Why do we dance Cha Cha and Rumba on the “2” count? – by Cassie Tucker

Why do we dance Cha Cha and Rumba on the “2” count?


DK Ballroom Instructor Cassie Tucker tackles the question we have all heard (if not asked ourselves), "Why do we dance Cha Cha and Rumba on the “2” count?"


Rumba and Cha Cha are two dances that have been around for a very long time. Both originated in Cuba, the first being Rumba which emerged as early as 1919. As with all dances, the music came first, and the Rumba steps were initially developed with a 1,2,3 hold 4 rhythm which was the best fit for the music of the time. As new musical variations arose so too did the steps, resulting in the 2,3,4 hold 1 alternate timing which emerged in the 1930’s.

Cha Cha is a little younger than Rumba, first appearing around 1950. The dance came about almost entirely as the result of a single composer and violinist, Enrique Jorrin, who introduced Cha Cha Cha music in the early 1950’s. The music was derived from Mambo and the syncopated rhythm resulted in the Cha Cha chasse being born. The early music inspired a 1,2,3&4 dance step emergence, also familiarly counted as “One, Two, Cha Cha Cha.” Walter Laird and other top dance competitors developed the framework for the modern Cha Cha during the 1960’s, introducing the 2,3,4&1 timing to International competition.

As with all evolutionary paths, the dances continued to develop along different branches. The Rumba 1,2,3 hold 1 timing is still hugely popular in America and is now referred to American Rumba, which has completely different styling, technique, and music to what we see in the International Dancesport style. The International Dancesport style of Rumba we dance at DK uses the 2,3,4 hold 1 timing. As with Rumba, Cha Cha also has an American alternative that is differentiated by the technique; stepping on to a bent knee and straightening instead of immediately stepping on to a straight leg as we use in the International Cha Cha style. The 2,3,4&1 timing, however, is used for both derivatives.

Socially, Cha Cha and Rumba are sometimes taught to beginners to start on the “1” count instead of the “2.” Finding the “1” count is much easier, which is why this timing is often used at social dance studios. At DK, we dance on the “2” count and simply add a preparation step on the “1” which sets us up to correctly use the 2,3,4&1 timing. New Vogue or sequence dances are often written to start on the “1” such as Sally Ann Cha Cha or Rumba One (the latter depending on which studio you are attending and which version of the script you are using!).

In short, there is no right or wrong way to dance Cha Cha and Rumba, after all, the steps are the same! The reason we dance on the “2” is purely because DK is a competitive dance studio and we teach the International Style of dancing.