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Cha Cha

American Style Rhythm

The Cha-Cha arrived in the U.S in 1954 and sparked a passionate dance craze. It soon superseded the Mambo because it was easier for Americans to learn. Sometimes, the dance was referred to as the "double mambo" because the Cha Cha step was flanked by the front and back half of the Mambo basic (step, step, cha-cha-cha, step, step).

Spanish speakers refer to the rhythm and the dance as cha cha cha, with each "cha" referring to one of the hip undulations in the middle of the step. Reportedly, the dance was named after the sound of women's shoes gliding against the floor.

The rhythm was originally created in the early 1950's by Enrique Jorrin, a Cuban violinist. It grew out of the Danzon, an older Cuban music and dance form descended from a mix of European and Afro-Cuban styles. Once it arrived in the U.S., the traditional music changed. The characteristic sweet-sounding violins and flutes were often exchanged for big-band instruments such as trumpet, trombone and sax.

Like all the Latin dances, the cha-cha emphasizes hip action and rhythm expressed throughout the body. The music is in 4/4 time and tempo is 30 to 34 bars per minute.

Dance histories supplied by Diane Jarmolow of the Ballroom Dance Teachers College and reprinted with permission.