Cha Cha

The Cha-Cha adds fun to your dancing through it’s syncopated steps, many open movements and interesting combinations. You and your partner will be able to feel the pulsating upbeat latin rhythms which make this dance so exciting. Chacha is a dance you will be able to use often and its energetic rhythm encourages you to cut loose and let your personality show.

Teaching Elements:

  • Cha Cha Breaks–Concentrate on combinations and variations
  • Appearance in Shine Positions–Open leads, self expression, arms, and hands
  • Quick Footwork (syncopations)–Build staccato footwork & syncopated movement
  • Cha Cha Turns–Develop momentum control, weight off heels
  • Variety (Interrelation)–Add variety by adapting patterns from related dances
  • Amalgamations–Stress importance of combinations
  • Compare/Contrast–Rumba, Mambo, Salsa, Swing


The Cha Cha was actually created from the Mambo, when the Latin bands toured America in the early 1950’s. Orchestras began playing some Mambo songs slower, as the Mambo was often played extremely up-tempo [put on “Mambo Jambo” and try dancing to it!]. The slowness of this new Mambo allowed for improvisations. A modern variant on this theme is sometimes danced in Latin clubs today and referred to as “Mambo-Cha” with added hip actions in the slower part of the step pattern. Another early innovation was the addition of a ‘triple step’, a series of three steps, instead of the usual one step only, to fill the left over time. It is for this reason that this new dance form was originally called “Triple Mambo” or sometimes “Double Mambo”. This innovation proved to be so popular that it ended up spawning an entirely new dance craze and came to be known as the Cha Cha or the Cha Cha Cha.

Cha Cha is said to have been actually invented by Enrique Jorrin, a Cuban violinist, in 1954. Jorrin slowed down the mambo beat and made several recordings of this including “La EngaƱadora”, quite possibly the very first Cha Cha song. The sound of the Cha Cha is said to be the origin of the name — the steps making a sound on the floor that resembles “cha-cha-cha”.
Prado Perez and his Orchestra was one of the most famous bands of the 50’s to tour North America and ensured that the Cha Cha was going to be permanently ingrained in North American culture. Cha Cha continued to enjoy a certain popularity through to the present day and has always been a favorite dance in ballroom dance studios and clubs.
Cha Cha exists in the American Style and the International Style where they are both danced in competition in their respective divisions.

The Cha Cha remains as quite possibly the most popular Latin-based dance in North America today. Parts of its rhythm can be heard in the work of many musical artists of varying genres, making Cha Cha an extremely useful dance to know for anyone wanting to get out on the floor.


Cha Cha music originally arose from Mambo music [see Mambo for more detail]. Cha Cha music is written in 4/4 time and may be played over a wide range of tempos. Often in Cha Cha music, a rhythmical link can be heard between each measure resulting in an overall rhythm of “1, 2, 3, 4 &” repeated.

The recommended tempo range for the American Style Cha Cha is 28 to 30 bpm (bars per minute) while for the International Cha Cha Cha a slightly faster 32 bpm.

Cha Cha can also be adapted to much of the modern ‘disco’ style music and pop music with a strong 4/4 phrasing and heavier emphasis on the first and third counts, especially those with a Latin sound and feel.


Triple steps (chasses, travelling triple steps, or locks) and rock steps are the basic components of the Cha Cha. Cuban Motion is an important aspect of this dance at a more advanced level.

Because this dance is derived from Mambo, dancing it with the rocking steps on the ‘2’ count in the music continues to be considered correct. The timing of the dance using this concept becomes, using the actual counts in the music: 1,2,3,4&. This gives it an entirely different musical interpretation than counting it 1,2,cha-cha-cha — and usually only the most beginner dancers will count Cha Cha this way. Arthur Murray himself is credited with creating the design for this timing. From the book “My Husband” by Katherine Murray:

At first we taught it by counting out “one-two-cha-cha-cha.” This worked in practice but was impossible to diagram; it looked like five beats to a measure. Arthur retired into his office with the problem and after two hours emerged with a solution. He changed the name of the dance to cha-cha and the count to one-two-three-cha-cha. The two “cha-chas” are said very quickly, making one beat, or a total of four beats to the measure.
American Style Cha Cha is usually danced slightly slower than its International Style counterpart with a very slightly “delayed” action when moving over the supporting leg, allowing for a more continuously rhythmical interpretation.

Cha Cha’s syncopated rhythm is adapatable to many modern pop and dance songs. Today’s Cha Cha is very exciting to dance, and to watch, featuring fast footwork, lots of rotation, and exciting patterns. At it’s highest level it has tremendous speed, sharp leg actions and a playful, flirtatious personality.

Cha Cha songs and artists include:

  • Oye Como Va – Tito Puente
  • Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White – Perez “Prez” Prado and His Orchestra
  • Black Magic Woman – Santana
  • Bang Bang – David Sanborn
  • Jezabel – Ricky Martin
  • Smooth – Santana (featuring Rob Thomas)
  • Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke