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The cha-cha is an energetic, rhythmic Latin dance that originated in Cuba in the 1950s. It has continued to gain popularity because it is fast-paced, easy to learn and provides an excellent cardio workout. People of all ages and nationalities enjoy dancing the cha-cha, and it is performed at dance competitions around the world.
The cha-cha originated from another Latin partner dance called the mambo. But whereas the mambo has a one-beat dance step, the cha-cha has a three-beat dance step. In fact, the cha-cha was first called the "triple mambo" because of its characteristic three quick steps. The new dance was eventually called the "cha-cha" because the dancers' shoes make a "cha cha cha" sound as they took three quick steps across the dance floor.
The cha-cha is danced in 4/4 time, meaning there are four beats per bar of music. Many people enjoy dancing the cha-cha at a faced-paced tempo, but it can also be danced slower. The tempo varies depending on the accompanying music.
The cha-cha can be danced to any type of music that is in 4/4 time. There is even a popular hip hop version of the dance (combined with the electric slide) called the "cha-cha slide."
The cha-cha, famous for its final three steps, actually contains five steps for each of the four beats of music. Two are slow and three are fast. The triple, faced-paced steps are known as the chasse. This creates the famous rhythm: "one, two, cha, cha, cha."
The cha-cha can be made more complicated by adding dips, turns or twists before or after the three-beat step. Popular aerobic workouts, such as Zumba, use the basic cha-cha step but add lunges, jumps and spins to keep the dancers' heart rate up.
The cha-cha is usually danced at 120 beats per minute. Proper dance form for the cha-cha includes strong hip movement and minimal movement of the torso. In other words, the top part of the dancer's body should remain still while the bottom part of the body -- hips, legs and feet -- move to the music. As steps are taken on the music beats, the knees straighten on the half-beats. The dancer's weight should be on his toes.