Disclaimer: The authoress freely admits that she knew almost nothing about Cha-cha and had to consult Wikipedia for info on the dance’s history and musical rhythm. Also note that the authoress dances American style, whose timing is different from International style.
Cha-cha was the second Latin dance I learned after ECS, and it was definitely a hit as soon as I started dancing it. It’s fun, cheeky, and very good exercise. Today, it remains the only dance I know that I’ve danced consistently in every competition. As for its history, the Cha-cha, like most Latin dances, has roots in Cuba. Its name derives from what is known as a güiro (scraper) and the shuffling motion the dancers make with their feet. The modern form of the dance derived from Monsieur Pierre (French, who knew?), who noticed that this dance was started on the second beat and had a syncopated fourth beat. Some musical explanation may be in order.
Find any song with a consistent beat. The beat you start dancing on is known as the “one”. The counting continues from that starting beat. So, the rhythm of Cha-cha truly begins on the second beat. I once heard a teacher ask which beat was emphasized, and two was the correct answer. Syncopation is just another word for split. In the most simple musical compositions, each note gets one beat. (Try rhythmic clapping to get the general idea.) For Cha-cha, the beat goes something like this:
Instead of just counting one, two, three, four, the fourth beat has an “and” attached before the count is resumed. This is what is known as syncopation. Other Latin dances also have this feature, but I’ll make mention of others in a playlist two weeks from now. A Cha-cha is considered fairly fast dance, but some songs are fastser than others. Here’s today’s playlist:
- “Oye Como Va” by Carlos Santana (This was one of the first Cha-cha songs I heard when I first began dancing in middle school. It’s pretty classic.)
- “Fire Burning” by Sean Kingston
- “Drive By” by Train (Interestingly, you can also dance a Hustle to this song.)
- “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson
- “Mercy” by Duffy
- “Telephone” by Lady Gaga
- “I Need To Know” by Marc Anthony (I’m goin’ back to my childhood with this one, definitely a favorite!)
By the way, I intend to keep these playlists short for two reasons. One, I’m too lazy to make an extensive catalogue. Two, this is only to tempt your musical palate. Discovering music for specific dances on my own has definitely been a distinct joy of mine. Aside from swing, Cha-cha is a particular Latin dance I’d like to teach my classmates. Smooth dancing is all well and good, but balance is best. Like swing, Cha-cha is not overtly erotic, so I’m sure my Baptist university won’t mind. (That’s a bad joke on my part.) Plus, the basic Cha-cha step can be simplified. When Issac taught me Cha-cha, I began with the three shuffled side-steps, but I’ve danced with bare beginners with the three steps danced in place. That means the only continuity between the two is the rock-step. Anyway, I’ll see y’all next Monday with the next playlist.