Jewel Lab honors Graeme Dallow

As you’ve noticed sometimes here at Jewel Lab we have impromptu birthday parties. Tonight we’re having an impromptu memorial service.

Graeme Dallow was an acrobat in the Radiant Review, a competitive figure skater, police commissioner, ballroom dancer, and the first person in New Zealand to dance and teach Argentine Tango. He started studying with me at age 84 and he was my most ambitious student to date. My phone would ring at 8am “Vio, do you have any time today? I’ve got to work on my double-giros.”

Graeme was devoted to the Wellington tango community. This tiny tango scene had suffered a divorce and a fistfight, so it was divided into four factions. This meant that it was hard to get enough people in one room to have a milonga. Graeme supported every faction, which meant that he attended every single event. In periods of high conflict, there would be four practicas on a Sunday, and Graeme would get around to all of them. He also created a non-aligned movement, inviting people to sit in his zone at the milongas, so they would feel comfortable attending.

He wanted to learn the fanciest, flashiest moves. In fact I was uncomfortable teaching him these, because I was afraid he would fall, and the community, which was so protective of him, would blame me for teaching him this “crazy stuff”. But he could not be dissuaded, and constantly pestered me for daredevil moves. Nor could he be interested in close embrace, which he found boring.

He would give the moves names, like the Humdinger, the Razzle-Dazzle, and the Forgetter. I thought it would be nice tonight if we could learn one of Graeme’s favorite moves. It’s the Forgetter, because he would always forget which foot to start on.

Graeme was an excellent student, desperate to take notes. But often he didn’t have any paper or pen. He would write on anything, old receipts, shopping bags. I hope that getting to know him tonight has inspired some of you, so I’ve created two Graeme Dallow Memorial Tango Notebooks. Who would like one?

And Graeme loved milonga. So let’s dance a tanda of beautiful milongas for him. Usually we have three in the tanda, but tonight there are four, one for Graeme.

I want you to know that you are not alone…

… neither in your dreams for tango nor in your frustrations.

My deepest desire is the same as all my students and friends … those who have yet to start dancing and those who dance a lot.

It’s partnership.

One thing I’ve learned on this quest, we need to:

Stop Waiting for Partners, and start Building them.

I’ve written a 10-step Action Plan.

Are you ready to find the Partners you want?




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Power is the courage, confidence, and competence to make things happen. I want to create in a way that’s incomparable and define my own compensation package. You too?

Syntax of Power is a raw, potent, and spare revelation of how I got to where I am and how I take on the struggle every day.

This book is not about tango, it’s about everything else.

It’s about stepping into the darkness of change, learning how to take care of yourself, and making things happen.

Dyv stands for Duro y Vio. We were inspired by a 2007 conference at Harvard University about tango as a transnational culture. Also we wanted to create something that would help people to imagine a queerer tango. We forbid ourselves to use the word ‘passion’ and instead tried to articulate the experience more precisely.

Argentine Tango is more than an elaborate and difficult dance, it is an international culture of intimacy, desire, and dignity. No mere romance or memoir, the intricately woven stories evoke tango’s true mysteries … the elation, the frustration, the compulsion…

We published the book in 2009. Dancers asked “how did you know what I was feeling?”

Silences in history. Silences by code. Silences of fear. You already know that Tango’s silences can be sublime and they can be devastating.

What I do in my blog is use myself as a lens – sometimes a microscope, sometimes a telescope. I try to be as honest with myself and you as words concede. Then I try to find a deeper meaning and imagine a pathway for us.

A blog post can be a fragment, a wisp of inspiration, an outline for thinking. A book must complete and reconcile it all. Now I drag the social scientist to the scene to enumerate the facts of the case, the mystery which brought both stardom and tragedy to my life.

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