The Basics

Closed Position

Generally speaking, closed position means this:

Leads:┬áPlace your right hand on the follow’s back, near the left shoulder blade. Take the follow’s right hand in your left hand.

Follows:┬áPlace your left hand on the lead’s right shoulder. Place your right hand in the lead’s left hand.


In social dance, as opposed to exhibition and competitive dance, you are free to do whatever is comfortable and functional. In addition, the most comfortable and functional hand placement will vary based on the dance. For example, in a dance in which the partners share weight, the follow will likely want to place her hand on the back of the lead’s shoulder. In a dance with lots of outside turns and free spins, however, the follow will likely want to place her hand on top of the lead’s shoulder, to prevent it from getting caught behind his back. Sometimes, as in cross step waltz, you’ll want a flexible frame. Other times, as in pivots, you’ll want a solid square one. You get the idea – just make it feel good.

Noodle Arms

In almost every social dance context, noodle arms are a particularly uncomfortable and dysfunctional phenomenon. Take your partner in closed position, and test your partner for noodle arms by moving your leading hand (lead’s left, follow’s right).

Does your partner’s arm flop around like a noodle, or does it give appropriate resistance to your movement? Will a deliberate movement of your arm translate into a deliberate lead, or will the lead simply be lost in the noise?

For a sense of the resistance we are looking for, give your partner a double high five at shoulder level, and lean into your partner, so you are sharing each other’s weight. Now go back to closed position, and put that kind of solidity into your closed position frame.

Inside Turns and Outside Turns

Take your partner in a two hand hold, right to left and left to right.

Bring your hands into the frame: we’ll call a turn in which the hands pass in through the frame an inside turn.

Now bring your hands out of the frame: we’ll call a turn in which the hands pass out of the frame an outside turn.