Cha Cha Lesson Notes

USA Dance 11/13/2010

Swivel, Open Box Alternate timing

Cha Cha Cha International November 2011                       Andrew Zemlyanko

          Higher level dancing involves more precision than social dancing. FIrst of all, you have to think about and analyze the movements you are making during your dance. The movements must be planned and executed as planned. Precision also involves knowing exactly where you begin and exactly where you end. Each movement is thought out. This is the core idea of being professional in anything you do.
We were introduced to the concepts of (1) Direction and (2) Rythym. You must move precisely with the rythym and your direction must be correct at each point of the rythym. Andrew also mentioned that there are six central concepts that must be employed with correct dancing. The next two which will be examined in later classes are (3) Level and (4) Isolation
          The Cha Cha Cha timing is 1-2-3-4-&-5 or 1-2-3-Cha-Cha-Cha. The chasse is syncopated so "&" is used in the notation. Syncopations are added for direction changes without weight changes. So you add "And" or similarly "&" to the count to create a movement involving a directional change without a weight shift/change. The rythym or number count is for weight changes and foot placments.
1-2-3-4-&-5-&-6-&-7-& 2-3-4-&-5-&-6-&-7-& These notations are confusing and must be clarified.
The normal side to side Cha Cha Basic does not involve any direction changing syncopations. There are no directional changes built into the count. An syncopation is usd for the side chasse but it is not for a directional change. We practiced doing the Cha Cha Basic with a Military Turn at the end of each side of the Cha Cha Basics. The Military Turn added direction changes so we could practice direction changes with additional syncopations added to the count.
Cha Cha is a Stucato dance like Tango. When you shift, keep your the foot/toe of the standing leg on the floor as long as you can (hold) and then move very fast to the next position. This creates the sharp, snapping stucato look. Direction is very important. Concentrate on the direction you are currently in and the next direction that you will be going toward. Keep your eyes and head in one definite direction and then "snap" your head to the next direction. This adds speed to the appearance of your movements. Always shift your weight completely. No split weight positioning is allowed. The exception is the forward check and some types of running steps. Raise your moving foot and leg to be sure that you have shifted weight completely onto the standing leg. Shoulders are parallel to the floor.
(4) is Body Isolations. An Isolation Drill is to place your hands on the wall, preferably with a mirror and rotate your hips keeping your shoulders and arms steady toward the wall. Always push from your standing foot, ankle and leg. This give you the power of the movement. Push and shift weight. Your up movements come from the calf muscles of the leg. (3) is Level
          Andrew introduced the Forward Lockstep, Backward Lockstep and the Spin (Spot) Turn. In the Spin (Spot) Turn you touch-touch-touch with your toes on the spining and come our sharply to the right side shifting your weight leftward and forward in orientation. Again a good dancer always knows where he is and where he will always be in space and time during the entire routine. If weight is shifted fully you should be able to stop on a dime.
Cuban motion comes from the core, primarily the abdominal muscles and muscles of the back torso. It is unilateral movement that occurs in three (3) phases after you have placed your body to one side. Upon correct placement, the leg, side, neck and head should line up in a vertical axis looking downward from the ceiling. The hip on the side of placement should not be rotated. The first phase represents only 10% of the movement and occurs only after you have placed your body vertically on one leg. Unilaterally contact the upper anterior lateral abdominal muscles in a forward direction. Next contract the lateral abdominal musles to shift the hip to the side. This first phase of movement represents 30 % of the Cuban motion movement. Finally contract the back muscles unilaterally to move the hip backward. This third and last phase of Cuban motion represents 60% of the movement. Andrew used the example of a clock emphasizing the 1, 3 and 5 O'clock positions with the dancer in the center of the clock. Essentially you are swinging out an arc and creating a figure 8 with your hips as a result of your abdominal gyrations. Remember that the abdominal core moves the hips and legs. You do not purposely move the hips. Moving the hips themsleves is Pole Dancing. This Cuban motion is purposeful, precise and definite. The use of "ah" in addition to "and,&" was introduced. The & is the change of direction whereas the "ah" is the Cuban motion.

          We are practicing these movements artificially in a learning environment. If fact they occur all in one continous smooth motion much like the individual frames of a movie create smooth movement when the movie is played at 60 frames per second. The length of your step should be adjusted to your actual body and leg length. Step forward and move forward as much as you can without your back foot sliding forward. The length of your stride is the maximum amount you can move forward without sliding the back foot. Once you learn your correct length, practice it, learn it and repeat it.

          In general, you must completely shift your weight but there are some exceptions as with the Forward Check and Running Steps. In the Forward Check you close your legs tightly together and split your weight forward and back. There is no complete shifting of weight here.

          Lock steps should be done in very specific and precise manor.

          Forward Lock Step: The right foot goes straight forward and remains in this straight line. The left foot stays in place during the right foot's forward movement. Sharply spike your left foot forward on toe approximately one foot length to the right of the right foot. Make believe there is a nail in the right foot so you can't move it during the left foot's sharp movement. The left foot's movement pushes into the right leg causing the right leg to slightly flex. You do not purposely bend your right leg. The balance for the Forward Lock Step is 100-50-100. This means that you completely shift your weight on the first step, balance your weight on the lock and then completely shift your weight forward on the last step.

          Backward Lock Step: The Forward and Backward Lock Steps have different weight transfers.
The balance for the Backward Lock Step is 100-100-50. This means that you completely shift your weight on the first step, completely shift your weight on the lock and then balance your weight forward on the last step.

          DRILL: Stand straight with your hands together in a Buddhist preying position with your elbows extended to the sides. Rotate your pelvis backward. Rotate your pelvis forward. Rotate to the left and finally to the right. Keep your upper body frame steady without change. This helps improve your lower range of motion and assists with learning how to isolate your lower body.

          DRILL: Stand straight in front of a wall with your arms completely extended to your side parallel to the floor. Move about two inches in front of the wall or about one front to back hand width. Do the Cuban motion drill and touch your hips to the wall when you rotate back. Remember, it's front, side and back. This helps much like the drill above but gives you a quantitative distance for the movement of the hips to measure your movement with.

          Andrew drew a circle and make a vertical diameter along with a left perpendicular radius which split the circle into three parts. The top left quarter circle represented Direction or the Where. The bottom left quarter of the circle represented Timing or the When of dancing. Finally, the whole half on the right represents the How of your dancing. Each area represents an important part of your overall technique.

          Swivels are from the hips. The feet stay together and the movement is above.

Routine:          The Practice Routine for the class which we will embelish during the month is:
1 Left foot to the side
2 Right foot back ( Back Rock, Check )
3 Left foot replaces weight
4 Right foot to the right side
& Left foot closes to Right foot, small step ( Side Chasse )
1 Right foot to the side
2 Left foot foward ( Front Rock, Check )
3 Replace weight on Right foot
4 Left foot Ronde (half) going backward
ah Left foot Ronde (half) across the back of the left foot and place it to the right of the left foot
& Right foot to the right side of the left foot
ah Swivel to left
1 Left foot to the side (left) and slightly forward
2 Right foot closes to the left foot
3 Swivel
4 Swivel
& Swivel
1 Right Foot to the side (right)
2 Swivel
3 Swivel
4 Swivel
19 Left foot to the side (left) and slightly forward
20 Right foot closes to the left foot
21 Swivel
22 Swivel
23 Swivel
24 Right foot to the side (right)
& Swivel to face right
25 Left foot forward to the right (Military Turn)
& Swivel to face the left (opposite direction)
26 Right Foot Closes Forward to Left
& Swivel to face forward
27 Left foot to the side (left)( Side Chasse )
28 Right foot closes to the left swivel
& Left foot to the side
29 Right foot closes to left
& Swivel to Face Forward
30 Left foot forward (Military Turn)
& Change direction to opposite wall
Right foot closes to left
Swivel to face forward
Right foot to the side (right)
Left foot closes to right
Right foot to the side (right)
Left foot closes to right
Swivel to face right wall

Left Side Step
Left Rock Step
Right Side Chasse
Right Rock
Left Leg Develope to Swivel shift (Michael Jackson)
Left Side Chasse (Slight Forward Step)
Swivel Swivel Swivel
Right Side Chasse (Slight Forward Step)
Swivel Swivel Swivel 1
Left Side Chasse (Slight Forward Step)
Swivel Swivel Swivel 2
Right Side Chasse (Slight Forward Step)
Swivel Swivel Swivel 3
Left Side Chasse
Military Turn
Forward Lock Step
Military Turn
Forward Lock Step
Military Turn
Spin Turn
Left Rock Step
Backward Lock Step 1
Backward Lock Step 2
Backward Lock Step 3
Forward Lock Step 1
Forward Lock Step 2
Forward Lock Step 3

Drop on your standing leg with the Ronde and move quickly. On the Spin Turn complete the Military Turn and face Back Line of Dance before stepping and shifting. You place your foot for the spin. Shift to the left and then place the foot and shift weight with an immediate turn.
December 12, 2011
We reviewed hip motions. Imagine a stick across your hips and imagine that you can see the stick move from side to side as your hips move. The stick must shift from Diagonal Wall (DW) to Backing Diagonal Wall (BDW) on each movement. That's approximately a 90 degree change.
In swivels, the toes stay in place and the knees and hips shift from side to side. The knees almost go perpendicular to the side on each swivel. Keep you hands on an imaginary wall and don't let them move. The upper body does not move on the swivels. As in standard, the upper shoulders should be relaxed. Do not shrug the shoulders upward on this movement.
Step Length Determination - It is done my trial and error. On the forward step, you should not move out such that you drag the back leg and foot. This step length is too long. Likewise, the step should not be so short that you can not point (twist) your foot.
Lock Step Exercises/Drill - Move forard keeping your upper body parallel to the forward wall. Place your hands on an imaginary wall to insure that there is no movement on the Lock Step.
Brushing in Standard is different from Latin/Rhytym. With Latin the moving foot moves forward with the toe down and the heel up at 90 degrees. In Latin the toe touches first. In Standard the toe slides on the floor in intimate contact with the floor at all times. This deserves some review and study.
Brushing occurs in the Neutral Position and an "ah" is added to the count to emphasize this neutral position. Technically the neutral position is not a real position since you are just passing through neutral and there is no "stop" here.
Make your kick on the swivels hurt. Go to the full extent of your range of motion. This full extent of range of motion tests your upper body since you must concentrate on keeping the upper body in position when you move to the end of the range of motion.
Always shift your weight completely on each step in Latin.
With speed technique will break down if the technique has not been learned and drilled to full mental and physical learning.
The Forward Check is split weight. The front leg remains straight and the back closes to the front. Shoulders are straight and you do not bend the front leg. The ship shifts back when you come out of the check and you shift your weight back. The shoulder does not drop. There may be some muscles changes but the direction of the shoulders remains parallel to the wall. The forelegs close onto each other. Do not bob your head. The right heel remains up.
Head changes. The head snaps after the shoulders move giving the illusion of speed. In fact the legs are moving in the same manner and speed.
We are not ready for anything but direction and rythym until later when we progress on.
The right foot is pointed out to the right on the forward step of the military turn.
MilitaryTurn: There are five segments/movements to the military turn.
Left foot side step to left.
Close feet with Direction change to the left wall (90 degrees).
Right foot Forward step.
Direction change to opposite wall (180 degrees).
Forward step.
Direction change to line of dance (90 degrees).

          By the way, did I mention I was a dentist? If you need an Atlanta dancing dentist who loves creating beautiful smiles and making people happy, please visit my dental website at

Atlanta Dance Partners Home