What's the name, cha-cha or cha-cha-chá?
That infernal break step...
Eight count or four count pattern?
So why is it that beginners generally want to break on count 1 instead of on count 2? The reason is that the break step is a logical -- if unsubtle -- way to express the strongest accent of the rhythm, which is count 1. Since that's the strongest musical accent, that's where you want to start dancing, right? [Henry Neeman]
In the discussion about the "break" step, some people *seem* to be saying that cha-cha (or cha-cha-cha) dancers hear a musical emphasis on whichever count on which they do the break. Even if this turns out to be true -- I hope not -- I don't see why. If you are dancing with a Cuban motion, which you are if you are doing it the Latin cha-cha (counted 1-2-3 cha-cha), It's the *SIDE STEP* on which the emphasis is in the dance, not on the break step. And this matches the musical emphasis. Breaking on 2 can't possibly have anything to do with hearing the musical emphasis on 2, because it's not the break that has any kinesthetic emphasis, it's the side step. [Rahul Dhesi]
The look and feel of a dance can be improved by emphasizing the change in speed, wheras a poor style will look "mushy" where the speed between slow and quick is evened out. In a technique lecture at BYU this summer, Ron Montez made some comments which struck me as the best explanation of the "feel" of american Cha-Cha (and I think also applies to International). He basically said that the 1-2-3 (the side and break) in Cha-Cha was like a Rumba, done with slow movement and Cuban motion in the hips. The 4-& was a fast action which does not have all the Rumba movement. As Alan and Jay mentioned, Cha-Cha has the 4& and sometimes 2& beats added to the usual 4, and so you hear a strong &1, where the 1 is a change from fast to slow, and is accented. Breaking on 1 would have the feel strong- strong-weak-weak-weak, or slow-slow-quick-quick-quick. However, to get the Rumba action in the break, you want slow-slow-slow-quick-quick matching the 1-2-3-4-& and the transition from quick to slow accents the 1 beat at the start of a measure. When you do the break, you want to stop your motion before the break typically by taking a slightly larger step on the side, forward, or back on count 1. Almost all rank beginners in Cha-Cha have a similar style which makes the dance more difficult. Notice they move fast into the break, taking a large step in the break and trying to stop and reverse direction with the opposite foot flying up high in the air and the body leaning forward or back. With the moderatly fast rhythm of Cha-Cha, they don't have enough time to change directions and build up speed in the opposite direction. Then the cha-cha-cha steps are rushed to catch up and high speed is built up going into the next break step. When going forward and backward, most of the motion occurs in the break steps and sometimes the cha-cha-cha is done in place. A good style has the opposite, with little body movement and small steps in the breaks, allowing plenty of time for a nice Rumba action during the break. [Dave Sherohman]
After reading all these messages about starting cha-cha on 2, I just start to wonder whether I am doing the right thing in cha-cha.. You see, I start my cha-cha on 4 with a chasse. When I started learning cha-cha, it was taught with starting on 2. But my currently instructor insisted that I start it on 4 and I agree with her. It gives me more impact with the start of the dance. [Steven Lam]
The concept of the 2 beat is totally misunderstood. While most people "break" on 2, 99% of them don't understand why. 1) As a Latino who grew up hearing Latin music I had a devil of a time learning how to start on 2. Even with Ron Montez as my first teacher I found myself one day out on the competition floor full of confidence sure that I would win only to look over at Ron on the sidelines giving me the count with his fingers because I was "on" the wrong beat. Talk about wanting to crawl into a hole. 2.) As a professional who mastered breaking on the 2, I worked with the late Bob Medeiros who finally convinced me that the idea of latin was totally misunderstood by the dance community as a whole, particularly the East side of the Atlantic who set the standard. 3) Medeiros' points: The DEAD beat in Latin is the 2. Latin music accentuates the 1 and 3, not the 2 and 4. The most important part of the dance should be the CHA CHA CHA Thats"s why they call it Cha Cha Cha The least important part of Cha Cha should be the Break. That's why they don't call it the break dance. Latin dancers don't emphasize feet action- they emphasize body action. Why would latin dancers break on 2? Because they a) roll the hip back on 1, b) they don't emphasize the forward or backward break (rock); c) Instead they do: Weight change (close feet) 1, Weight change (close feet) 2, Weight change (close feet) 3, shuffle shuffle (forward/back or side/side). Many only do the entire dance side to side without forward or back breaks.
The beginner is told to wait for the 2 beat which is a DEAD BEAT. Instead of teaching the emphasis on the BREAK, the best teachers teach (now follow this closely) START on the 1 by rolling the hip. Notice I said START not BREAK. Everyone HEARS the 1, yet you're told to wait for something you can't hear. It's easier to count cha cha as it is played 123 4and. (S S S Q Q) Again I repeat I didn't say break fwd on the 1. Many top teachers don't teach: Fwd back cha cha cha. That is not the cha cha cha. That is a PATTERN of CCC. (I'm getting tired of writing Cha Cha Cha). CCC is the body interpreting the rhythm that makes it interesting. Medeiros use to say that when ballroom dancers walked into latin clubs the latins use to laugh at them because they look so ridiculous. There are few dance schools in Central and So America. So how do these people learn to dance? They listen to lots of latin bands where the beat is predominant. (Not like Ross Mitchell playing "TALK TO THE ANIMALS" and calling that a CCC) Before these latins ever take a step they develop the body action by just standing there moving the hips and knees without ever moving their feet. By the time they hold a girl they look great without having to do any patterns. In summation it's not going forward on 2 that's wrong. It's the concept of starting on 2 that's wrong. Once you are an accomplished dancer starting on 3, 4, or any other beat is acceptable. (look at Waltz- the best ones commence on the 3 yet nobody says they are dancing 3,1,2) In waltz we call it a preparation step. The idea is to accent the 1 and 3 with the hips and the 4+ with the feet. If you change the beginner mentality from start feet on 2 to start hips on 1, you wouldn't have half the dance populace dancing CCC on the wrong beat.
The point seems to escape most that it has NOTHING to do with dancing correctly but teaching correctly. It is not harder to teach somebody to "break" on two- it is nearly impossible to get somebody to START on two. To start a group on two all I have to do is tell them to count one two three and do a chasse to right on the 4&. It's not the break that I focus the students on, it's the chasse action. After 2 minutes of just hitting the 4&1. I add the left chasse on 4 &1 then after 2 more minutes we add the forward break. After 8 minutes they are all dancing on time. Of course they must be able to find the one beat which is a helluva lot easier than finding the 2! The reason everybody has trouble breaking on the two is because they are focusing on the step with off beat. Take the emphasis off the break and focus on the cha cha. When someone walks in and is a blank slate, teaching A is no harder than teaching B. What makes you think a newbie reasons the rock step is the starting point? [Enio Cordoba]
So how do you pronounce the count?
I just don't understand why people are making excuses for not just teaching and/or learning Cha as 2-3-4&1!!!!! When you count music, you count music, period! That where the accents are, as well, that's how it is danced at any high and proficient level. (Maybe you could find an example where what I say is not the case, but it sure as heck is the rule.) Yes, it's popular to teach to new newcomers the "cha-cha-cha" just 'cuz it makes them think they are doing Cha, but come on now, when I take my lessons my coach would never say "cha-cha-cha", but rather "4&1", which is what the music is. [Josiah Way]
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Last modified on: 2000, Wednesday December 27.