous in Harlem ballrooms, was danced in triple step with a break. This characteristic is also found in modern Cha Cha.
Two Kinds of Cha Cha
There are two kinds of styles used when dancing Cha Cha: American Rhythm and International Style. In the traditional American Rhythm technique, the knees are alternately bended and straightened to create the Latin hip move (or Cuban Movement). The International Latin style is more advanced and used in competitive dancing. Often, the weighted leg is straight while the free leg bends to give the hips time to adjust to the direction of the weighted leg. Once a step is taken, the free leg instantly straightens before it receives the weight of the body.
We advise beginners to learn the American Rhythm before they decide to take up the International Style. This gives them a much firmer foundation when dancing Cha Cha. However, regardless of the style, both share similar characteristics that all students should remember:
- Five steps are taken to four beats of music when Cha Cha is danced. Each of its basic forward and backward movements contains a break step, a replace step, and a triple step chasse.
- Cha Cha is danced to either authentic Latin music or to more contemporary Latin Pop or Latin Rock. One example of a contemporary Latin Rock is “Smooth” by Santana.
- The music is very dynamic with a steady 4/4 beat.
- All steps should utilize the inner edges of the ball of the foot.
- Steps are compact and small, with most of the major movements occurring in the hip and pelvic areas.
- The lead dancer begins by stepping with the left foot, while the follower begins by also stepping with the left.
It’s also important to learn the basic forward movement when dancing the Cha Cha:
- Slide your left foot forward, and shift our weight on that foot. Make sure your right foot remains stationary.
- Place your weight to your right foot.
- Step back to your left side and place your weight to your left foot while closing your right foot.
- Place your weight onto your right foot and your left foot to the side. Shift your weight onto your left foot while making sure that your right foot remains stationary.
Come to Arthur Murray Studios to Learn Cha Cha
Arthur Murray Dance Studios offer the best training ground for those who want to learn the proper way of dancing Cha Cha. It doesn’t matter if your goal is to dance at a wedding party or compete at an International event. We want our students to dance Cha Cha like an expert and have fun in the process.
We also offer many benefits that extend way past our dance classes. Many of our students have reported better health, greater physical endurance, increased flexibility, better social relationships, more friends, and improved body awareness and posture once they started learning this dance. Not bad for a Latin Dance that’s as old as your parents and grandparents, isn’t it?
Cha Cha is waiting for you at Arthur Murray Dance Studios
Cha Cha remains one of the most endearing dances in competitions and dance halls even today. It’s simply a fun dance that evokes memories of laughter and memorable experiences enjoyed with friends. It’s also a good workout you can share with your loved ones. Why not try Cha Cha out? We look forward to your next step.