Like the Rumba, the Cha-Cha has Afro-Cuban roots in Havana. Big bands from the US mainland made their way into the exciting clubs that populated the capital and went on to develop a unique fusion of Rumba music and American Jazz which eventually came to be known as the Mambo.
When famed dance teacher Pierre Lavelle (aka “Monsieur Pierre”) arrived in Cuba to study local dance in the early 50s, he noticed the additional steps many performers had added to the typical Mambo and Rumba. He returned to England and began teaching these extra steps as an entirely different dance, which later came to be known as the Cha-Cha. A number of theories attempt to explain the origins of the name: a borrowing from the Cuban dance known as the guaracha, the gliding steps of the “chasse,” and supposedly even the sound of a type of Haitian bell. Whatever its true source, there’s no question that the Cha-Cha has become one of the most popular Latin dances in the world.