This is a relatively fast dance in 4/4 time (approx. 30 bars per minute of music, ie 120 beats per minute) with the half beats also emphasised. Like many latin american style dances, the cha-cha-cha does not travel around the room. No steps are on the heel first - always the toe or ball of the foot first. Keep all steps small so they remain under the body.
Most simple cha-cha figures occupy exactly one bar of music. The feet are used alternately but 5 steps are taken per bar, ie one of the beats of music has 2 quicker steps in it. The typical rhythm is slow, slow, quick, quick, slow (on counts 2, 3, 4 & 1) with the sound of those last 3 steps giving rise to the "cha-cha-cha" name. With 2 feet per person (left and right) that means it takes a minimum of 2 bars of music to repeat anything.
These are danced in fairly close hold facing partner. Both leader and follower have the same steps, just in different bars so that one moves forwards while the other moves backwards and vice versa.
The forwards basic is a step forward on the left foot, a replacement step back on the right foot and a chassé to the left - ie side left, close right to left, side left again.
The backwards basic is a step back on the right foot, a replacement step forward on the left foot and a chassé to the right - ie side right, close left to right, side right again.
Forwards and backwards basics would normally be danced in pairs with the leader dancing the steps for the forwards basic while the follower dances the backwards one and vice versa afterwards.
In these, the couple turn a quarter to step forwards together through the gap between them each time before stepping back again and facing partner for the chassé component. It is necessary to drop out of close hold and use a single handhold which alternates for each direction. You need the hand which will be closest to your partner!
In these, the couple turn a quarter to step backwards (and away) together each time before stepping forward again and facing partner for the chassé component. These figures also require a single handhold but the opposite one from the New Yorks in order to have the hand which will be closest to your partner!
These start like a New York figure but the couple let go with both hands in order to continue turning all the way around on the next step to return to their original positions facing each other once again for the chassé component.
The leader dances the footwork for a backwards basic while the follower dances the footwork for a spot turn under the single pair of joined arms (leader's left and follower's right).
There are many variants of this figure group. They all begin with a basic figure which is then extended beyond its initial chassé into another pair of chassés in the same direction (taking up 2 bars of music). This still leaves the opposite foot ready for the next figure. When danced forwards and backwards, the individual chassés include locking steps where the motion is continued by crossing the middle step of the three behind or in front of the previous foot instead of closing the feet adjacently as per a normal sideways chassé.
The 3 cha-chas may be danced facing partner or side-by-side. A common set has the leader dancing a forward basic with 3 back locks while the follower dances a back basic and 3 forward locks and then reversing direction with the leader's back basic and 3 forward locks while the follower dances the forward basic and 3 back locks.
A fairly typical early routine would be: 4 Basics (2 pairs), 3 New Yorks and solo Spot Turn, 3 Hand-To-Hands + Alemana turn. Some beginners classes will already have added the 3 cha-chas in a row to this while other classes will cover that at the start of improvers next term.