Everything you need to know about the Cha Cha from Strictly’s expert

Head of choreography Jason Gilkison's top tips for performing a charming Cha Cha

With the sparkle of Strictly Come Dancing dominating our weekends nights from here until Christmas, we decided it was time we learnt a little more about the dances this year’s celebrities will be performing.

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We caught up with Strictly’s director of choreography Jason Gilkison, who gave us the lowdown on technique, drama, atmosphere and the details the judges will be looking out for during the celebrities’ live performances… 


What is the Cha Cha?

A dance of Cuban origin, it was first danced to the music of the same name by composer Enrique Jorrin in the early 1950s. 

What’s the mood? 

“We’ll see two different types,” says Gilkison. “We’ll see some that play it very cheeky and flirty and then there’s some that might go very sultry with this dance. You can go sexy with the Cha Cha Cha, but I think normally that’s saved for the Rhumba and the Samba.

“You can actually play this dance more friendly and happy and flirty. It’s a dance that you could do with any member of your family!”

What’s the technique? 

“It’s simple but it’s the one that can go wrong or fall flat, I think. There’s kind of this belief that everybody can do the Cha Cha but it’s quite complicated. The foot pattern is really really sharp and really precise.”

What’s the hardest part?

“You have to have straight legs. You’re not allowed to move forward on the heel. You have to always be on the ball of your foot and that’s what most of the celebs really battle with because they are so used to walking like pedestrians. All of a sudden they’ve got to use their hips and they’ve got to straighten those legs. The celebrity guys find that really unnatural and get quite self conscious when they are doing the Cha Cha. I think the celebrity females find Cha Cha much easier, but it’s a bit of an Everest for the guys.”

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What will the judges be looking out for? 

“During the Cha Cha Cha the judges will be looking to make sure their legs are straight. When they are walking forward, their legs have got to be straight. They’ve got to be on the ball of the foot – no heel leads. They’ve got to have a very relaxed lower back so they’ve got a really flicky hip action as well. Those hips have got to be moving all the time so we can see that Cha Cha Cha timing – that’s really important.”

What does it look like?