Using Closed and Open Positions in Verse-Chorus Songs

West Coast Swing Online Styling

Most WCS songs, especially contemporary songs, have a verse-chorus structure. In these songs, the chorus is generally more energetic than the verses. An easy way to adapt your dancing to show this contrast is by shifting between closed and open position.

The Drill: With a partner, dance to a song with a clear verse-chorus structure, like “Stranger” by Chris August. Dancing only basics, the leader should stay in closed position for the entirety of the verse and then shift into open position for the chorus. At the end of the chorus, the leader should pick up the follower in closed position again.

Many songs will have bridges or musical tags in addition to the basic verse-chorus structure; “Stranger” has both tags at the end of the chorus as well as a bridge. How you handle those elements should be determined by the song. In the case of “Stranger,” the bridge feels quiet like a verse and so should be danced in closed position; the tags are also quiet and so could be danced in closed, but you could also carry through the energy of the chorus until the hold at the end of the tag. If you are uncertain about what to do, think about where you want the biggest contrast. To make the verse seem really quiet, keep dancing in open position through the tag; to make the tag seem like a sharp break from the chorus, dance the tag in closed position.

Note for Followers: Although you are not able to initiate closed position on your own, you can keep yourself at a closed distance. In closed position, the partners are less than one arm’s length from each other. By shortening your arm and dancing into your arm (so that your free shoulder is closer to the leader than your connected shoulder), you can create the distance of closed position dancing even if your leader is staying in open.

Bonus Variations (especially for followers): With a partner, dance the entire song in open position, but shorten the distance and dance into your arm during the verses to create the effect of closed position.

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