Cha Cha Technique


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).
    • Right side contracts/squeeze, R hip high, then, to come out of the step, twist R hip at the end to move spine forward.
    • Front leg accent options: either bent knees or straight leg.
  • 3: LF replace: Pendulum diagonally forward when RF goes from demi-pointe to pointe. Left side contracts.
    • End of previous step "&": R hip twist to R, move spine forward, create space to fill, LF ankle below knee.
    • Then, on "3": simply straighten L leg (if it were previously bent), then transferring weight forward.
    • "&": Twist left side as much as possible (hip more diagonal), in the meantime keep shoulders flat (as a matter of fact, it feels like shoulder 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, it is not correct to 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 happens on "&".
    • 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.
  • For sudden, sharp, quick dynamic, practice twisting upper body and switching knee separately, then combining them will create bigger action.
    • Practice: putting hands on hip, you should see the hands go up and down when pendulum action is happening.
  • 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.

Three Cha Cha's Forward (Forward Lock)

The spine should be traveling the same direction, not zig-zagged, even though the body is turned. Do side leading. Continuous actions. Triple hip action on the locks.
  • "2": RF back, creating internal space.
  • "3": step on LF fwd, filling the space, moving spine and hip diagonal pendulum (at the same time)
    • end of "3" on "&" count, twist L hip and swivel on LF, turn body (with shoulder) 1/8 to left. Track RF. 
    • All the actions should be present: the diagonal pendulum action on "3", then both swivel action, as well as twist on "&" count.
    • The left side is dancing "forward", i.e. rib cage is dancing the opposite of the hips. Actually, it is not moving forward, but it "maintains" the place in space, and it feels like dancing forward, energy is forward. This is really important when there is a partner in front of you.
    • It's side leading, spine should not travel "off" the line.
  • "4": RF forward in Latin cross position. (Left side compress.) Side leading. RF turned out. Weight transfer: split, whole foot, to front of RF.
    • At the very end, hip diagonal pendulum, twist R hip which simultaneously bring LF in for next step.
  • "&": LF lock behind RF, knees connect at the spot.
    • Strong demi-pointe position for LF. R knee flexed (could have straight leg). A lot of pressure on both feet.
    • There is still small pendulum and twist action, the action is small, but it's there
  • "1": Push off ball of LF (a lot of pressure), RF forward, in the same line of travel, directly underneath the right shoulder (no zig-zag line).
    • Heel of back foot LF is not down, twist L side, L leg becomes straight, very strong, R knee flexed.
      • make sure spine does not move backward, spine stays forward, heel of RF off floor.
      • Syncopation steps "&": heel don't drop to floor, it may kiss the floor, but not fully down.
    • Two options for accent: release (bend) R knee, before straightening it and step forward. OR, keep R leg straight the whole time.
      • The release (bent knee) creates the softness and highlight of actions.
    • After stepping, the body is rotating to be flat and square to front, hip diagonal pendulum, spine goes to whole foot, then front of the foot. On "&", swivel to the right 1/8. Track LF. Repeat.

Three Cha Cha's Backward (Backward Lock)

Weight is kept more forward (do not pitch body forward, just weight more forward) on backward locks. Hip action is lateral, not as much of hip action compared with forward lock. No spaces between legs.
  • "2": LF fwd
  • "3": Transfer weight to RF (back foot)
    • "&": Rotate left hip back, wrap around through core, (not the swiveling action as in forward locks).
    • Track LF
  • "4": LF step back, Latin Cross, no spaces between legs. Track the leg.
    • Strong cross position, do not step too big backward.
    • Wrap body around the spine.
  • "&": RF slide back, collect the feet, knees to the spot, both knees bent (some people use straight front leg).
    • Make sure foot is not all tangled up. It should be in clear 5th position. Toe of back LF should be pointing to heel of front RF.
    • Make sure body height doesn't change.
    • R hip diagonally forward, then press into the front RF for next step.
  • "1": LF step back on center line (do not veer off to side), in the meantime, body starts to turn to right to rotate through.
    • Then, hip/body is flat, square. Left side compress, rotate to right side on "&". Repeat on right side.

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
 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
 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

 Step Timing Movement
 1 4
RF fwd
Ball flat, small step, R knee straight. Also do lock step diagonally, shoulder turns L.
 2 &
LF behind RF (cuban cross)
Toe, hips neutral. Really step on this step using ball of foot, not just toes, sharp/quick. R leg is still straight. Instructor wants people to make a sound when stepping.
 3 1
RF fwd, slightly to R
Think about pushing off the back foot (LF) to make RF fwd, L hip rotate back.
Ball flat, Knees straight, settling will bring hip to turn R, continue with LF forward lock (turning hips and shoulder to R).
  • LF Forward would be the normal opposite.
  • When continuing with LF forward lock after RF forward lock, LF brushes to RF before stepping diagonally out again.

LF Backward Lock

 Step Timing Movement
 1 4
LF back
Toe, small step, toe turned out, L knee slight flexed. R toe should be pointing, 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
 3 1
LF back, slightly to L
Ball flat, Knees straight. 
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.
  • 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'.
  • Some instructors say: legs are straight for all 3 steps in back lock.

Split Cuban Break Chasse

 Step Timing Movement
 1 4
RF fwd, across toe turned out
small step, R knee straight, L knee slightly flexed
opposite side shoulder forward;
upper body lifted, light.
 2 &
Replace weight to LF

 3 1
RF to side
R knee straight, hips to R.

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
 1 4

when left foot releases on 3, momentum is used to propel the left leg into the rondé. Compress left side.
the foot lands under the body, straight leg, on the ball of the foot.
 2 &

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

push off RF, straighten both legs, pushing off inside edge of ball of RF.

HipTwist Chasse (Man or Lady, Silver & Gold)

 Step Timing Movement
 1 4

hips rotate around spine, so RF is forward in a pressed walk. Delayed walk.
 2 &

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

push off LF to step to side on RF.

Slip Chasse (Man, Silver & Gold)

 Step Timing Movement
 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
 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.


  • 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.
  • Complete arm movements:
    • "2": Left hand comes to center, out in front of body. (It was out to side at previous "1"). 
    • "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.