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Rhythmic Step Pattern for Cha-Cha

This is an excerpt from Social Dance-3rd Edition by Judy Wright.

Rhythmic Step Pattern for Cha-Cha

The rhythmic step pattern for cha-cha combines a break step (two weight changes in two counts to execute a change of direction that propels the body in a new direction on each step) with a triple step (three weight changes in two counts) that is executed twice for a total of eight counts. The break step is an agility move that alternates a forward-to-backward or a backward-to-forward direction change. The triple step is called the cha-cha-cha steps. The downbeat in cha-cha music occurs on count 1, or the first beat of each four-beat measure, while the break step occurs on counts 2, 3. The styling of breaking on count two fits the music best, which changed in the 1980s. A common way to count the cha-cha rhythmic step pattern starts with the break step as follows: 2, 3, 4, &-1. Because it takes two measures, or eight counts, and two repetitions of the cha-cha rhythmic step pattern before your starting foot is free again, you may count each measure using the cues 2, 3, 4-&-1; 2, 3, 4-&-1. Or, alternatively, you may count two measures of music together as follows: 2, 3, 4, &-5, 6, 7, 8, &-1 which places the forward break step and replace step on counts 2, 3, and the backward break step and replace step on counts 6, 7. Either method of counting the two measures is acceptable.


The cha-cha-cha steps (triple step) may be executed while traveling to either the right or the left side or in a forward or in a backward direction. When you move to the side, you are following an H-shaped floor path (see figure 11.1). This floor path is very versatile for sideward travel and offers many variation options. Thus, the basic H floor path is considered home base for executing the cha-cha rhythmic step pattern. Come back to the basic H floor path after doing selected cha-cha variations that will be covered in the drills.

Both partners execute the cha-cha rhythmic step pattern by splitting it into two halves defined by the direction of the break steps: a forward half basic includes a forward break step, and a backward half basic includes a backward break step. The follower does the mirror reverse. For example, when the leader is breaking forward, then the follower is breaking backward. And, when the leader travels to his left side on the cha-cha-cha steps, the follower is executing them to her right side, and vice versa. Each direction for the break step is described separately. Each half basic takes one measure.


Forward Half Basic

Your left foot should be free to initiate the forward break portion of the cha-cha rhythmic step pattern that completes half of the basic H floor path. For the first weight change on count 2, place your left foot forward and shift your weight onto that foot. For the second weight change on count 3, shift your weight back onto your right foot using a replace step by lifting and lowering that foot in its original location. Throughout the break step weight changes, keep your upper torso centered above both feet, rather than letting your upper torso move beyond your base of support. Your left foot is now free to execute a triple step (stepping left, right, left) on counts 4-&-1 as you move either to your left side, or backward, on the cha-cha-cha steps.


Backward Half Basic

Your right foot should be free to initiate the backward break portion of the cha-cha rhythmic step pattern that completes half of the basic H-shaped floor path. For the first weight change on count 2, place the ball of your right foot slightly behind the heel of your left foot and transfer your weight onto only the ball of your right foot yet place your whole foot on the floor as you slightly lift your left foot off the floor. On the second weight change on count 3, transfer your weight forward onto your left foot, replacing your weight and keeping that foot in its original location. As you execute the backward break step, you need to keep your upper torso centered above both feet, much like an agility drill so that you can quickly shift your weight, or like marching in place. Now your right foot is free to execute a triple step (right, left, right) on counts 4-&-1 as you move either to your right side, or forward, on the cha-cha-cha steps.


The rhythmic step pattern for the cha-cha may be initiated from a shine position, a one- or two-hands-joined position, or a closed position. Figure 11.2 shows various ways that you might organize the counts and footwork for repeating the eight-count cha-cha rhythmic step pattern. Some cues will be more helpful to you than others. Select those cues that most help you retain how to execute each half of the rhythmic step pattern whether traveling to the side, or alternating forward and backward, on the triple step. Notice that the forward half basic always starts with your left foot (and a forward break), while the backward half basic always starts with your right foot (and a backward break).


Learn more about Social Dance.