Zapateo insights for Chacarera

This is a duplication of the earlier article on Chacarera; updated to provide some YouTube clips on zapateo footwork, posture and timing. SEE FURTHER OCTOBER 2016 UPDATE FOLLOWING WORKSHOP BY SEBASTIAN ARRUA.

A useful description of Chacarera from via a Facebook post by Manuel Garber‎ and shared by Hilda Yuan:

There is only one simple step to dance chacarera and that is a 1-2-3 very similar to the VALS (Left foot steps forward, right foot advances and change weight, then right foot steps forward, left foot advances and change of weight)

There are different types of Chacarera music, but the most common consists of 7 sections of 8 beats each (intro / verse / interlude / verse / interlude / verse / chorus). The first is an intro, so it is not danced. The other 6 have choreographed figures. So there are only 4 figures to learn because 2 of them get repeated.

Eight beats in which the dancers are clapping. as one of the musicians calls out “PRIMERA!” or “SE VA LA PRIMERA!” meaning “It’s the first!”, or “lets go with the first part”. Once the musical introduction ends, a call of “ADENTRO!” is made, which simply means “IN!” or “lets get in”, Which initiates the dancing.

– AVANCE Y RETROCESO (Forward and Backward) – 4 bars – Two steps forward and two steps back, arms almost fully extended overhead.
– GIRO (Small Turn) – 4 bars – Two steps forward, reaching almost to the center, and then turn around and return with two steps.

– VUELTA ENTERA (Full Turn) – 8 bars – Four steps forward to the opposite side, and again 4 steps to the original position, always facing each other and leaving the center free.

– ZAPATEO Y ZARANDEO (Stomping and Swaying) – 8 bars – In this figure, the couple performs a different choreography. The male stomp, while the woman sways holding her skirt with both hands so it looks like a reversed fan, doing 2 diamond shaped figures of 4 beats each.

– VUELTA ENTERA (Full Turn) repeat of FIGURE-2

– ZAPATEO Y ZARANDEO (Stomping and Swaying) repeat of FIGURE-3

– MEDIA VUELTA (Half Turn) – 4 bars – Four steps forward to the opposite side.
– GIRO Y CORONACION (Turn and Crowning) – 4 bars – Two steps towards the center, a quick turn on the spot and the man “crowns” the woman symbolically by closing his arms above her head.

Just before FIGURE-6, a call of “AHORA!” is made (it sounds like “AURA!”) which means “NOW!” and its a reminder that this is the last figure and now is the time to crown your girl.

After this “PRIMERA” section, the whole set of 6 figures is repeated a second time with a call of “SEGUNDA” or “SE VA LA SEGUNDA” (meaning “lets go with the second part”), keeping in mind that the dancers switched sides.

After the second set a musician will call out “SE ACABA” which means “its ending”, to indicate that 2 sets of figures is enough!. (the whole thing took only 3 minutes)


As per the opening sentence above, there is only one simple step to dance chacarera and that is a 1-2-3 very similar to the VALS. However the timing and rhythm can be hard to grasp initially, particularly in the transition from the fast (almost samba-like) pairs of two claps in the introduction to the dancing before the slightly slower vals steps commence. If you really want to understand how this works:
(1) Recognise the beats in each bar or phrase as six half beats
(2) Identify the first of the six half beats in a bar or phrase
(3) Clap | 1 x 3 4 x 6 | 1 x 3 4 x 6 | etc
(4) Vals | 1 x 3 x 5 x | 1 x 3 x 5 x | etc

23 October 2016 update:
Following a great chacarera workshop today led by Sebastian Arrua the mystery of the timing of the footwork for the basic version of the zapateo became less mysterious.

A simplified description of the zapateo basic cycled over two sets of six half beats is:
1 R Stamp | 2 pause | 3 L Heel kick fwd | 4 L Ball of Foot | 5 R Ball of Foot | 6 L Heel kick fwd |
1 L Stamp | 2 pause | 3 R Heel kick fwd | 4 R Ball of Foot | 5 L Ball of Foot | 6 R Heel kick fwd | etc

The timing can be recognised as effectively the same as the “Clap” timing shown above. That is:
(5) Zapateo | R x L L R L | L x R R L R | etc

The even-more-simple basic zapateo suggested by Sebastian was:
(5) Zapateo | R x L L x L | L x R R x R | etc


Another diagram:
La chacarera