Cha Cha is generally considered to be a latin dance, although it wasn’t originally. It’s very similar to Salsa with many of the same basics, like crossover breaks and cross body leads, but it’s slower and with a slightly different rhythm.
Cha Cha goes: one, two, cha cha cha. Or one two three and 4. Salsa goes quick quick slow. If you did a triple step instead of a slow step, you’d have Cha Cha.
Many steps are identical in both dances, but because the speed is different, there are steps that work when done slowly that don’t work at fast speeds and vice versa, there are also steps that are unique to each dance. Just as there are two schools of thought on which part of the music to begin the dance in Salsa, so are there two ways to apply Cha Cha to the music.
For reasons I can’t explain, while Salsa dancers accept a regional difference, Cha Cha dancers tend to believe that the way they were taught is the right way and the other way is wrong.
Street dancers break on 1, the first beat of the measure, and they count it one, two, cha cha cha. Ballroom dancers break on two, but instead of just waiting for the first beat to go by and then starting, like Salsa dancers, they start on the last “cha” one the first beat of the music and count it “one, two, three, cha cha one. An unnecessary complication in my opinion, but then I’m primarily a street dancer.
Cha Cha is one of my favorite dances to teach because it’s so versatile. It not only shows up at latin dances and ballroom dances, but it fits a great deal of contemporary music as well. If you want a dance to do instead of freestyle at clubs or parties where most people are not doing partner dance, Cha Cha is a good solution. West Coast Swing is a good choice, too, but Cha Cha is far easier. I often teach it to couples who want to partner dance to popular music.