BASIC CHA CHA STEPS FOR PARTNERSHIP DANCING

by Dance Instructors Barbara Bernstein and Michele Kearney


     Below is a description of some basic Cha Cha steps for partnership dancing. If you are not confident of your timing and want to be sure you are practicing correctly, you can get a CD titled "Rhythm Reminder." It has Cha Cha music with a voice over that calls out the steps for dancers in the correct timing. Then the same music is repeated without the voice over so you can practice keeping time without that assistance. More information on this CD is available by clicking here.

     The rhythm of this dance bears a relationship to Salsa. To get from Salsa to Cha Cha, you can replace the "slow" step of Salsa with the three quick steps. So Cha Cha music is essentially like very slow Salsa music. Since it's slower, there is time for all the three steps in place of one "slow" step.   However, you will note that on the chart below that describes the steps, we count "One, Two, Three, Cha Cha."  This is an alternate way of counting the dance which has its own logic.  Counted this way, the one, two and three are even in time and the two cha's are shorter and also equal in time to each other. 

     Here are some helpful hints for dance practice. First, you should lift your foot slightly off the ground as you step onto the other foot.  What you want to avoid is putting your foot down to take a step without actually shifting your weight to that foot. The way to be sure you have shifted your weight onto one foot is to lift the other foot slightly off the ground.

      Your steps are done by alternating which foot you are stepping onto---the right then the left, then the right, then the left, etc. I mention this because I know from experience that beginning dancers sometimes make the mistake of taking two steps in a row with the same foot. So as you practice, keep an eye out to be sure you are switching which foot you step onto continuously.

     It is a great help for dancers who are first learning to take very small steps. Any imperfection in your rhythm or how your weight is centered, etc. tends to be minimized if the steps are very small. Larger steps can make it hard to be "on time" when the music is fast.

     As you learn increasingly complex moves, there will be some exceptions to this rule where a large step is needed. But for beginners, you can't go wrong with small steps. Once you gain an understanding of and comfort with these moves, you can take larger steps if so inclined.

     I have one quick funny story regarding Cha Cha to share with you. I once did a show for the embassy of a country where Cha Cha was a common dance. The minister of the embassy asked me why Americans call the dance "Cha Cha" instead of "Cha Cha Cha" (as they do in his country). It was an excellent question that kind of threw me. Go figure!

Basic Step  

The man's footwork is:
 
Step left with left foot   (One)
Step back with right foot   (Two)
Step in place on left foot   (Three)
Step right with right foot   (Cha)
Close left foot to right foot   (Cha)
Step right with right foot   (One)
Step forward with left foot   (Two)
Step in place with right foot   (Three)
Step left with left foot   (Cha)
Close right foot to left foot   (Cha)

The woman's footwork is:
   
Step right with right foot   (One)
Step forward with left foot   (Two)
Step in place with right foot   (Three)
Step left with left foot   (Cha)
Close right foot to left foot   (Cha)
Step left with left foot   (One)
Step back with right foot   (Two)
Step in place with left foot   (Three)
Step right with right foot   (Cha)
Close left foot to right foot   (Cha)

Open Break with Underarm Turn
   


Man's footwork
   

Step left with left foot   (One)
Step back with right foot   (Two)
Step in place on left foot   (Three)
Step right with right foot   (Cha)
Close left foot to right foot   (Cha)
Step right with right foot   (One)
Step back with left foot
(He leads the woman back away from him with his left hand)
  (Two)
Step in place with right foot   (Three)
Step left with left foot   (Cha)
Close right foot to left foot   (Cha)
Step left with left foot
(Raise left arm to prepare woman for turn)
  (One)
Step back with right foot   (Two)
Step in place on left foot
(During the two steps above, he leads the woman to turn to her right)
  (Three)
Step right with right foot
(Your partner is now facing you again)
  (Cha)
Close left foot to right foot   (Cha)
Step right with right foot   (One)
Step forward with left foot   (Two)
Step in place with right foot   (Three)
Step left with left foot   (Cha)
Close right foot to left foot   (Cha)

Woman's footwork:
   

Step right with right foot   (One)
Step forward with left foot   (Two)
Step right in place   (Three)
Step left with left foot   (Cha)
Close right foot to left foot   (Cha)
Step left with left foot   (One)
Step back with right foot
(The man will be pushing you back away from him)
  (Two)
Step in place with left foot   (Three)
Step right with right foot   (Cha)
Close left foot to right foot   (Cha)
Step right with right foot
(The man will raise your right arm now to prepare for a turn to the right)
  (One)
Step across on left foot in front & to the right of right foot   (Two)
Step on right foot in place but turn 180 degrees first   (Three)
Turn another 180 degrees & then step left onto left foot
(The above three steps complete a 360 degree turn and you are facing the man)
  (Cha)
Close right foot to left foot   (Cha)
Step left with left foot   (One)
Step back with right foot   (Two)
Step in place with left foot   (Three)
Step right with right foot   (Cha)
Close left foot to right foot   (Cha)
 

Copyright Barbara Bernstein of DanceInTime.com, 2005