The cha-cha is a dance that was originally known as the cha-cha-cha. It is an offshoot of the Mambo and became popular around 1954.
In 1952, Pierre Margolie, an English dance teacher, visited Cuba. While there, he noticed that the people would sometimes dance with extra beats added to the Rumba. A friend of mine does wedding photography in Atlanta, and one of their clients had this dance at the wedding and said it was a lot of fun. It was told that his style was created by musician Enrique Jorrin in 1948 as an innovation that combined to other Cuban dances, the Montuno and the Danzon. When the English dance teacher, Pierre, returned from his trip back to Britain, he began teaching the steps he had learned in Cuba as a separate dance on their own. The people took quickly to this new style of dance and it became popular in dance circles.
When listening to the slower mambo tempo, a distinct sound was heard within the music. The people started dancing to this distinct sound and called the new step the triple mambo. These new steps eventually evolved into a dance of their own, now known today as the cha-cha. The cha-cha is danced with three quick steps (hence the cha-cha-cha) then two steps that are slower on the one and two beat.
The cha-cha dance moves at about 120 beats a minute. Dancers step on the beats and use a strong hip movement on each beat. The knee should straighten in between on the half beats. The dancer’s weight should be kept forward and all Ford steps taken with the toe flat on the ground. There is a minimum amount of upper torso movement throughout the dance. On four and one, the chasse is used to emphasize the step used on the first beat. This step can be held longer than the other steps in the dance so that it matches the music’s beat.
Below is a video showing the basic elements used in the cha-cha.