How To Dance The Cha Cha Cha In Ballroom Dancing

The cha cha cha is my favourite in ballroom dancing right now. I love the music, speed and expression of this dance. I love the way that we can combine the cha cha with the rumba in one song.

As far as I can see the footwork and technique of the cha cha dance are the same as the rumba. We take small-sized steps with turned out feet and legs. I have been taught to stand tall and lean forward slightly, so the whole time I feel like that I might fall over face first.

Basic Cha Cha Dance Steps

This video shows the basic Cha Cha Cha steps:

What To Do With Our Feet

Basically, we step with the ball of our foot in contact with the floor, and then we lower our heel until the weight is fully transferred. When we take the weight from a foot, the heel comes up from the floor first, allowing our toe to maintain contact with the floor.

I find it really helps to count out in a strong voice the steps: “1-2-3-cha-cha-1-2-3-cha-cha” or “1-2-3-4-and-1-2-3-4-and”. The latter counting is better as I have found it helps learn more complicated patterns later on.

Welcome To Your Hips: The Cuban Motion

The cha cha requires a lot of hip motion. This is how dancers make it expressive. Now that we have learned the basic steps, we now need to focus on the action of the Cuban motion.

Keep in mind that in latin dances, it’s not really about the steps; it is about how we move.

Cuban motion comes from the alternate bending and straightening of our knees. As a knee bends, the same hip drops. As we straighten a knee, the same hip rises. Automatically, our hips move up and down. It is vital that we make sure that we don’t twist the hips in an effort to achieve Cuban motion. If the cuban motion is new for you gentlemen: welcome to your hips!

This video shows how to do the cuban motion:

Music for Cha Cha Cha

The cha cha requires very small steps because of its rhythm. In ballroom dancing, the music of the cha cha cha tends to be energetic with a steady beat. Here are some examples:

  • Does Your Mother Know? – Abba
  • Sex Bomb – Reload – Mousse T & Tom Jones
  • I Wanna Dance – Afro-Disiac- Willy Chirino
  • Kiss Me Honey Honey – Shirley Bassey
  • You spin me round – Dead or Alive
  • I’m gonna getcha good – Shania Twain
  • Chelo Cha Cha

Dancesport offers a list of more cha cha songs.

What We Are Aiming For

Now that you have learned and practiced the basic steps, footwork and cuban motion,  it is time to see how to really move your hips in this video:

For The Love of Ballroom Dancing

When Jack was a teenager he loved to dance, but he didn’t really know it. When he looked old enough he would go to nightclubs, get drunk and then dance all night. He was self-conscious and didn’t want to look foolish in front of people. This was was why he thought he needed the alcohol. Standing around the dance floor with the other guys who were afraid to dance was not much fun. But the beer helped him to get out of his head and into his body and to feel the music. It helped him to overcome his inhibitions and not care about what others thought.  At the time, he did not realize that it was for the dancing that he went nightclubbing in the first place.

Now that Jack is in his 40′s. Well things are different. He realizes that he has, in many ways, wasted his life due to fear and laziness. He doesn’t even like drinking anymore; he hasn’t enjoyed it for years and years. The best time was when he was 15 – that was when it was new, fun and exciting. After that time, it just became old.

At last, now that he is middle-aged, divorced and podgy, he has decided to be bold and let loose his love for dancing. He has started to take dancing seriously. The first bold step he took was to enrol in ballroom dancing classes so that he could learn the art of dancing with a partner. Jack loves the intimacy of dancing with a partner. He loves the connection between the two of them and how they can move as one being – even with the most basic dance steps. He enjoys the structure of the dance patterns and the freedom to express himself within this structure, especially with the rumba and cha cha cha dance steps. The second bold step was to buy some real ballroom dance shoes after the first ballroom dance class.

It is ironic that when Jack was a teenager that he thought that the guys who did ballroom dancing were gay. Yet they were dancing with girls all of the time. They weren’t as cool as him and his friends, but they did not spend a lot of time on their own and with other single guys. If only he had learned to dance properly when he was young… he would be so good at it today.

Now Jack tries not to believe his thoughts and feelings. He knows he isn’t what he thinks or feels or experiences. He listens to a deeper knowing about what is good and right for him to be and do, and believes this knowing instead. It tells him what to do. (A bit like how the music tells a dancer how to move.) So when he feels like giving up  and thinks that he is a hopeless dancer because he cannot seem to do the dance steps and lead his partner around the floor, he doesn’t give these  feelings and thoughts any energy. He just keeps practicing. He knows that for him this is a common occurrence when he has to do something difficult. It will feel too hard at first and he will think that he will never do it. But over time he will find that it does become easier and he is able to do it. He actually will enjoy the whole learning process and will wonder what all the fuss was about when he first tried it.

This new way of being in life has made all of the difference to Jack. He is looking at what is next for his love of dancing. Maybe hip hop or jazz dancing… now that could be fun.

The Most Important Part of Ballroom Dancing

Rumba

Rumba

What is the most important part of ballroom dancing?

Practice is the most important part of learning how to dance.

You probably don’t want to hear that. I am no expert, but I believe that the only way to improve our ballroom dancing skills is through the physical development of our body and muscle movements, particularly our upper leg muscles and back muscles. It is this muscle memory that ensures the predictable outcome of dancing to the music with a partner. I find that dancing is like any physical skill in that it can be learned well through practice.

The correct technique feels wrong at first.

When learning new dance steps and patterns in ballroom dancing, I often find that the correct technique feels wrong at first, while the incorrect technique feels natural.

If what I am doing feels natural, right and comfortable, I tend to receive feedback during the dance classes from the instructor that corrects errors that I am making. I learn from my mistakes. Practice is where I make mistakes and find my errors and weaknesses. It gives me something specific to work with.  Once identified, I can turn these weaknesses into strengths through practice.

Failure is a vital part of the learning process.

As a new ballroom dancer, we must be willing to fail. When learning new patterns or steps, we need to commit our entire body to the step. We need to ‘act as if’ we have been doing this step for years already.

It’s OK to make mistakes when we are learning something new. In fact, it is desirable. In dancing this is how we train our muscles. The same mistakes will only persist if we keep doing the same thing and are expecting a different outcome each time. Learning to dance can be like learning to walk all over again. After all, children learning to walk make mistakes and never give up.

I do find that with practice – over time – the correct technique and dance steps will feel right and become more natural. This is because through repetition we can transform unfamiliar body movements into the familiar, consistent movements required for effective dancing.

Practice increases confidence.

During practice time, we build our confidence naturally. The use and training of our muscles will increase our confidence on the dance floor. The confidence comes from our increasing competence – knowing what to do and how to do it.

Only after lots of practice is it wise for us to attempt in public what we have nailed in practice. I believe that it is better to raise the level of our physical capabilities before learning more complex steps and patterns. That is, get the basics right first.

Set attainable goals for each practice session.

When we want to learn to dance, setting short-term and underachieving goals work best. Especially if we write them down. (It is well-known that people who write down their goals are more successful than those who do not.)

Taking baby steps works better than giant leaps forward. This is why we set underachieving goals. The intention is to do less than we want to. Instead of practicing for an hour, commit to only 20 minutes or less. By doing so we will feel underwhelmed and look forward to practicing, instead of being impatient and pushing ourselves to overachieve. Too much effort may well work against us and be counter productive. Once stress, pressure or emotional reactions have occurred in the practice session, it is time to stop.

There is no need to practice for long periods of time. Shorter, frequent intervals are best. For example, two times a day practice for 10 minutes is better than one hour once a week.  It is easier to find this time than a few hours per week. This approach lends itself to the step-by-step way of learning ballroom dancing. Each new step is dependent on successful learning and improving the correct technique.

In summary

By being willing to fail and creating an authentic, practice schedule with realistic and easily attainable goals, we will find that our dancing becomes better and more enjoyable when we do.