Cha Cha Locks

18 January 2017

Cha Cha Locks are one of the most integral and characteristic steps in the entire dance. As such, Forward and Back Locks are learnt at a relatively early stage in a dancer's development, yet they are very complex steps. Today we will explore some important technical aspects of the Locks which you may not have known about, and which may change the look and feel of your dancing significantly.


If you are experienced in Cha Cha, you may skip this section, but for those readers who need a touch up on technique, here is a simplified version of the technique of the Forward and Back Lock.

Forward Lock (simple)
Foot Position Footwork Timing
RF forward Ball Flat 4
LF crossed behind RF Toe &
RF forward Ball Flat 1

Typically the Forward Lock is danced with the RF leading, as described above, however, either foot may be used, such as in the Three Cha Cha Chas.

Back Lock (simple)
Foot Position Footwork Timing
LF back Toe 4
RF cross in front of LF Ball Flat &
LF back Ball Flat 1

Typically the Back Lock is danced with the LF leading, as described above, however, either foot may be used, such as in the Three Cha Cha Chas.

Final Step Slightly to Side

In the Forward Lock, the first step goes straight forward, let's say North. The second step, however, crosses behind the first. In order to do this, that step has to travel Northeast. At this point, your legs are crosses, with your right foot on the left side of your body, and your left foot crossed behind and on the right side of your body. If from this position you were to take the third step straight forward, let's say North again, you would end up with crossed legs. If you wanted to follow that step with a LF Forward Walk, it would be very difficult, since your left foot would half to swing around the right.

Instead, the third step would not move North, but Northeast - the same direction as the second step. This undoes the crossing of the legs that the second step brought about, and so if you want to follow this with a LF Forward Walk, you would be free to move the LF forward. The same principle is true of the third step of the Back Lock.

There is an advanced figure called the Continuous Locks, where the dancer will cross behind not just once, but twice or even three times. In this case, it is only the final step that is placed slightly to the side, as there would be no point in crossing and uncrossing over and over again.

Cha Cha, not Cha Cha Cha

We all know the counts: two, three, cha cha cha, two, three, cha cha cha. We were taught like this because it is an effective way to get beginners to think about the difference between a Chasse and a Forward Check or Back Cucaracha. However, continuing to count like this as you progress through your dancing can cause you to think in a misleading way, ultimately affecting your dancing for the worse. Check out the following table.

Timing Rhythm Beat Value
2 S Whole
3 S Whole
4 Q Half
& Q Half
1 S Whole

As you can see, the last step of the Chasse has more in common musically with the 2 and the 3 than the rest of the Chasse. One common mistake beginners have in their musicality is not showing a distinct difference between the Quicks and the Slows of Cha Cha, because they are used to thinking of it as Cha Cha Cha. But how does this manifest itself in the Locks? Well, you should think of the Locks as consisting of only two steps, the Quicks, and the third step as being a Rumba Walk.

Practice this: dance two Forward Walks, and a Forward Lock (counted 2 3 4&1) over and over around the room. Now try not to think of it as two Forward Walks and a Forward Lock, but three Forward Walks (counted Slow), and two quick steps, creating a Locking action. You should feel a huge difference, by just thinking of that last step of the Forward Lock as a Rumba Walk instead.

Hip and Knee Actions

A few weeks ago BGBB published an article on the Cuban Hip Action. That same hip action is used in the Locks, but it manifests itself in a strange way. Let's examine the technique of the Forward Lock, a little more in depth, and taking into account the hip action and also the knee action. Instead of breaking the timing down into 4 & 1 (or half half whole), we are going to break it down into quarters, the first quarter being represented by e, the second by &, the third by a, and the fourth by a number (to read more about breaking down the timing, click here).

First, prepare by standing on the Left foot, with the left knee straight. The Right foot is held beside the Left, with the knee bent, the ankle pointed, and only the ball of the foot in contact with the floor. The Left knee and hip are reaching up and back, and the Right knee and hip are reaching down and forward.

Forward Lock (in depth)
Foot Position Knee Action Hip Action Footwork     Timing
RF forward Both knees straight L hip remains up and back Ball Flat 4
- Both knees straight Pendular Hip Action toward RF       - e
LF cross behind RF     Both knees slightly flexed Hip remains in place Toe &
- L knee straightens, R Knee bends     L hip pulled up and back - a
RF forward Both Knees straight L hip remains up and back Ball Flat 1
  ... continue with normal Rumba Walk Technique    

As you can see, the trick to making your Locks look advanced is the usage of the hip action between the steps, and not at the same time as the steps. This is often overlooked, since most of the time the technique isn't broken down far enough to see, but it is extremely important. The 4 and the & should be extremely active steps, with the hips working throughout, and by contrast the 1 should be a Slow Rumba Walk action, as discussed above.