Cha Cha Technique

Cha Cha Basic Movement

See also Latin Technique for general Latin actions and technique. This section will focus more on Cha Cha specific technique.

Difference between Cha Cha and Rumba
  • In Rumba, you settle on "&" (the end of each beat).
  • In Cha Cha, you settle right away (2 3 4 & 1). Music is faster, you need to get your weight much lower much faster.
Cha Cha Basic Movement

Compress the side that has straight leg and stretch the opposite side.
  • 2: RF back, rotate hip back more, basic Latin back step.
    • Previous "1&": hold as long as possible to build energy, then quick release, sudden action.
    • Different from Rumba, tighten up weight transfer, body/spine more fwd, do not put all the weight on back foot, no time to get back.
    • LF is on ball of foot, propping body. there is quite a bit weight on front foot. Back foot heel just kisses the floor. It is ok that back heel doesn't come all the way down (to steal time).
    • Front leg accent options: either bent knees or straight leg.
    • Right side contracts/squeeze, R hip high, then, to come out of the step, twist R hip at the end to move spine forward, create space to fill.
  • 3: LF replace: Pendulum diagonally forward when RF goes from demi-pointe to pointe. Left side contracts.
    • Straighten L leg (if it were previously bent), then transferring weight forward.
    • "&": Twist left side as much as possible (hip more diagonal), squeeze left side,in the meantime shoulder feels like they twists in opposite direction - if shoulder and hip are twisting the same direction, then there is no real twisting effect, it becomes a turn.)
    • "3" is often under-danced. Finish the weight transfer, delay moving RF to last moment.
  • 4: RF to side, slightly fwd. Chasse is very tight, directly under shoulder. Use side step Latin technique.
    • Spine moves diagonally fwd as hip pendulum to diagonally right. Still doing figure 8 action. First, recreate the space at end of previous beat by twisting, then fill the space.
    • The spine is kept vertical, do not stick hip out and spine is slanted. No rib cage displacement for basic movement. Keep hip underneath the body.
    • Upper body has opposition with the hips, i.e. when R hip is diagonally fwd, make sure upper body/shoulder does not turn with hip, instead, shoulder is flat, the back is twisting in opposite direction from the hips.
  • &: LF closes to RF (sudden dynamic, sharp twisting action), on the ball of LF, not ball flat. Work L hip diagonally fwd (which increases circumference when it twists, it produces more power).
  • 1: Compress left side (so left hip is up - make sure this is happening), left shoulder down, then twist L hip (sudden dynamic, powerful) and right foot to side (connected action)
    • Make sure L shoulder doesn't come up (body height doesn't change).
    • As you transfer weight, hip comes underneath the body. Don't do step, then hip, which is disconnected. Do connected actions.
    • Also, for basic actions, there is no rib cage displacement, just move the whole spine over to RF. (Advanced dancer may explore rib cage displacement for effects.)
    • At the end, "&": hold as long as possible to build energy, then sudden dynamic to move the foot.
  • 2: LF directly go fwd, where it needs to go (steal time). Don't close LF to RF first and then out fwd. Go directly fwd.
    • Sudden, direct, sharp dynamic for leg action.
    • LF turned out. Compression, flat foot, more on the inside edge of the foot, thighs squeezing together.
    • Pendulum action, L hip pulls knee underneath, check step.
    • Cha Cha has quick sharp direct forward checked walk action. (Rumba has soft check action - Forward Checked Walk.)
  • 3: R hip is diagonally fwd (yes, fwd, it's going to go to side step.) (Previous quick check created time, use the extra time to show the hip action.)
  • 4&1: side slightly back. Chasse action.
Notes:
  • For sudden, sharp, quick dynamic, practice twisting upper body and switching knee separately, then combining them will create bigger action.
    • switching knee: knee: create the knee drape line; back standing leg is very straight, opposition with the other bent knee.
  • Make sure adding dynamic doesn't change the basic core fundamentals (like body alignment).
  • How to create time - compact, tight footwork, connected actions, sudden actions creates time, allowing bigger body actions.

Different Types of Chasses

Chasse to side

It could be either Chasse to L (described below) or Chasse to R (natural opposite).

Note: some instructors say to "stay on toes on 4 &, bend legs, legs don't straighten till 1". Hip movement: more lateral (pendulum) movement (not rotational). Other instructors think it should be continuous figure 8.

See more detailed notes earlier "Cha Cha Basic Movement".

 Step Timing Movement
 Notes
 1 4
LF to side
Ball flat, small step, knee starts to straighten
 2 &
Close RF to LF
Ball flat, Knee slight flexed
 3 1
LF to side
Ball flat, knee straight, hips to left and settle    

Compact Chasse

Danced in place. Hip and shoulder coming together (shoulder squeeze down, hip going up). Bent knee drapes over the other leg (knees cross in front). Use upper body flexibility (back is contracting).

 Step Timing Movement
 Notes
 1 4
Close LF to RF
Ball flat, L knee starts to straighten. L hip going up, L shoulder going down, Squeeze left side. Left shoulder and hip are coming together.
 2 &
Transfer weight to RF
Ball flat, R knee starts to straighten. Knees cross. L heel release from floor. R shoulder and R hip coming together, squeeze right side.
 3 1
Transfer weight to LF
Ball flat, L knee straight, hips to left

RF Forward Lock

The spine should be traveling the same direction, not zig-zagged, even though the body is turned. 

Dancing whole body:
  • Small steps. Upper body is compact, connected, but shall not be stiff, it should be soft, but not loose.
  • Do side leading. Upper body is diagonally stretched - dancing one side forward, the other side is squeezing
  • Shoulder will go down on the side that is squeezing/compressing, that is ok, it is reaction to compressing, which is different from "dropping side/shoulder".
  • Hip to maximum (rotation), squeeze side to maximum (shoulder down)
  • When foot passes from behind to in front, arch the foot (no flat foot) and draw it forward on the toe, rather than the ball of the foot, as this will accentuate the line made by the knee. In other words, have the foot pointing more strongly down to accentuate the knee line.
  • Action is continuous. Triple hip action on the locks.
 Step Timing Movement
 Notes
 2RF back Creating internal space.
 3LF replace weight
  • Step on LF fwd, filling the space, moving spine and hip diagonal pendulum (at the same time)
  • Swivel on LF and twist hip to L on "&" count to settle L hip
  • Track RF, ending R knee bent cross L leg (knee line). turn body 1/8 to left. Dancing R side fwd, squeeze L side. Maximum.
  • It's side leading, spine should not travel "off" the line.
 1 4
RF fwd
  • Ball flat, small step, R knee straight. R side leading. RF turned out. Do lock step diagonally, shoulder turns L
  • Settle R hip right away (diagonally fwd), squeeze R side. R hip high. R leg straight.
 2 &
LF behind RF (cuban cross)
Toe
  • R leg straight. L leg bent, LF lock behind RF, knees connect at the spot. Strong demi-pointe position for LF. A lot of pressure on both feet.
  • There is still small pendulum and twist figure 8 action, the action is small, but it's there. hips neutral, then prepare to push on LF.
  • End of previous "4": Twist R hip which simultaneously bring LF in. 
  • Really step on this step using ball of foot, not just toes, sharp/quick. R leg is still straight.
 3 1
RF fwd, slightly to R
Ball flat
  • Push off ball of LF (a lot of pressure), L hip rotate back even more, for a moment, with 2 heels up, twist L side, then straighten L leg, R knee will bend first before stepping RF out fwd, in the same line of travel, directly underneath the right shoulder (no zig-zag line).
  • Make sure spine does not move backward, spine stays forward
  • Two options for accent: 
    • release (bent) R knee, before straightening it and step forward. This creates the softness and highlight of actions.
    • OR, keep R leg straight the whole time.
  • Settle on R hip diagonally fwd, R hip high.
To continue with LF forward lock: on "&": swivel on RF to R 1/8, LF brushes to RF before stepping out again.


LF Backward Lock

Weight is kept more forward (do not pitch body forward, just weight more forward) on backward locks. Not as much of hip action compared with forward lock. No spaces between legs.

 Step Timing Movement
 Notes
 1 4
LF back
Toe, small step, toe turned out, L knee slight flexed. LF strongly back cross behind RF
Wrap body around the spine, hip rotate to L more, L hip high, 2 straight legs. Track the leg.
Shoulder turns L
 2 &
RF in front of LF (cuban cross)
Ball flat, (slide, small step) LF is still on toe, do not drop heel

RF slide/pull back, collect the feet, knees to the spot, 2 bent knees, but do not drop height down, try to keep same height, suck in tummy, feel like samba "tick", send R hip diagonally fwd and up (immediately)

Foot should be in clear 5th position.
 3 1
LF back, slightly to L
Ball flat, Knees straight. 2 straight legs.
R hip does a little R circle, but small, the more important part is to push on RF to step LF back on center line (do not veer off to side). Think of more "straight" back than diagonal, pull left side fwd to flatten hip a bit, which gives room to settle on L leg again.
L hip settle diagonally back (not flat hip). Finish L hip high.

Then, prepare to repeat. Left side compress, rotate to right side on "&". Repeat on right side.
  • RF backward lock would be the normal opposite.
  • Dance backward lock diagonally - shoulder of the same side of the front foot should be forward and slightly 'dipped'.

Split Cuban Break Chasse

See technique details in Cuban Breaks.

Forward or Backward Runs

Three small steps fwd or back as part of There and Back. Can be used in place of chasses in open basic. Ball flat on each step.

Forward Runs: twist the hips to make it more interesting and attractive. (Flat hips doesn't look very good.)

Ronde Chasse (Man or Lady, Silver & Gold)

 Step Timing Movement
 Notes
 2 Upper body needs to be flexible and active. not stiff.

LF fwd check (small step fwd, a bit more cross in front of RF), L side compress, L hip high.  R side body is very stretched and long.

Ball of RF shouldn't move place
 3 Weight back on RF. Keep left side compressed, L shoulder down, R leg is bent
Keep L hip high when doing ronde, LF staying on ground. Don't bend R knee more to go down in height
Ronde is from front to side. That's it. 
 1 4

Ronde starts at end of previous step.

When LF releases on 3, momentum is used to propel the left leg into the rondé. Keep left side compressed, L hip high during ronde.

LF goes from side directly under the body, across right behind RF, sharp/quick, on ball of LF, don't step too far/big from RF. There is no time. (Keep spine more in place on top of RF, not moving back and then forward.)
 2 &

RF moves to bring feet together, 2 bent knees, both heels up, height of head hasn't changed.
 3 1

push off RF, straighten both legs, pushing off inside edge of ball of RF.
Small step LF to side, settle on L hip at the end.LF flat, R heel up.

HipTwist Chasse (Man or Lady, Silver & Gold)

This is about rotation, don't do big steps. Do not move spine much.

 Step Timing Movement
 Notes
 2 RF back. 2 straight legs or optionally with bend front LF leg
 3 Weight back on LF, swivel,  L hip high, & hip twist to L, L hip is really back, RF pressed line in front of LF (but because of the strong twist, RF ends more on left side of LF, almost on same floor board), dancing R side of body more fwd (contra with L hip really back)
 1 4

Hips rotate around spine, so RF is forward in a pressed walk. Delayed walk.
RF step closer to LF, keep more in place (right next to left of LF). do not step too much fwd and to left, more rotation than side movement.
 2 &

bring LF together with RF, on balls of feet, knees bent.
 3 1

push off LF to step to side on RF. Finish hip.

Slip Chasse (Man, Silver & Gold)

 Step Timing Movement
 Notes
 1 4

Previous 23, check step. Then, LF back
 2 &

RF slip back
 3 1

LF closes to RF, push RF to side

Runaway Chasse (Lady, Gold)

 Step Timing Movement
 Notes
 1 4

LF fwd, small step, Turn 1/8 left. Left knee straight, hips neutral.
 2 &

RF fwd (Pressed fwd walk), hips to left
 3 1

Turn 1/2 to right to end LF back and slightly to side in Fan or Open Position. Both knees straight, hips to left.

Styling

  • Starting Cha Cha:
    • Lady could put her hands high on waist (fingers apart). This makes her appear to have a short torso, narrow waist, and long legs.
  • One complete arm movement example
    • Previous "1": L arm out to side.
    • "2": Left hand comes to center, out in front of body. 
    • "3": Flip left hand to be palm up, across front body.
    • "4": Normally, straight up on side of body and keep it there. When getting into Fan, let arm stay and sharply go out at "1".
    • Need to emphasize the step on 1. That is the photo step.

Videos