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cha cha confusion
Posted by trischg
8/26/2015  6:42:00 AM
I recently began taking ballroom dance classes and became a member of this website to assist with learning. The cha cha I learned in class has the girl start with prep step on R and then forward on L, step right... cha cha cha...the opposite on other side...but your videos show it the complete opposite way...i'm just confused?....any help???? TIA
Re: cha cha confusion
Posted by Waltz123
8/27/2015  12:02:00 AM
The figure we call Cha Cha Basic breaks down in the following sequence (from man's perspective): LF forward rock, chasse to left, then RF back rock, chasse to right. This is what we call the "construction" of the figure. The first action is a LF forward rock. The RF side step that precedes it is known as a "prep step", and is not technically part of the figure. But it is included in the description because (a) the prep step is taken on count 1, and (b) it describes how the previous figure ends, to help illustrate how one connects the figures together.

When you look at the way the figures of Cha Cha fit together, it starts to make sense why they are constructed the way they are, i.e. why the beginning and end points of the figures are where they are. But in spite of the fact that the Cha Cha basic step is thought to begin with the man's LF forward rock in terms of its construction, this doesn't mean you must begin the entire dance at this point. In fact, you don't even need to start with the Cha Cha Basic at all. You have complete liberty to begin any dance with any part of any figure, and any foot in any direction.

It's important to understand that where a particular figure begins and where you choose to start the entire dance are not necessarily the same thing. In some dances, different figures start with different feet in different directions (e.g. this figure starts with man's LF side, that figure starts with man's RF backwards, etc), and none of that necessarily relates to what foot or direction normally begins the dance as a whole.

So now that you know you don't need to start the dance where the Cha Cha Basic step starts, here are some examples of the various ways people begin their Cha Cha:

(1) Man begins the dance side on his left foot into the RF back rock (what would amount to steps 5,6,7 of the Cha Cha Basic in the BallroomDancers syllabus). This is a very popular way to start American style Cha Cha, particularly with social dancers.

(2) Man begins the dance by stepping directly into the LF forward rock on counts 2,3.

(3) Man begins with his RF forward or side on count 1 (the "prep step"), followed by the forward rock on counts 2,3, as you see in the videos.

(4) Man begins with a chasse on counts 4&1, either to the left or to the right. This one is very popular with Int'l style dance competitive dancers.

(5) Couple begins in open facing position with a single or double hand-hold and dances a Progressive Basic or Three Cha Chas / Progressive Cross Triples. Here, too, they can start with either rock on count 2, a prep forward or back on count 1, or the lock step in either direction on counts 4&1. This is also quite popular with Int'l style and competitive dancers.

Many teachers have their preferred method for starting the dance, and will only teach this one version. There's nothing wrong with that... In fact, it's preferable with beginners to keep things simple. You may very well want to avoid any of the above listed variations for some time, and if your only exposure to Cha Cha is this one group class, you won't need to worry about anything other than your teacher's version (#1 above) for a good, long time to come. As a follower, however, you may eventually want to familiarize yourself with the various possibilities, because you want to be ready for anything a leader might throw at you.

In the meantime, start the dance the way you already know how. And when studying the figures on this website, just realize that you can always add a 1/2 basic to the beginning!

Re: cha cha confusion
Posted by waynelee
8/27/2015  6:52:00 AM
I understand your confusion, I've been there...

The source of your confusion is the "starting point" of the cha cha, and that is rooted in the dance itself. The cha cha and mambo both get confusing because they really start on the "2" beat. Through the years, studios and teachers have tried various methods to get their students to start the cha cha and mambo correctly.

Somewhere along the line, the idea of getting a student, especially a beginning student, to start the dance on time, the idea of having the couple take a side step on the first beat took root. With this beginning, the couple start moving on beat 1 and then get into the cha cha normal 2-3-4 & 1 counting.

In my experience, both national dance studios (FADS and AM) teach it this way as well as most of the independent studios. Once a student really understands the dance counts of the cha cha, many teachers will move away from the side-step beginning.

And, since I mentioned the mambo, in my experience you don't start learning the mambo until a student has progressed. At that time, the student has grasp the notion that the cha cha really starts on the 2 beat and can easily transform that knowledge to the mambo.
Re: cha cha confusion
Posted by nloftofan1
8/27/2015  9:26:00 AM
Neither reply so far directly addresses the confusion that trischg reported: The way she was taught Cha-Cha, the lady's basic movement begins with a prep step on her R foot followed by a forward rock with her L foot (man does natural opposite); the instructions on the Ballroomdancers.com website starts with a prep step on the lady's L foot followed by a BACK rock with her R foot. Yes, the way trischg learned Cha-Cha is the way I learned it, and that's how it is described in the DVIDA manual (copyright 2000) that I'm looking at now. The Ballroomdancers.com foot positions are opposite. But once you have danced several basic movements in a row, does it matter? The entire basic movement requires two measures of music, and the only question is which half you use to start it (along with the secondary question, "Does it matter?").
Re: cha cha confusion
Posted by Waltz123
8/28/2015  12:01:00 AM
Yes, the way trischg learned Cha-Cha is the way I learned it, and that's how it is described in the DVIDA manual (copyright 2000) that I'm looking at now. The Ballroomdancers.com foot positions are opposite.

Allow me to shed more light on why this decision was made...

In terms of exactly which point you consider the beginning and end of a figure, there is no absolute right and wrong. DanceVision, along with most of the syllabi that came before them, start nearly all of their figures with the man's LF side on count 1. This has advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that it is never necessary to clarify the difference between how individual figures are broken down, and how people typically start the dance. If you compose your syllabus with all figures starting on the LF, and then tell people to always start the dance on the LF, there is no possibility for confusion. This is a clear advantage to this method.

However, BallroomDancers has a different approach than most American style syllabi, one inspired in part by the International style, which is more granular in its breakdown of figures. A higher degree of granularity has distinct advantages of its own, especially when it comes to American style. American has its roots in social dancing, which is naturally more improvisational. So it stands to reason that it should lean more toward the learning of individual components and the various ways one might mix them together, and less toward the learning of extended groups of choreography.

And yet, if you look at most American syllabi from DanceVision to ISTD to the chain schools, their figures all tend to be composed of sequences and amalgamations to varying degrees of length -- typically longer and longer as the syllabus progresses through the more advanced levels, but even present at the beginning levels of bronze in some cases. This is no accident, as this approach comes with a notable advantage: It relieves the student of the burden of arranging their own sequences, and simplifies learning. But it's a double-edged sword: It also robs them of the ability to structure things in their own way, and diminishes floorcraft, as well as leading and following, and the ability to improvise.

The Cha Cha Basic, of course, is the same length no matter what you think of as the beginning point of the pattern. But take the Cross-Body Lead, for example: The true starting point of this figure is less disputable: It begins with the man's LF forward rock, and ends with his chasse to R. In order to conform to the "all figures must start on the man's LF side step on 1" rule, the other schools insert an extraneous 1/2 basic at the beginning of the figure.

As it turns out, a great many American style Cha Cha figures begin at the point of the man's LF rock, and finish at the point of his RF chasse. Not all of them do -- in fact, some are seemingly arbitrary, such as the "mirror image" figures like Crossovers forward and back, Crossover Turns, Fifth Position Breaks, etc. But if you consider the choice arbitrary on those figures, it doesn't hurt to keep it on the same foot as the rest of the figures, in the name of consistency. This was essentially the thought process that led to starting most of the figures on the man's LF forward rock (plus the initial prep on his RF).

(continued in next post...)
Re: cha cha confusion
Posted by Waltz123
8/28/2015  12:03:00 AM
(continued from previous post...)

By the way, even those mirror image figures like Crossovers are not entirely arbitrary, as far as the starting foot is concerned. Look at any syllabus, and the first Crossover is the one forward on the man's LF. That's generally agreed upon. However, rather than presenting the figure as one rock and one chasse to each side, the other schools will always begin in closed position with a half-basic. A half-basic is not a Crossover. It's a half-basic. Worse still, many of them will tack an underarm turn on the end. That's not a basic figure, that's choreography. And it's ultimately a disservice to the students who study the syllabus. At the very least, it should be seen as a basic disadvantage to this method.

To avoid all that, rather than inserting an entire half-basic in front of most of the figures, we cut the fat and inserted only one single step, and then labeled it a "prep step", to indicate that it is not officially part of the figure. We could have eliminated the prep and started directly with the man's LF rock step, similar to the ISTD Int'l syllabus, which would have remedied the perceptions some people have of the figures seeming "reversed". But this solution has problems of its own. In particular, the prep frequently aids in illustrating the transition from the previous figure. In this way, the prep concept serves a similar purpose to adding a half-basic in front, but with less clutter and a more clearly defined entry point.

At any rate, the purpose of this long-winded essay, in addition to giving you some insight into the thought process behind our methodology, is to point out that there is no best or perfect way to compose a syllabus. Each choice along the way has advantages and disadvantages. Our choices may occasionally appear to be swimming against the current. But it's not right or wrong -- It's just a choice, based on a philosophy. Early on in the development we made a decision that one of the ways we wanted to set this syllabus apart from any other is to take a more component-based approach, rather than serving up pre-packaged sequences. This underlying philosophy has had quite a ripple effect, impacting even some of the smallest and seemingly unrelated details. The starting point of the Cha Cha figures is one of them.

Just remember, in the end we're all teaching the same thing. When you really study this stuff, you'll realize that the Cha Cha figures described here are not "backwards" or "reversed" at all. We're not telling our viewers to start their Cha Cha in a different way. At most, we're simply asking them to *look* at it in a different way, with the hope that doing so will give them a better understanding of how the smaller pieces of the puzzle fit together.

Re: cha cha confusion
Posted by nloftofan1
9/1/2015  10:47:00 AM
What Jonathan says makes perfect sense. Sometimes it helps to put a half Basic or full Basic between figures (my regular partner says it makes things easier for her in some cases). But (using one of his examples) when you put a half Basic before a Crossover Break it's just that: a half Basic. And (as is the case in many sylabi) an underarm turn may make a nice ending after doing a few crossovers, but there are other endings.
Re: cha cha confusion
Posted by terence2
9/6/2015  2:04:00 AM
There is an important reason WHY latin dances commence in a specific direction.. The genre is based upon " call and response ". This is the basis from which the original formats were based. Looking back to origins, the format was/is religious based ( Santeria ) .

In the classic form of Rumba ( NOT the BR one )the lady ( both are dancing solo ) invites the man to approach her, swirling her skirt.. hence the "call and response ".

This would dictate that, the latin dances should commence forward, but, there's another important component to recognise..and that's, the direction of the 2nd beat in the 1st bar, again, giving us direction to commence ( forward ).

All chain schools , taught most of their latin dances, commencing back . ( Square Rumba/Bolero being the exception,) and F.A. side ways for Rumba . The prep. was the intro. to the dance..

Actually, there is possibly a reason why the backwards commence came into vogue.

" Bolero ".. is the dance ( and Danzon ), that was long established, before the current formats were invented.
Its pretty certain that Bolero, stepwise, along with Lindy,did influence many of the foundation steps in Rumba, Mambo and Cha cha ( along with Guajiras influences on Cha cha ).

Re: cha cha confusion
Posted by nloftofan1
8/30/2015  7:31:00 AM
I can only guess, but in dances that break on 2 (Cha-Cha, Mambo) the 1 beat is a prep step--implied in the case of Mambo. Following the "man's left foot moves first" (on 1) rule, the first break is a back rock.
Re: cha cha confusion
Posted by terence2
9/3/2015  6:01:00 AM

Intern. style Rumba can prep. on 1 (R foot ) and then breaks forward on 2 .

The ways of commencing specific dances, are often rooted in precedent, and again, changed to suit circumstance. There is a good argument, in each case .
B/room simplified pretty much all, by commencing Forward .
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