"Dancing Tid-bits" Issue #115, Thursday, August 15, 2002
Cha Cha Cha Chasses
You might say "what is the big deal, chasse is a chasse" and perhaps you are
right, but let me share some of my confusion with you on this very basic
What is a Chasse? I used to teach that chasse is a step like "side-together-side". Then, one of my students made it a better definition. She said "step-close-step", which I think is more accurate because chasses can be taken in any direction and the closing step can be half close or even a lock step.
Side Chasse in Cha Cha? This is the most basic movement in Cha Cha. For the sake of simplicity, let's say, man did a forward rock L-R (timing 2.3) and then he is ready to do a chasse to left: LF to side count 4, close RF to LF count &, and then LF to side count 1. It is as simple as that but there are some finites here. Let's see:
1. You must turn to left (1/8 to 1/4 or so) on 4&1. I feel a CBM on count 3 (step 2 of the basic movement where you transfer weight back to RF) and most of the turn is on count 4 because a continuous turn in chasse doesn't feel very good. This turning is quite often ignored. Why is it so important? I would say that when you take a side step without a turn, your legs tend to "open" and this doesn't look very good specially for the ladies. The turn hides this openness and encourages us to dance "foot to foot".
2. The first step to side LF (count 4) confuses me. Is it a small step* or is it otherwise. If we use normal "latin walk", we know there is an early straightening of the leg in the international style. Try to do rumba walks taking small steps. Your coach will say; "lengthen your stride", and your walks will look better. So if I want to take a normal forward or backward step turning left, it seems more natural to take a normal stride step which is slightly bigger than a "small step".
3. On second step of the chasse (count &), do I close or half close my RF to LF? I guess both are correct depending on the speed of music.
4. On count 1, the third step of the chasses, you step to the side; a normal side step. You must take time for the full count of the beat 1 (accent) and express yourself !!
5. We know that on count 1 both knees are straightened but are both knees compressed on count 4 &, and how much, one more than the other?
Conclusion: The technique is not absolute and changes according to mood, music and partnership, etc., etc. I would put it this way. There is an American Style in which we have more "Meringue" effect in our chasses with late and more abrupt motion of the hip and late straightening of legs after more obvious compression. This technique suits well for the *"little-little-big" technique of chasse. However with early straightening of legs in the so called International Style, normal stride seems more comfortable. I would say, no one technique is better than the other and if we want maximum enjoyment from dance we must have different flavors at different times during 1 meal (one song). Hope I did not bore you too much, best wishes....Max