Jewel Lab honors Graeme Dallow

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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.

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