How to Dance the Cha-Cha

The Cha Cha is a flirty and complex dance full of fun, lively energy. It has a playful, upbeat rhythm that features quick rocking movements and stepping in place. The cha cha is quite fast and has several sharp moves required to make it come together. You can learn how to do the cha cha with each move broken down in the free video lessons from Howcast!

History of the Cha Cha

The cha cha was created during the 1950s when an English dance teacher, Monsieur Pierre, visited Cuba. While he was there, he witnessed dancers performing the rumba with a triple step. The dance Pierre saw was a combination of rumba and mambo dance.

Pierre was fascinated by this dance and began to teach it at home, calling it the cha cha cha. The name came about from the sound created by dancers’ shoes as they moved. Eventually, one of the chas was dropped and it became known as the cha cha that is still quite popular today.

How to Cha Cha

Seeing all the hip movements and steps included in a full-speed cha cha can make it intimidating at first. It may take some time for you to learn, but once you have the count and basic steps down, you’ll have no problem dancing the cha cha yourself!

Body Position

The cha cha is not as close as many other dances. There is ample room left in between the partners. A man’s left hand will extend out to the left while the woman’s right hand will extend out to meet it. The man’s right hand will be placed below a woman’s left shoulder blade, while the woman’s left hand will be above and rest on the man’s right shoulder blade.

Counting

Cha cha dancing is performed in 4/4 time, but you’ll need to take five steps during the four beats of music. The count should be done with three slow steps followed by two quick steps (Slow x3, Quick x2). It is easiest to count saying: 1, 2, 3, cha, cha. Slow steps should take a single beat, while quicker steps will be performed during a half-beat. This means that the last two steps should be done across a single beat.

How to Do the Cha Cha Basic Sidestep

The easiest way to learn how to do the cha cha is by starting with the basic sidestep. Remember to sway your hips with each step to create a nice flowing movement!

This is how you can perform the Basic Cha Cha step:

  • Leader steps to the left with their left foot, follower steps to their right with their right foot.
  • Leader steps to the left and slightly back with their right foot, follower mirrors by stepping to the right and slightly forward with their left foot.
  • Leader transfers weight to their left foot, follower shifts weight to their right foot. 
  • Leader steps forward and to the right with their right foot (original position), follower steps backward and to the left with their left foot (original position). 
  • Leader moves their left foot to the side by their right foot, follower moves their right foot to the side by their left foot. 
  • This completes half of the basic sidestep. The movement repeats now, except in a different direction 
  • Leader steps to the right with their right foot, follower steps to the left with their left foot. 
  • Leader steps to the right and slightly forward with their left foot, follower mirrors by stepping to the left and slightly back with their right foot. 
  • Leader transfers weight to their right foot, follower transfers weight to their left foot. 
  • Leader steps backward and to the left with their left foot (original position), follower steps forward and to the right with their right foot (original position) 
  • Leader closes by moving their right foot next to their left foot, follower does the same by moving their left foot next to their right foot.

Start Dancing the Cha Cha Today!

We hope this guide made it easier for you to learn the cha cha dance! Explore more Cha Cha video lessons in this series below, or go to our main How to Dance page to learn a new style.

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Melanie LaPatin and Tony Meredith's Dance Times Square is New York City's premiere Latin and Ballroom Dance Studio. Tony and Melanie have more than 100 championship titles, including The United States Professional Latin American Championships, North American Latin Championships, and Dirty Dancing Championships, just to name a few. They have done choreography for "So You Think You Can Dance" and have taught celebrities to dance for both film and television. Dance Times Square offers private and group instruction for all ages and abilities; beginners are welcome and no partner is necessary.