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Cha Cha has the distinction of being one of the most dominant "pop" rhythms of

the last 40 to 50 years and is characterized as having an upbeat, infectious rhythm,

which creates a sense of playfulness and flirtation. The Cha Cha is said to be a
combination of the Mambo and the American Swing.

Cha Cha is a Cuban innovation of the old Latin form (danson). Originally known as
the Cha-Cha-Cha the Cha Cha became popular about 1954. Cha Cha is an off-shoot
of the Latin dance 'Mambo'. In the slow Mambo tempo, there is a distinct sound in
the music that people began dancing to, calling the step the "Triple" Mambo.
Eventually it evolved into a separate dance, today known as the Cha Cha.

The dance consists of three quick steps (triple step or Cha Cha Cha) and two slower
steps on the one beat and two beat. The Cha Cha Cha is in 4/4 time with the rhythm
being counted as 2 3 4 & 1, the '4 & 1' are recognized as being the familiar Cha Cha
Cha triple. Note that the last beat of the triple is the first beat of the next bar.

Cha Cha's continued popularity can be heard in the music of Ricky Martin, Marc
Anthony and Carlos Santana.

Cha-cha rhythm
In the early 1950s, Enrique Jorrn worked as a violinist and composer with the
charanga group Orquesta Amrica. The group performed at dance halls in Havana
where they played danzn, danzonete, and danzon-mambo for dance-orientated
crowds. Jorrn noticed that many of the dancers at these gigs had difficulty with the
syncopated rhythms of the danzn-mambo. To make his music more appealing to
dancers, Jorrn began composing songs where the melody was marked strongly on
the first downbeat and the rhythm was less syncopated.[4] When Orquesta Amrica
performed these new compositions at the Silver Star Club in Havana, it was noticed
that the dancers had improvised a triple step in their footwork producing the sound
"cha-cha-cha". Thus, the new style came to be known as "cha-cha-ch" and became
associated with a dance where dancers perform a triple step.[5]

The basic footwork pattern of cha-cha-ch (one-two-cha-cha-cha) is also found in

several Afro-Cuban dances from the Santera religion. For example, one of the steps
used in the dance for the orisha Ogun uses an identical footwork pattern. These

Afro-Cuban dances predate the development of cha-cha-ch and were known by

many Cubans in the 1950s, especially those of African origin.[6] Thus, some[who?]
have speculated that the footwork of the cha-cha-ch was inspired by these AfroCuban dances.[7]

In 1953 Orquesta Amrica released two of Jorrins new compositions, "La

Engaadora" and "Silver Star", on the Cuban record label Panart. These were the
first cha-cha-ch compositions ever recorded. They immediately became hits in
Havana, and other Cuban charanga orchestras quickly imitated this new style. Soon,
there was a cha-cha-ch craze in Havanas dance halls, popularizing both the music
and the associated dance. This craze soon spread to Mexico City, and by 1955 the
music and dance of the cha-cha-ch had become popular in Latin America, the
United States, and Western Europe, following in the footsteps of the mambo, which
had been a worldwide craze a few years earlier.[8]

Cha-cha-ch is danced to authentic Cuban music, although in ballroom competitions
it is often danced to Latin Pop or Latin Rock. The music for the international
ballroom cha-cha-ch is energetic and with a steady beat. The Cuban cha-cha-ch is
more sensual and may involve complex polyrhythms.

File:Dance reedit 2.webm

Video of dancer Mimi Tse doing the cha cha with partner
Styles of cha-cha-ch dance may differ in the place of the chasse in the rhythmical
structure.[9] The original Cuban and the ballroom cha-cha count is "two, three,
chachacha", "four-and-one, two, three" or "one, two, three, chacha". The dance
does not start on the first beat of a bar, though it can start with a transfer of weight
to the lead's right.[10]

Nevertheless, many social dancers count "one, two, cha-cha-cha" and may find it
difficult to make the adjustment to the correct timing of the dance, "two, three, chacha, one".

Basic step of cha-cha-ch[edit]

The basic pattern involves the lead (usually the man) taking a checked forward step
with the left foot, retaining some weight on the right foot. The knee of the right leg
must stay straight and close to the back of the left knee, the left leg having
straightened just prior to receiving part weight. This step is taken on the second

beat of the bar. Full weight is returned to the right leg on the second step (beat

The fourth beat is split in two so the count of the next three steps is 4-and-1. These
three steps constitute the cha-cha chasse. A step to the side is taken with the left
foot, the right foot is half closed towards the left foot (typically leaving both feet
under the hips or perhaps closed together), and finally there is a last step to the left
with the left foot. The length of the steps in the chasse depends very much on the
effect the dancer is attempting to make.[10]

The partner takes a step back on the right foot, the knee being straightened as full
weight is taken. The other leg is allowed to remain straight. It is possible it will shoot
slightly but no deliberate flexing of the free leg is attempted. This is quite different
from technique associated with salsa, for instance. On the next beat (beat three)
weight is returned to the left leg. Then a chasse is danced RLR.

Each partner is now in a position to dance the bar their partner just danced. Hence
the fundamental construction of Cha-cha extends over two bars.

The checked first step is a later development in the "international cha-cha" style.
Because of the action used during the forward step (the one taking only part
weight) the basic pattern turns left, whereas in earlier times Cha-cha was danced
without rotation of the alignment. Hip actions are allowed to occur at the end of
every step. For steps taking a single beat the first half of the beat constitutes the
foot movement and the second half is taken up by the hip movement. The hip sway
eliminates any increase in height as the feet are brought towards each other. In
general, steps in all directions should be taken first with the ball of the foot in
contact with the floor, and then with the heel lowering when the weight is fully
transferred; however, some steps require that the heel remain lifted from the floor.
When weight is released from a foot, the heel should release from the floor first,
allowing the toe to maintain contact with the floor.

Hip movement[edit]

A young girl dancing cha-cha-ch The girl moves her hips while holding the torso
relatively still.
In traditional American Rhythm style, Latin hip movement is achieved through the
alternate bending and straightening action of the knees, though in modern

competitive dancing, the technique is virtually identical to the "international Latin"


In the international Latin style, the weighted leg is almost always straight. The free
leg will bend, allowing the hips to naturally settle into the direction of the weighted
leg. As a step is taken, a free leg will straighten the instant before it receives
weight. It should then remain straight until it is completely free of weight again.

International Latin style cha-cha[edit]

Cha-cha is one of the five dances of the "Latin American" program of international
ballroom competitions.

As described above, the basis of the modern dance was laid down in the 1950s by
Pierre & Lavelle[11] and developed in the 1960s by Walter Laird and other top
competitors of the time. The basic steps taught to learners today are based on
these accounts.

In general, steps are kept compact and the dance is danced generally without any
rise and fall. The modern ballroom technique of Cha-cha (and other ballroom
dances) does undergo gradual evolution, particularly in competition dancing, but in
essence is still firmly based on its Cuban origin in the 1950s.

You can call it Cha-Cha or Cha-Cha-Cha. The likelihood is that only professional
ballroom dancers really care (I call it Cha-Cha simply because it is quicker to say).
Without a doubt though Cha-Cha is the one Latin dance rhythm that has been
integrated into more American pop music than any other.

When you try to research its origins, you get a few different stories that do sort of
tie in together.

One person who undeniably had a lot to do with it was a Cuban violinist named
Enrique Jorrin. In 1954, while a member of the Orquesta America Charanga, he

made several recordings wherein he slowed down the orchestras mambo beat
because several ladies had complained it was too fast.

It turned out many people liked it. The orchestra continued to play and promote the
new dance and by 1959 people all over America were ga-ga over the Cha-Cha and
it was said to be the one of the most popular latin dances in America. It later
incorporated many rock and roll attributes as well as became a common theme
sound in commercials and showslike I love Lucy, Tea for TwoIm sure you
may have heard others.

This orchestra came from Cuba and they claimed that when Cuban ladies danced,
their heels smacked the floor making a sound that was later described as Cha-Cha.

Sounds plausible doesnt it?

Cha-Cha Explanation

Another explanation Ive heard is that the name Cha-Cha first popped up in Haiti
where it was the name of an instrument used to keep time. This is the instrument
that later became the guijro which is used in all latin percussion ensembles today.
One of my favorites too!

The instrument originally was made from a plant in Haiti that has seedpods called
Cha-Cha. Locals made small rattles from them known as Cha-Cha and the music
was played by Voodoo bands (really! Im not making this up!). The leader of the
band used the Cha-Cha as a metronome to keep the group in rhythm.

So.I think that it might be that the guys in the band who coined the term ChaCha had already heard the sound made by this bean instrument. Sounds possible
too, doesnt it?

Anyway.the dance became very popular in America and even today it is one of
the five top Latin American dances in professional ballroom competitions.

The modern style of dancing cha-cha comes from a dance teacher named Monsieur
Pierre Zurcher-Margolle. He brought it back to England from a trip to Cuba in l952.

Dancers found the rhythm and the music very infectious and this is probably how it
got into the area of popular social and professional competition dancing.

Cha-Cha Is Unique

There are a few things that are very unique about Cha-Cha. First of all The hip
movement and staccato footwork. It is very, very latin, sexy and sensual. Its
unique rhythm and sound is considered very flirty, infectious and upbeatalthough
it can also sound very nice slowed down. It is a really fun dance and it can really
distinguish you on the dance floor.

Nowadays, in the salsa clubs, you really dont hear too much Cha-Cha. Certainly
not as much as Id like. Of all the latin street dances.Cha-Cha seems to be the
hardest to learn as many find learning the beats to be a challenge.

Finally, if you want some Cha-Cha trivia.In 1958 at age18, Bruce Lee won the
Hong Kong Crown Colony Cha-Cha Championship.