Phil Seyer is available for private or group dance lessons in Sacramento and Roseville.

You may reach Phil at 916-772-7555. Or send him email.

See also www.lovemusiclovedance.com

NOTE: The best way to learn cha-cha is from a good teacher, but instructional videos can help you get more out of lessons from a live instructor..

Dance Teacher Vicki Regan has prepared a series of tapes that are specially good for beginners. (see the Amazon link above) Vick breaks down the steps and makes it easy to learn the basics of cha-cha (or is it cha-cha-cha?)

One user of Vicki's tape wrote:

I watched this tape [You can Dance Cha-cha] after taking about 4 hours of private lessons on Cha-Cha. It helped me better understand the basics of the Cha-Cha. I also have a "You Can Dance: Mambo" tape by Vicki Regan. On both tapes, her insturction is well planned and structured for a beginner. Steps are explained and demonstrated clearly. If one's intention is to learn the fundamentals and go out and dance, the tape is very helpful. However, there is not much help on styling and details of the dance. Therfore, for improving on the dance you either need to take classes or wait for the advanced version of the tape - if it ever becomes available.

 

 

Cha-cha
Dance history, dance instructional resources
Phil Seyer Copyright 2003
If you'd like to quote from this article, please link to site.

Click here for a cha-cha dance instruction video

A Lesson on Cha-cha

Cha-cha-cha is a fast Latin dance. Arthur Murray who helped to poplarlize ballroom dancing in American, renamed it "cha-cha" in the 1950's probably to emphasize that there are two quick steps in the basic pattern, not three. The name cha-cha seems to have stuck and is more popular than cha-cha-cha.

Dance instructor Ken Delmar reports that his master Latin teachers prefer the original name, Cha-Cha-Cha. (Note that the final cha is held longer than the previous cha's.) On this page I'll use cha-cha and cha-cha-cha interchangeably. I hope Ken forgives me. Since Cha-cha is more popular, I'll favor that term.

With Latin music, we dance cha-cha to the rhythm TWO three FOUR AND one.

Latin dancers start by breaking forward with the left foot, starting on beat two of the music.

Some well-meaning ballroom dance teachers (who are used to starting on beat one in the older ballroom dances) insist on teaching students to step to the side on the beat one. This works, but it is not the authentic Latin way. Some how instructor Arthur Murray who was well-versed in traditional Waltz and Foxtrot missed this point when studying cha-cha. He trained his German instructors to count crisply:

"Ein, Zwei, Drei, cha-cha!" (one, two, three, cha-cha)

Why do Latin dancers skip beat one and start by stepping forward on beat two in cha-cha? Because beats two is heavily accented and it feels more natural to start with the strongly accented beat. .

Note that the cha-cha arrives on beat four. Beat four is split into two parts and dancers need to take two quick steps. Often (but not always) these steps are side-together-side. This is called a sashay step.

NOTE: Some dance teachers confuse splitting the beat with syncopation. Splitting the beat in this way is not syncopation. For details on syncopation, you may want to see Syncopation in Dance & Music

The sashay step involves three steps side, together side. The side, together, side step is the cha-cha-cha. This table summarizes these ideas.

The Sashay Step in Cha-Cha-Cha

Name: cha cha cha
Sashay: side together side
Quick/Slow: quick quick slow
Musical Count: four and one

Again, notice how the third cha is different from the rest because it is danced with a slow step.

Some say that salsa (or mambo which is similar to salsa) came first and that cha-cha evolved from salsa. That could be. Salsa is similar to cha-cha, but it just doesn't have the cha-cha-cha rhythm or step.

Tips for perfecting cha-cha styling.

Here are some tips for more experienced dancers. When perfecting your cha-cha, you may want to concentrate on bringing your feet completely together when doing the sashay step. It looks musch better then a simple undiciplined quick quick step. If you are taking a lesson and you already know the step the teacher is teaching, don't act bored. Instead focus on perfecting your style and bringing your feet together on the quick, quick. Another thing to work on is a sharp accent on beat two when doing a cross-over break. To achieve this accent, hold back before pivoting into the cross-over break; then suddenly pivot so you land on beat two just-in-time.. WIf you watach competivive dancers you'll notice this sharp movement. That's how they do it.

Another thing to work on is "cuban" hip motion. That will give your cha-cha a very sexy look. (You can also consciously use Cuban hip motion for fun when you want to get noticed. Be careful, though, be subtle about it!)

Cuban hip motion is tough for American's to learn and requires a lot of explanation and practice. In short, though, the idea is to always step with a bent leg. When you step forward, the leg that is stepping should at first be bent and the other leg straight. When a leg is straight, the hip above that leg should be allowed to extend outward. This will result in the right hip extending out to the right when you first step with your left foot. As you step with your left foot, step onto the ball of the foot. Then as you allow the heel to hit the floor, put weight onto the foot and allow the left hip to go out to the left as your left leg straigtens.

See. I told you it was tough. In a future lesson, I'll teach this in greater detail and help you master the basics of Cuban hip motion.

Splitting of the beat -- the Cha-cha

NOTE: As I mentioned earlier, the cha-cha happens when beat four of the music is split into two quick steps. Some dance teachers incorrectly refer to the splitting of the beat as syncopation. However, I've noticed that this incorrect usage of the term syncopation has diminished since the publication of Syncopation In Dance and Music.

Starting the Dance

I like dancing cha-cha to real Latin music which has a characteristic syncopated accent on beat two of the music. That's why I prefer to start the dance with a quick step forward on beat two (holding beat one),

As a follower, it is important to realize that some leaders will start on beat one with a step to the left, some, more sophisticated dancers will hold beat one and step foward on beat two.

An Exception

Some popular American music that people like to dance cha-cha to has a heavy accent on beat one. It is not true cha-cha rhythm, but it does have the quick-quick-slow beat so it works with the cha-cha-cha dance. But in this case the musical count is:

One Two Three and Four
Slow Slow Quick Quick Slow

When dancing to this music, experienced leaders break forward on beat one since that is where the strong accent is.

This explains why some dance schools teach one-two-three and four , while others teach two three four and one, while still others teach one two, three and four.

The count doesn't really matter so much, though. What matters is that as a leader, you break forward on the strong beat and as a follower you step back on that strong beat.

To add to the confusion Some people count cha-cha as: One, two, three-four five. That's OK as long as you realize you are counting steps, not musical beats.

Hope you've enjoyed this lesson.on cha-cha. Please let me know your thoughts. You can do that by visiting my music and dance webboard, which you can find at

Love Music Love Dance Web Discussion Board

Have fun with cha-cha!