Triple Steps and Cha Cha Cha

There is some confusion among Salsa and Bachata dancers about Triple Steps and Cha-Cha-Cha. Are Triple Steps and Cha-Cha-Cha the same or what is the difference, and how, when and where to use Triple Steps?

Cha-Cha-Cha means two different things. On one hand Cha-Cha-Cha is just a popular generic term, meaning any Triple Step in any social dance style, placed anywhere in the dance, starting on any beat. That is, Cha-Cha-Cha is just another name for a Triple Step. Cha-Cha-Cha simply means a Triple Step, because a Triple Step sounds like Cha-Cha-Cha when we step it.

On the other hand, there also is a Cha-Cha-Cha dance, originating in Cuba in the early 1950s, where the Triple Step can be heard in the music. There is either a clear “Cha-Cha-Cha” sound in the music or there is a more subtle build-in Cha-Cha-Cha feel to the music, and when we dance to that music, we want to emulate that sound and match what we hear in the music with a Triple Step. In the Cha-Cha-Cha dance, the Triple Steps are always on “4-and-5” and on “8-and-1”.

Cha-Cha-Cha is either a generic term for any Triple Step or a specific term for a Triple Step in the Cha-Cha-Cha dance where it is build into the basic steps of the dance.

This tutorial is the printed version of the video, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2023.

Link to the same video on YouTube

What is a Triple Step?

We step to the beats of the music, “1-2-3”, etc. In Cuban Salsa and on Salsa on “1” we pause on “4” and “8”, or we tap, but this tap is optional. In Bachata we have a mandatory tap on “4” and “8”, except that we skip it in certain situations. In dances like Cuban Son and the Cha-Cha-Cha dance, being Contra Tiempo, the pause is on “5” and “1”, except that in the Cha-Cha-Cha dance there is no pause because it has been replaced with the Cha-Cha-Cha Triple Step.

A Triple Step is to make use of the “and” in between the beats of the music, like “4-and-5” and “8-and-1”. To make use of the “and”, to step in between the beats, is called syncopated stepping. A Triple Step could be added anywhere, starting on any beat like to step on “1-and-2”. All the Triple Step options do work at least in some situations but all options are not equal. Triple Steps replacing the pause/tap are by far the most common.

Replacing the Pause/Tap

There are two ways to replace the Pause/Tap with a Triple Step. We can start the Triple Step on the beat before the Pause/Tap or we can start the Triple Step on the Pause/Tap. In Cuban Salsa and in Salsa on “1” and Bachata, both options often works depending on the music. If there is a dominant Tumbao Rhythm in the music, as is very often the case in Cuban Son and Cha-Cha-Cha and also often in Salsa, made with the Conga drums, e.g. a double slap on “4-and” and on “8-and”, we will most likely start the Triple Step on “4” and on “8”.

In Cuban Salsa, Salsa on “1” and Bachata, with no Tumbao Rhythm or when it is not dominant, many dancers might as well choose to start triple steps on “3” and on “7”. Or at any other beat for that matter. Anything goes as long at it works in the situations.

How to count a Triple Steps

Whenever we do a Triple Step we make a mess out of our normal Basic Steps, because when we step on an “and” and on the pause/tap, we begin to step on the wrong foot to the next beat of the music. We need to get back to our normal basic steps as fast as possible. Here is my advise: Don’t count “Tri-ple-Step” or “Cha-Cha-Cha” when you step. It is much easier to use the beat numbers and the “and” and then continue to step as if nothing has happened. That way it is easy to keep track of exactly where you are an the 8-count. E.g.: Count “1-2-3-and-4, 5-6-7”

Just an option

Except for the Cha-Cha-Cha dance, you never need to add Triple Steps. They are of your own choice. Use them if you like them and they work for you. To use them or not also depends of your own personal dance style. I do use Triple Steps a lot in Bachata, but I rarely use them when I dance Cuban Salsa, for one good reason.

I feel that to add a Triple Step at the end of an 8-count is mostly noice, it disturbs a little, it rocks the boat. When we step a Triple Step, we need to keep the feet relatively close together, that is, adding triple steps to a dance like Casino, has a tendency to make the dance more stationary.

I want to focus on step “7”, almost as important as step “1”. Step “7” is used to prepare the next figure, to get you and your partner perfectly aligned and positioned for the next move. A Triple Step at the end of an 8-count is too much trouble for nothing. It’s the wrong focus in my way of dancing.

But if Triple Steps work for you in your style of dancing, good for you, go use them.

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