Practicing at Home - Front and Back Ochos

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Every once in a while, we do an exercise in empathy, where we ask the followers to lead and the leaders to follow. We usually pick front ochos. It's fun and satisfying to see how much more each respects the other's role, once they understand it a little better.

We have this longish story which we find very funny (especially Nancy does) about the different languages men and women speak. We've copied it below. If you do read through it, we'd be very interested in hearing from you whether or not you found it funny and whether you're a man or a woman.

Let's say a guy named Roger is attracted to a woman named Elaine. He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else.

And then, one evening when they're driving home, a thought occurs to Elaine, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: "Do you realize that, as of tonight, we've been seeing each other for exactly six months?"

And then there is silence in the car. To Elaine, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: Geez, I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he's been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I'm trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn't want, or isn't sure of.

And Roger is thinking: Gosh. Six months.

And Elaine is thinking: But, hey, I'm not so sure I want this kind of relationship, either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I'd have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily toward . . . I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?

And Roger is thinking: . . . so that means it was . . . let's see . . February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer's, which means . . . lemme check the odometer . . . Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here.

And Elaine is thinking: He's upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I'm reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed -- even before I sensed it -- that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that's it. That's why he's so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He's afraid of being rejected.

And Roger is thinking: And I'm gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don't care what those morons say, it's still not shifting right. And they better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It's 87 degrees out, and this thing is shifting like a garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent thieves $600.

And Elaine is thinking: He's angry. And I don't blame him. I'd be angry, too. I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can't help the way I feel. I'm just not sure.

And Roger is thinking: They'll probably say it's only a 90- day warranty. That's exactly what they're gonna say, the scumballs.

And Elaine is thinking: maybe I'm just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on his white horse, when I'm sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centered, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.

And Roger is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I'll give them a warranty. I'll take their warranty and stick it right up their ......

"Roger," Elaine says aloud.

"What?" says Roger, startled.

"Please don't torture yourself like this," she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. "Maybe I should never have . . Oh, I feel so......"

(She breaks down, sobbing.)

"What?" says Roger.

"I'm such a fool," Elaine sobs. "I mean, I know there's no knight. I really know that. It's silly. There's no knight, and there's no horse."

"There's no horse?" says Roger.

"You think I'm a fool, don't you?" Elaine says.

"No!" says Roger, glad to finally know the correct answer.

"It's just that . . . It's that I . . . I need some time," Elaine says.

(There is a 15-second pause while Roger, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work.)

"Yes," he says.

(Elaine, deeply moved, touches his hand.)

"Oh, Roger, do you really feel that way?" she says.

"What way?" says Roger.

"That way about time," says Elaine.

"Oh," says Roger. "Yes."

(Elaine turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last she speaks.)

"Thank you, Roger," she says.

"Thank you," says Roger.

Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn, whereas when Roger gets back to his place, he opens a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a tennis match between two Czechoslovakians he never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and so he figures it's better if he doesn't think about it.

The next day Elaine will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification. They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it, either.

Meanwhile, Roger, while playing racquetball one day with a mutual friend of his and Elaine's, will pause just before serving, frown, and say:

"Norm, did Elaine ever own a horse?"

Artist Name:
Song Title:
A La Gran Muñeca
Album Title:
It Takes Q To Tango
Artist Website:

(From the website): Created in July, 2009 by Erskine Maytorena, a third generation tango musician and opera singer, QTANGO performs authentic Argentine tango arrangements as often as two to three times a week throughout the Southwest for tango dancers and listeners.

In this series, we’re going to go over the ways
you can practice at home…
..if you don’t have a partner and
you don’t have feedback and you’re not in class.
And, you’ll notice with this chapter
and also other chapters…
..but especially this chapter,
that we’ll be using a different accoutrements, right?
So here we have a ballet bar.
And we know you all have one at home.
But if you don’t, then think of this
as a dresser or a wall.
I imagine you have a wall at home.
And this is a chair and it really is a chair
and you’ll have one of those at home.
So, starting with the followers,
if you're doing front and back ochos,…
..and this is a very brief reminder, actually,
of what was said earlier.
You can watch the chapter and, as you watch the chapter,
you can do this with us,…
..the front ocho chapter,
and you can use a counter or something.
Stepping forward, and then feel how your arms
would work to help you pivot.
Because they would actually do the same
with the leader.
As I go over, I want you to experience...
.. how, if my leg is open, it’s harder to pivot.
And, if the leg is tighter, it’s easier to pivot.
Right? So the experience you get,
pivoting at home with your kitchen counter…
01:14 really very similar to the experience you get
doing it with a leader.
Except, leaders can make it sort of harder than
the kitchen counter or easier...
..depending on the leader.
For the leaders, as you do this,
front ocho technique is actually,…
..ocho technique is actually quite hard,
because it’s counter intuitive.
And so, the first thing I want to -
make the point...
01:33 that, when you lead the follower to ocho,…
..that this pivot does not come from your hips.
Your hips are stabilizing
and then through your abs it happens.
So if I do this, my upper body moves
but my hips do not.
So what you’re going to do is
you’re going to get a chair...
..and you’re going to put it on something that can slide.
Just behind you like this.
And then if, when you ocho her, you do this...
..and then you come back
and there’s space there...
..that means you moved your hips.
How'd that happen?
So you move the chair there
and you rotate through your abs.
It’s not about my arms, it’s about rotating through my abs
to pivot my chest.
But, I look back and the chair is still touching me.
This is good.
That’s number one.
Number two, when you’re pivoting the lady,
there’s this instinct to do this or that.
And so, I want you to think that - beautiful follower
right here in front of you…
02:25’s a good life.
Left arm a little open, so that there’s space…
02:29 you’re going around the circle of the follower.
So what guys usually do,
let’s pretend, once again,...
..your ballet bar, that you keep at home handy
for instances just like this.
There, if my follower's here and I’m pulling back
with my arm to pivot her,…
..I want to do this with my left arm.
And usually what guys do is this, right?
They pull the arm in.
And so, the reason you use a wall or a dresser,
is so that, as you go along the wall,…
03:00’re forced to keep this left arm touching it,
keeping it out.
And the same thing is true of your right arm,
but instead of letting it be out,…
03:07’re going to pick something
you’re right next to.
So, with the right arm, as you pivot her,...
.. for example, to pivot this way, this way,
wherever she is…
..I’ll do this.
So you see, my right arms stays close to her body
in this line…
..and my left arm stays open.
So ideally, you can, for example, set up a chair
slightly taller than this alongside a wall…
..and stand, you know, a couple feet away from the wall
so your arm stays open…
..but right next to these lines of chairs.
And then you can do this thing
to her to pivot.
So you can learn that coordination.
And then you have the touch as feedback.
Because what will happen,
and this will happen to you, unless you’re, like, gifted...
..far more than I was, you’ll do this.
Chair behind you,
you’ll do this, and the chair will move.
And you’ll do this, and you’ll lose contact
with the wall.
So try that.
Wall, left arm open, right arm alongside her body...
..or, in this case, very close to your body, in a line,
hips even.