Ballroom Dance > Cha Cha Cha Forward Checks: Straight or Bent for Non-Supporting Leg?

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by WalterW, Aug 2, 2012.

  1. WalterW

    WalterW New Member

    Hi all!

    In the forward checks of the cha cha box-step, should the non-supporting leg be straightened or bent? Or are both acceptable? While I have seen and have been taught that the non-supporting leg be straightened, I have seen examples where the dancers' non-supporting leg is bent.

    What brought my attention was a particular video with basic cha cha cha steps. (I can't post links at the moment, but the video can be found on YouTube by searching for “Sergey Melia Basic Cha Cha”)

    Right at the beginning, you can see Mr Sergey Surkov's non-supporting leg is bent for the checked forward walk (is it what it's called?). This is done throughout the dances shown in the video for that particular step.

    Also, secondly, I've also noticed that for the same step, his supporting leg doesn't seem to be fully perpendicular to the floor. That is, it is at an angle like “/ ”, and not the usual “|”, where the dancer's weight appears to be fully on it.

    Are these alternative styles and/or interpretations for the forward checks? Or are they different steps altogether (with different names)?

    Mr Surkov does not do the same in the rumba video. Would it be because it is idiosyncratic to the cha cha cha? For speed?

    This seems to be more common with male dancers, at least from the videos I've seen.

    (on a similar note, I've seen what appear to be like New Yorks to me, but also done with a bent supporting leg. Or are they Cuban breaks? I'm not sure...)

    Thank you for your time, everyone! Have a great day! :)
  2. GGinrhinestones

    GGinrhinestones Well-Known Member

    Hi WalterW - welcome to DF!

    There are plenty of possibilities why his front leg might be bent (everything from "it's supposed to be" to "it's sloppy dancing") and I am not the best person to answer, but there are lots of pros and highly skilled dancers on this forum who can probably explain it for you!
  3. Warren J. Dew

    Warren J. Dew Well-Known Member

    The nonsupporting or back leg in the forward check should be fairly relaxed, which means it is often flexed.

    Part of the reason for the angle of the supporting leg is because in the check, the leg is decelerating the body and accelerating it back backwards; the force along the leg and against the floor needs to be at an angle because the force against the body weight needs not only to support it but also to "push" it horizontally back the way it came from. The reason it is less in rumba is because rumba is slower, so the amount of horizontal force needed is much less.
  4. WalterW

    WalterW New Member

    Thanks for the responses! :)

    Oh dear... think I might have used the wrong term for the step I was actually referring to... Really sorry for this!

    The step I wanted to refer to was the forward step made on the count of "2". (I'm not sure if this is the "check" or the check comes after...)

    So far from my limited knowledge, this is what I know/learnt: If the left leg were to make the forward step, the right leg would be straightened (with only some weight on it). It is only somewhere during the "&" before "3" that the hip "relaxes" and the right/non-supporting leg bends, after which weight is transferred back onto it on "3", and so on.

    Well, that is what I know.

    Also, from a quoted line in Wikipedia (bolding by me):
    (While Wikipedia might not be entirely accurate, it does describe what I had in mind thus far.)

    Something like this: |\
    However, what was in the video was more like /

    So, from what I see in that video, it seems like the weight of the dancer is still spread 50-50 or 60-40 on both legs in the / configuration, even though I had assumed the weight should be mostly on the supporting/left leg.

    There's where my confusion is, because what I see and what I've read being described differs. Is one more of an "advanced" technique?

    I guess it has to do with the speed of the chacha itself, that doing this can save time for the steps? I'm just thinking it could be more a case of dynamic adapting and efficiency? Or is this a characteristic of chacha itself?

    While referring to other videos, I've seen this also in two other "basic steps" videos (one featuring Mr Michael Malitowski, and another whom I'm not sure of), where their legs are more like /.

    However, and in most slower how-to videos, their "2" looked more like the |\ variety. One basic-step video that featured Mr Franco Formica showed him doing more of a mixed, kind of like |

    Hehehe... I hope I'm not confusing anyone with my desperate attempts at describing! it's quite hard for me to describe without being able to actually jump up and show the steps myself. ;)

    Thank you so much! :)
  5. ajiboyet

    ajiboyet Well-Known Member

    I find your descriptions of the leg positions very clear and easy to picture, actually.

    Here's what I THINK...(proceed with caution)

    IMO, a check isn't the same as a forward walk, because the weight is 'checked', i.e. stopped. If the music is slow, as in 29/28MPM, then you might see a full weight transfer and full leg extensions, as in |\, or |⟨.
    But at full competition speeds of 31MPM, you may not have time to dance |\. Which is actually better, because in a forward walk, there is a full weight transfer. In a forward check, you don't have a full weight transfer, it's more like a split position thing.

    I hope I made sense. And I absolutely love and intend to start using your leg descriptions.
  6. Lya

    Lya Member

    Hi there, here's what I think ;)

    A check is always a change of direction!!!
    And your following girl has to be able to register this! So you never have a full weight transfer in a check.
    e.g. you're changing from forward walks to backward walks, you have to communicate with your follower that you are NOW changing. Otherwise you're like "HAHA I'm running away from you!" :eek:
    The sum: rumba or chacha, slowed down or high pitched, never go on full weight in a check! And dont just stop in feet transfer but bring your torso forward (common mistake ;))

    Your body rhythm must not stop!!!
    When you're in a check position and your weight is not full transfered, your hips have to action. And this can't be done if your legs are straighten like |\
    The sum: Bend your leg, go knee in knee and use hip action.
    In musik time:
    2 Beginning check: lets call this the walk forward with half weiht transfer, front feet is little crossed (forward and back feet are on one line). Supportive leg is straighten, its the walk. |\ ... its a bit like / \ cause your weight is split, but its not a split position. The front feet is just a feet away from the back feet.
    & HIP ACTION: back leg bends |⟨ knee in knee, relax your front leg... its a bit like ⟨ cause you cant use your hips while the front leg is hard.
    3 HIP ACTION: bring your weight on the back leg. Straight it. /| Thats a backward walk!

    This could be the explanation for the video versions. Its allways the same thing, its body rhythm with variet focus. One does more hips or legs than other.
  7. latingal

    latingal Moderator Staff Member

    Welcome to DF WalterW!

    I was off the boards for the last couple of you feel your question has been answered? If so, great! Seems like there's been some good discussion, but I haven't read though it all thoroughly....

    If not, please post the url as a non-active link (without the www or http) and let me know the time mark in the video of the step you are questioning and also what remaining question you might have, and I will take a look and see if I can help.... (no promises but I can take a look)
  8. WalterW

    WalterW New Member

    Hi all!

    Thanks for all the help, everyone!

    (If for some reason a box appears instead of a symbol for one of the leg configurations, it's supposed to resemble a slightly-wider-angled "<" sign)

    @latingal: Thanks for the offer. I'll post the (non-active) links to the videos, as you've suggested.

    I can only post the last parts of URL, otherwise the forum won't let me post. They're all YouTube videos.

    With Sergey & Melia: watch?v=l7I5BFenFGw
    This video was the first time I've seen clearly the /⟨ pattern.

    • 00:10
    • 00:15
    • 00:19
    • 00:24

    With Michael & Joanna: watch?v=UTJqg3wrNYs[/U]
    Not as pronounced as the first, but /⟨ still can be seen

    • 00:41/42
    • 00:45

    Unsure; according to one of the comments, it's "Serena Lecca & Allen Tornsberg": watch?v=27kqUesQHuU
    Quite as pronounced as the first video, also of the /⟨ style. Incidentally, I quite like this video.

    • 00:30
    • 00:39

    Videos with |⟨ instead

    Slavik & Karina: watch?v=l4Con8LRJGc

    • 00:18
    • 00:23

    Franco & Oxana: watch?v=xKeUpU446Xg

    • 00:23
    • 01:46

    While I had initially thought speed could be a factor, most of these videos have dancers performing to slower music. So, I'm just wondering if these are acceptable ways even for slow music?

    These videos are, as far as I know, instructional videos. So I'm wondering if the technique demonstrated are acceptable/correct/allowed?

    Thank you for your time, everyone! :)
  9. latingal

    latingal Moderator Staff Member

    Hi Walter,

    I took a quick look at the Sergey & Melia video and the Slavik & Karina video....

    The forward check that you are looking at is being done correctly by both gentlemen as a split weight position!

    It looks to me like Slavik in that video tends to put a little more weight on the front leg than Sergey, but both of them are achieving what the front check is designed for. It is a change of direction step, and as a poster above stated, it signals a change of direction for the follower and assists her to stop her momentum by the lead not transferring full weight to his front foot.

    How much weight is placed in each leg in the check? It will depend on the couple, their dance styles and preferences, skills, what they are trying to achieve, the speed of the music, etc. But when it is first taught, they usually give you a 50/50 number.

    But, in general, the farther the lead stops with his weight back in the check, the faster you signal and change the direction of the follower (the length and elasticity of the connection will affect this too). Stop too far back and you will pull your follower off her foot forward and not allow her to put enough weight in to her back leg. Stop too far forward and you will allow your follower to go past her back leg and either you will have to pull her out of that position with your weight or she may not be able to change her direction.

    I am certainly not an expert on leading....but that is the general idea....

    (and p.s. I have seen videos of Sergey using a much smaller base or more forward in his front check - more like the Slavik version - again, depends on the situation and couple)
  10. vit

    vit Active Member

    As a side note, nobody of those dancers will ever make fwd step that way in cha cha during performances/competitions. Usually, advanced dancers are making very short fwd step, well crossed in front of the right leg, with full weight transfer due to speed and sharp change of direction ...
  11. vit

    vit Active Member

    (video by Franco and Oxana, which is also the newest of those videos, being closest to that version)
  12. latingal

    latingal Moderator Staff Member

    I'm not sure about the "full" weight transfer on a forward check (perhaps you're thinking of a different situation than I?)....the weight is still split weight and at least behind the heel of the left foot. A full weight transfer would not signal a change of direction at the speed of cha-cha.
  13. vit

    vit Active Member

    Well, I just wanted to say that a forward check (after a fwd lock or something similar) is actually never executed by mentioned top class or other advanced dancers the way it is demonstrated in those videos - as a normal (relatively long) step with right leg almost straight at beat 2. Don't know why, I suppose because it doesn't look sharp enough. They are usually executing that step in modified form, like a part of backward lock, left foot is a kind of crossed over the right foot, body is usually slightly broken somewhere at waist, center of gravity is behind left foot around the beat "2", as you said (if I understood correctly what you mean - I'm not a dance teacher so we may be using different terminology), and it's usually even behind the right foot at that moment because the step is very short and change of direction is very quick and usually some physical lead is used to stop the partner and not only indication with weight transfer (ok, their routines are choreographed, but these basic things are perfectly leadable). In that form, right leg is bent and usually with the foot only lightly touching the floor or even slightly lifted between beats 2 and 3 - so I said with full weight transfer (to the left foot) ...
  14. WalterW

    WalterW New Member

    Hi all!

    Thank you for the marvellous explanations! I really appreciate all your help! :)

    So, from what I understand, the split weight is intended to signal (by the lead) a change in direction (to the follower). This would be most useful when the steps are all led-followed, right? I suppose in choreographed (and memorised) steps, there is less of this, and it's also a matter of style/preferences/speed/necessity?

    Anyway, in that case, I'm guessing the description written in the Wikipedia article isn't entirely done in actual situations (or entirely inaccurate altogether?) Kind of like a "textbook" description (outdated?) which hardly anyone uses in the actual situations?

    To quote again from that article (bolding by me):
    Personally, if it's a matter of style, I quite like the one seen in the Sergey & Melia video. Which do you guys prefer (under which situations)?

    Thank you! :)
  15. latingal

    latingal Moderator Staff Member

    Hi Walter....

    Actually even in choreographed routines, you will find that a check should still signal a change of direction for a follower. It is the leader's perogative to control the timing of the change of direction, the amount of elasticity and degree of weight the follower puts in to the back leg - all of that can be influenced by how the check is performed by the lead.

    I'm not sure it's accurate....but then I haven't read it in context of the article, so I can't speak to it really. But I will quote you this from the ISTD Latin American Cha Cha Cha "Red book":

    "When a Forward Walk is followed by a weight transference back the following differences occur

    1 - The toe of front foot is turned out
    2 - The Body is not committed to continue to move forward after the step is placed
    3 - The back knee will flex and veer towards the front knee causing no turn out of the back foot. End with pressure on ball of back foot (Example Man's step 1 of Closed Basic Movement)"

    Step 1 (and 2) of a closed basic movement for the man is the step we recognize as a this well recognized source has the back knee as "flexed" or bent.
  16. vit

    vit Active Member

    I also checked some other videos about cha cha basic (ISTD with Lorna Lee, Skufca, Malitowski etc) and can't find any example where the right leg is straight at the end of 2nd beat of cha cha cha basic, so it looks someone mixed up those things

    However, it's hard to say that points from ISTD book are entirely correct either:

    "The Body is not committed to continue to move forward after the step is placed" - placement of the foot certainly won't stop the moving body, you have to apply the muscles in the left leg and it will stop a fraction of the second later

    "End with pressure on ball of back foot" - for me this is mostly to avoid right leg becoming loose at that moment, which doesn't look nice. If we measure the actual pressure in that moment, on most dancers it will be close to zero. And also, I'm quite sure that the lady has no idea how much pressure I have on that foot during the check and they won't miss the lead even if I lift that foot off the ground (which btw most dancers on above videos do before transferring weight back to that foot). Etc

    It's hard/almost impossible to learn those things correctly from videos and books. Some privates with a good trainer way more effective, because there are many things that can go wrong and need some correction ...

Share This Page