‘Strike a Pose’: Berlin Review

Checking in on Madonna’s Blond Ambition dancers 25 years later, this Dutch documentary looks at what happens once the performance high is over and the celebrity bubble pops.

Remember when Madonna used to be playful and fierce, and her iconoclastic performance stunts were about pop provocation and spectacular chutzpah, not just frantic bids to stay relevant? The apotheosis of those golden years was the 1990 Blond Ambition Tour, which scandalized the conservative world with its juxtaposition of sex and religion, not to mention birthed the fashion flourish of the Gaultier cone bra. The tour was chronicled in Alek Keshishian’s juicy documentary Madonna: Truth or Dare, which featured the boss exchanging pillow talk with her beauteous multihued harem of seven young male dancers.

So what’s left to consider in another doc that revisits those erstwhile voguing peacocks a quarter-century down the line? It turns out quite a bit in the slender but sweet Strike a Pose, co-directed by Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan. While it becomes slightly padded and a tad repetitious in the eventual reunion of the six surviving dancers, the smartly assembled film makes points that resonate in a world where fame is increasingly ephemeral and life after the celebrity window closes can get awfully cold. It’s a 21st century take on A Chorus Line that examines what comes after rather than before the euphoria of being chosen.

The modest but absorbing film should find a receptive audience keen on gay and pop-cultural programming at festivals as well as on streaming platforms and television. It also taps into recent renewed interest in voguing, as seen in the Sundance premiere Kiki, which also screened in Berlin’s Panorama Documentary section.

At heart, Strike a Pose is a story of orphaned children, who were barely into their 20s when they traveled the world, giving fabulous face and killer attitude with a stratospherically famous surrogate mother who banished their insecurities and made them feel like royalty. The doc’s principal weakness — and it’s no doubt an unavoidable one — is the absence of Madonna to share her memories of that temporary family. And while the guys are disarmingly frank about their personal highs and lows, the suspicion arises that they’re somewhat zipped-up about their possibly litigious former madre.

What rescues the film from becoming just another “where are they now?” reality show is the charm, personality and emotional honesty of the dancers — now in their 40s and mostly still looking pretty fine, even those with thickened waistlines, slackened features and less hair.

The core members of the group were Luis Camacho and Jose Gutierez, plucked from the black and Hispanic New York drag-ball scene (House of Xtravaganza was their alma mater) by Madonna to dance in her music video for “Vogue,” directed by David Fincher, and following that, to perform in the yearlong global tour. The charges of cultural appropriation made against Madonna at the time are not addressed, but then, she’s always been a magpie so those gripes now seem irrelevant,

While a willingness to share the spotlight is not the first trait you’d associate with Madonna, she was looking for dancers with presence, and with a story to tell. “Give me more of you,” was her key piece of direction, one of them recalls. That came naturally. “We carried our flamboyance as a warning,” explains Camacho. “Yes, we have earrings on, we have eyeliner on, but don’t mistake any of this for weakness.”

Please read the full review at HollywoodReporter.com

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Madonna’s Feb 28 concert in Singapore costs investors $14 million

Madonna’s upcoming Rebel Heart concert at the National Stadium on Feb 28 is costing its Taiwanese investors US$10 million, or S$14 million.

The cost for her first concert here includes air freight for the pop star’s 27 containers holding the stage, lighting and wardrobe set-ups.

One of the concert’s two investors, Mr James Lee, 53, the chief executive of Kinglun International Holdings – a Taiwan-based property company – revealed the entire cost of the concert in an interview with The Straits Times on Tuesday (Feb 16). The other investor is also Taiwanese but Mr Lee and Mediacorp declined to reveal his identity.

The property magnate also fancies himself as a concert promoter, having brought Western acts such as Mariah Carey and Air Supply to Taiwan over the last three years. He is usually a fan of the acts he brings in, saying that “music culture is an important trend that’s upcoming, which is one of the reasons why we have decided to invest in it”.

The Madonna concert marks his first time investing in a concert in Singapore. He did not invest in Madonna’s Taiwanese concerts, which took place on Feb 4 and 6.

While he did try to get on board for those shows, he was unsuccessful as most of her shows during the Asian leg of her tour are handled by subsidiaries of international concert promoter Live Nation.

Since there was no promoter for the Singapore show, Mr Lee decided to step in.

By bringing the Rebel Heart tour here, he hopes that people from neighbouring countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia will fly in to see her. “It’d be a waste if people in this part of the world don’t get to see her show,” he said, adding that “it’s a show not to be missed, she’s such a legendary queen of pop”.

He says the biggest challenge for the show was getting the government on board, explaining that no other shows on her tour had to be “curated” beforehand.

According to a statement from the Media Development Authority (MDA) last month, Madonna is not allowed to perform the song Holy Water and the show has been given an R18 rating.

The statement added: “In determining the rating, MDA had carefully reviewed the proposed setlist and consulted the Arts Consultative Panel. Religiously sensitive content which breach our guidelines, such as the song Holy Water, will thus not be performed in Singapore.”

Mr Lee admits that they were worried when the government “had some conditions for approval for the show”. They were equally concerned that Madonna would say not to performing in Singapore.

“But surprisingly, she not only agreed to come, but she is willing to change the content just for the Singapore audience,” Mr Lee explains.

The current Asian stops on her worldwide tour – namely Taipei, Bangkok and Tokyo – include a segment in which she performs a medley of Holy Water, a song from her latest album Rebel Heart, and 1990 hit Vogue while scantily clad nuns pole-dance on cross-shaped stripper poles.

When asked if that segment would be removed, Mr Lee says: “From our understanding, it will not be removed, instead it will amended.”

While he is not entirely certain of the changes for the rest of the show, he says: “What I can tell the Singapore audience is that they will not lose any part of the experience, but I think they should be happy because they’re going to see something different from other parts of the world.”

This will also be the first concert at the National Stadium that will require a reconfiguration of the seating to accommodate the show.

According to Mr Lee, the seating will be pulled out to cover the running track of the stadium so that the seats located at the sides are closer to the stage. The entire process will take 10 days and comes at an additional cost.

“We are willing to spend this money just to make it more viable and to bring people closer to the stage,” he says.

Some 80 to 90 per cent of tickets have been sold, but after some negotiations, Mr Lee says that more tickets will be released in the $388 and standing tickets category. These additional tickets will go on sale on Wednesday morning (Feb 17) at 10am via Sports Hub Tix.

He insists that his participation as investor in the concert “is not for profit” and that he is fulfilling a promise to his friends in Singpore. Mr Lee and his wife come to Singapore three to four times a year.

Read more at StraitsTimes.com

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The Berlinale Diaries 2016: The Maestro, the Enigma, a Saudi Love Story & the Madonna Dancers

So far at Berlinale, there have been groundbreaking films, films about love, films about current affairs, movies about the past and some looking to the future. Some push the boundaries of reality, while others really stick our noses into the nitty gritty of surviving, both at home and on the other side of the borders humans have created. But the one thread running through it all, through every film, TV show and interview I’ve been a part of here in Berlin is that if we work together, if we believe in humanity strongly enough, we may just turn out to be OK after all.

Some meetings have sparked newfound passions for me, like when I met a favorite actor I’ve long longed to interview, and, atypical of his usually serious, composed and contemplative expression, he flashed a wide smile saying goodbye. It’s wonderful when those I’ve admired turn out to be even more impressive than I could ever want them to be. Wait, you want a name? Hum… Lets just say he’s featured in that cool Sci-Fi movie in Competition.

Then there was an early morning meeting with the backup dancers from Madonna’s “Blond Ambition” tour (pictured above), who were featured in the film Madonna: Truth or Dare and are now part of a beautiful, deeply touching documentary titledStrike a Pose, premiering on the 15th of February here at the Berlinale.

We began the interview laughing, getting to know each other and taking photos, and then slowly moved into the human shades of remembrance and melancholy. I was deeply affected by Salim, Carlton, Louis, Oliver, Jose, Kevin, the filmmakers Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan, but also the spirit of Gabriel Trupin, the one out of the group who has since moved on to being an angel. He’s always remembered, in the film, on the press kit, even in the interview room. Strike a Pose is a perfect love song by Gould and Zwaan to the exceptional men those boys turned out to be. By the end of the interview, we’d cried together, shared our innermost thoughts about life and death, and loved, loved a whole lot.

To read the full Berlinale Diaries visit HuffingtonPost

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Madonna Makes Appearance In Tokyo


Madonna is currently touring Asia but she has more than just concerts on her itinerary. After playing two shows in Tokyo as a part of her Rebel Heart tour, the Material Girl put in an after-hours appearance at Tokyo’s Ginza Mitsukoshi store to promote her skin-care line, MDNA Skin.

The superstar arrived at the basement of the department store at 10:30 p.m. an hour behind schedule for a five-minute photo shoot with Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings president Hiroshi Onishi and Tsuyoshi Matsushita, president of Japanese beauty company MTG, which makes the skin-care line.

Wearing a sheer black dress and a silver cross necklace, Madonna signed an advertisement board promoting her line but declined to give a speech or take questions from the dozens of reporters assembled. When asked by the photographers to smile bigger for their cameras, she replied softly, “I can’t,” before blowing a kiss and making a quick exit.

MDNA Skin was launched in 2014 in Japan and it is now being expanded and rolled out to select Asian markets. The line is produced by MTG and was developed with the singer herself and her aesthetician, Michelle Peck. The brand made its debut with a device called the “skin rejuvenator,” which is designed to be used with a clay mask, as well as a serum. Products being launched now include a face wash, a rose mist, an eye mask and another device conceived specifically for removing the clay mask. Prices range from 4,500 yen, about $37, for the face wash to 58,000 yen, or $481, for a set including the skin rejuvenator and clay mask.

MTG’s Matsushita said he plans to introduce MDNA Skin to the U.S. and European markets in the future, although no dates have been set.

The MDNA Skin line utilizes ingredients including thermal water, clay and olives from the Italian town of Montecatini Terme in Tuscany. MTG has plans to add even more products to the line in order to offer a total skin-care solution, but development and approval takes time when one is working with one of the world’s most famous perfectionists.

“All these products had to get by Madonna,” Peck said. “We’re not going to rush something just to make a launch. If it’s not ready, it’s not going to be here, because it’s not approved because there’s still things that need to be done to it to get in ready for the public. Which means it didn’t get by Madonna, it didn’t get by me and we’re still working on it. And that’s what I love about her. We would rather have it be ready than have it be presented in a way that’s not authentic.”

Read more at WWD.com

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Berlin Review: ‘Strike a Pose’ Revisits the Complicated World of Madonna

"Strike A Pose"
Linda Posnick

Backing singers are rarely name-checked, let alone encouraged to let their own personalities shine alongside that of the star they’re supporting. So the fact that an extraordinarily gifted group of male dancers was front and centre of Madonna’s acclaimed and controversial Blond Ambition Tour of 1990, and the accompanying backstage documentary “Truth or Dare,” was incredibly significant.

For the seven dancers — six gay, one straight — who were plucked from obscurity by Madonna herself, this was a life-changing experience. But it was also, inevitability, short-lived. Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan’s very touching documentary “Strike a Pose” considers two things: the complicated, even messy reality behind that heady moment — backstage of the backstage, if you like — and what happens to those left behind when the superstar and her spotlight have moved on.

Twenty-five years after the tour, the directors have found six of the seven dancers (one has passed away) and given Luis Camacho, Oliver Crumes III, Salim Gauwloos, Jose Gutierez, Kevin Stea, and Carlton Wilborn the chance to reflect; moreover, the film offers them an opportunity that Madonna didn’t: to speak for themselves.

Creatively, the singer couldn’t have been more generous in 1990. As Carlton recounts, her primary instruction was “Give me more of you.” At the same time, the themes that the star chose to express through the tour, film and surrounding media circus — gay rights, freedom of expression and the fight against AIDS — came with a sting in the tail for those alongside her, who were less keen than their boss to push buttons, or to have their own sexuality brandished in the media.

"Strike a Pose"
“Strike a Pose”

On top of that, some of their number were living, secretly, with HIV. One clever sleight of hand by Gould and Zwann is to show Madonna’s on-stage speech about her late friend Keith Haring, who had recently died of AIDS, urging listeners to “face the truth together,” then later in the film to return to the same clip, this time with Salim’s commentary, pointing out the evident discomfort on his face as he was standing next to her.

The film suggests that while Madonna may not have outed her dancers, their presence certainly fueled her agenda, whether they liked it or not. They were and remain role models of self-expression for many gay people, but this came with a price.

“Truth or Dare” was followed by lawsuits, for different reasons, and a gradual distancing between Madonna and her dancers, and between the dancers themselves. Life for them after such heady fame has had its share of difficulties and disappointments.

Neither these engaging men (now in their forties) nor the filmmakers themselves seem overly interested in pointing fingers. In many respects, “Strike a Pose” is a celebration of a brilliantly creative and formative period, for all concerned. It seems undisputed, too, that during the tour a genuine, quasi-family bond developed, with Madonna — who had barely turned 30 herself at the time — becoming a mother figure to her handsome boys. Was she striking a pose? We can only ask her.

Read more at Indiewire

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New unofficial release: Rebel Heart Tour in Cologne – 2CD digipack

The first factory pressed silver disc bootleg of the Rebel Heart Tour has surfaced. This digipack with booklet and double picture CD contains the full show recorded in Cologne, Germany on November 5th. By ‘first factory pressed bootleg’ we mean a release not homemade on cd-r by fans. This however still is an unofficial release with a recording taped by someone in the audience. The sound quality however is good, even though it is an obvious audience recording. Madonna’s voice and music are clear throughout.

We have added this release to our Rebel Heart Tour page. We don’t have this for sale, nor do we have any information on where to get it. The submission of this unofficial release is for information purposes only.

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Our Book Review – ‘The Music Of Madonna’ by Chris Wade

Chris Wade has just released his second book on Madonna discussing her discography. His first book focused on the movies Madonna’s starred in, giving the reader a good reminder why they needed to check out her filmography and forget the everlasting bashing by critics.

Madonna: On Screen was a very enjoyable read and it truly did make me want to jump back into my closet, find those DVD’s and reflect.

‘The Music Of Madonna’ discusses her albums from ‘Madonna’ up until her recent ‘Rebel Heart’. The opinions in this book are those of Chris Wade, this is something you have to remember while reading the book. Chris does a great job in describing the record and what he hears while listening to the tracks.

Of course you will disagree or agree with Chris a lot throughout the book. Songs that he might describe as a hidden gem, for example ‘One More Chance’, while others might think this is one of her weakest songs to date. Stating ‘Gang Bang’ is awful while many consider the track to be absolutely brilliant (and Madonna’s personal favorite off MDNA too).

Remember you are reading a book about Madonna’s discography with the opinions as stated by the writer, there is absolutely no way for you to agree with everything he writes so don’t expect yourself to. Chris Wade is entitled to voice his opinion about it just as much as you are. If you set your own opinions aside and are open to someone else’s, this book makes for a fun read.

The book is a nice addition for people wanting to know more about the songs of Madonna’s album releases as well as those looking for a Madonna book which is not another biography.

There is nothing so diverse as Madonna’s music, causing for fans to have very different opinions about it.  Her best and weakest efforts will forever be something none of us will ever agree on. But that is what is so good about her music, it is never dull and it always takes you a new ride. Whether it’s funky pop, inspired by jazz, dark and moody, electronica or disco and uplifting. There is always something for everyone in Madonna’s back catalogue. You may enjoy her music or you may not, but you can’t ever deny the impact her singles, albums and videos have had in the music industry.

It’s time for some true acknowledgements, critics show her some respect please, she’s earned it ages ago.

Order ‘The Music Of Madonna’ HERE


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Liz Smith on Madonna, Rocco & Guy

I have refrained until now from commenting on the matter ofMadonna and her 15-year-old son, Rocco, who has recently declined to return to the United States and live with his mother, preferring the more lackadaisical lifestyle of his father, director Guy Ritchie. (Madonna married Ritchie in 2000. They divorced in 2008 and he — already a wealthy man — took the pop icon for about $75 million bucks.)

I have no inside information, other than the fact that Madonna is crushed by this turn of events. I know her quite well. I have seen her with all four of her children. I have heard her speak privately about them in the most glowing — and intelligent — terms. She is a stickler for education, self-discipline and motivation.

Despite the professional image and stage persona she often embodies, Madonna is a very good mother, and not, appearances to the contrary, a hedonist or self-destructive. No drugs, no drinking, no dissipation. The male company she has kept since her divorce from Ritchie are separate from her role as a mother. She is not given to wild or inappropriate behavior in front of her children, or anyone else, for that matter.

(I, along with others, might roll my eyes at some of the things she wears, or how she presents herself in photo shoots or on Instagram. But that’s not her daily life. She marches to her own drummer and refuses to be categorized or held back by what others think is “suitable” for a woman of 57. She enjoys making us crazy.)

I am fairly certain that continuing with her current “Rebel Heart” tour has been agonizing, but it would be out of character for Madonna to cave, give in, give up. And what would it gain her? Bad press, enraged fans, and her son would still be in England.

This unhappy situation will likely sort itself out, but that the situation exists doesn’t surprise me. I wondered what was going on in Guy Ritchie’s head when he put Madonna in a film short as a movie star abused by her driver, and then starred her in “Swept Away,” as a wealthy woman abused by one of her servants.

Madonna entered her marriage to Ritchie fully committed. To such an extent that photos of the wedding were never made public.  Her nuptials were not grist for the PR mill. Madonna’s two “I do’s” — to Sean and then to Ritchie were absolutely sincere. That Catholic girl from Michigan always lurks beneath the “outrageous” star.

I don’t think Madonna regrets her marriage to Penn. They have remained friends. I believe she regrets most of her marriage to Ritchie, except for their son, Rocco.

Good luck with all this, honey. You are a good girl.

Read full blog by Liz Smith HERE

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Behind the scenes with the Rebel Heart

For her “Rebel Heart” tour, Madonna wanted to look “strong and fierce, but feminine at the same time”, says her makeup artist, Gina Brooke, who’s spent 10 years on and off the road with the American superstar.

“The look comes from a process of collaboration among Madonna, myself, the hairdresser and the other stylists,” Brooke said before Tuesday’s concert.

“Of course she has to have beautiful, glowing skin and a ‘full mouth’ because we felt that’s what really signifies a woman’s strength, as well as strong lashes and brows. She had to look like a rebel ready to stand up for what she believes in – love.”

Brooke has worked with Madonna on five world tours and numerous videos. “I don’t do the whole tour, but I train the makeup artists and set the looks. I come in for different countries and make sure everything is working.”

Brooke has decided she likes the final segment of the current show best. “It’s like the 1930s, because she wears a sort of flapper dress. So I made eye shadow out of real gold for her and apply it to her lips as well, with a bit of eight-hour cream on top to make it glossy. I love that era and she wears it very well.”
Brooke confirms that a concert tour is anything but glamorous. “It is very hard work, very demanding. Madonna is one of the hardest-working artists I’ve ever worked for. There is really no one like her. She’s very structured. She likes things a specific way, all the time, the same thing.

“She doesn’t meet people before show. She has the regimen she follows very rigidly. You really have to be professional – when she asks a question, you want to make sure you give her the answer right away, because if you take a minute away from her, it could cause you your job.

“Most artists show up just before the show and just perform,” Brooke said. “Madonna shows up hours before show time, checks the lights, goes through all the songs, makes sure the sound is working and so on. And what’s always amazed me is that, after all that and just before the show, she’ll sit with the head of each department, all of them with a notepad and pen. And she’ll say, ‘When I sing this song, this or that went wrong.’ She can remember every single detail of what happened at that moment and knows how it needs to be fixed. She’s a real perfectionist.”

There’s a big of magic involved in the quick costume changes, Brooke reveals.

“Underneath the stage is a small changing room, with two stylists, the makeup artist and the hairstylist, some chairs, a clothes rack and a mirror.” And every speedy change is practice-perfect. “We have to choreograph our movements for three or four weeks,” she laughs.

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Top 10 Richest Female Singers 2016

So let’s take a look at the top ten richest female singers, and find out where they made their money.

#3 – Mariah Carey Net Worth 2016 – $520 Million
#2 – Celine Dion Net Worth 2016 – $630 Million
#1 – Madonna Net Worth 2016 – $1 Billion

Singer, actress, songwriter and entrepreneur Madonna has done it all. And it has paid dividends. Her true net worth is a whopping $1 Billion, this makes her not only the richest female singer in the world, but the richest of all singers, regardless of gender. She is known for her reinvention on the stage and a genre spanning back catalog of music. Beginning in the 1980’s and remaining popular to this day. Her business ventures outside of music include a wide variety of branded merchandise, clothes, books, makeup, fragrances, you name it she sells it. She owns a chain of fitness stores, Hard Candy Fitness, founded an entertainment company, Maverick, and has made appearances in film and television. Madonna has leveraged a successful singing career into a multimedia empire that spans the globe.

Full list HERE

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Madonna’s Blond Ambition dancers: New film ‘Strike a Pose’ reveals what happened to them

It’s 25 years since seven male dancers were picked out by Madonna for her Blond Ambition tour. They became gay role models and celebrities in their own right but inevitably the bubble burst, as a new film reveals.

It’s just over 25 years now since Madonna placed an ad anonymously to recruit “FIERCE male dancers who know the meaning of TROOP STYLE, BEAT BOY and VOGUE…wimps and Wanna-Be’s need not apply.”

The seven dancers she chose from open auditions in LA and New York accompanied Madonna during her 1990 Blond Ambition world tour, celebrated in the Truth Or Dare (aka In Bed with Madonna) documentary. They were all in their early twenties. Six were gay. They became celebrities in their own right as they travelled the world with the biggest pop star of the era. The dancers were wildly flamboyant. Most were classically trained.

“They are still very intriguing characters, all of them,” says Reijer Zwaan, whose new documentary about them, Strike a Pose (co-directed with Ester Gould) screens at the Berlin festival next week. Five of the dancers will be in Berlin for the world premiere. “To this day, they are great, inspiring and bold characters. These guys, when they were 20, were having the time of their lives. They were travelling the world. They were well known. They were performing in front of 50,000 people.” The dancers and the singers became a very close-knit group. Madonna talked about “feeling like a mother” toward them.

As a kid growing up in the Netherlands in the early 1990s, Zwaan, now a respected current affairs journalist with Dutch public TV, had been obsessed by Madonna and the dancers. He first saw Truth Or Dare when he was 11 years old.

“At the time, I was just fascinated by the tour, by the concert footage but also by the backstage material – the larger-than-life reality that they were all in. I saw it (the film) many times afterwards for the simple reason that my stepmother had bought the VHS.” What, Zwaan wondered, had happened to all the dancers in the intervening years? He decided to find out.

Thanks to social media, the dancers weren’t hard to track down. The trick was to convince them all to appear in the film. Zwaan and his co-director, Gould, wrote them all “a beautiful letter”, asking them to appear in the film.

Some responded immediately and agreed to appear in the film. Others were more cautious. “It’s not the same story for each dancer but in general, they were interested in what we were talking about… they were flattered and wary at the same time,” Gould suggests.

It was clear to the dancers that this wasn’t just a gossipy, nostalgic film with Madonna at the centre. The real intention was to explore just how these dancers reinvented their lives once their time in the limelight was over. The dancers are acknowledged to have had a considerable influence on gay culture. Truth Or Dare was considered groundbreaking – a mainstream film that turned into a huge box office hit and featured a scene of two gay men kissing.

As one fan puts it, “I remember watching this movie in middle school. It was before the internet. I rented it from the video store. It was the first time I saw gay people talking uncensored, being themselves, with this amazing woman.”

Twenty-five years on, the dancers are still stopped in the street. “People will say to them, ‘Thanks to you, I dared to come out to my family,’” says co-director Gould. “Every week, they get a letter or message from somebody thanking them. They know they have had an impact. At the same time, they have had to move on.”

Strike a Pose includes scenes in which the dancers read some of their fan letters. These message are often very poignant. “You guys were and still are my heroes. You gave me hope when there was none,” reads one typical message. “

The dancers may have been role models and a source of inspiration to fans but they have experienced chequered lives. They were all from very different backgrounds. One of them, Gabriel Trupin (whose mother appears in the film), died of an Aids-related illness in 1995.

Luis Camacho in make-up (Lisa Guarnieri)

Not long before his death, Trupin, together with two of the other dancers, had launched a lawsuit against Madonna (which was later settled), claiming that the film had invaded their privacy. It highlighted a paradox that Strike a Pose now attempts to unravel. Trupin has been an inspiration for many young, gay kids. He and the other dancers gave the impression on screen and on stage that they didn’t care what the outside world thought about them. They were reckless and very creative. As it turned out, though, they were far more vulnerable than they appeared. Trupin was horrified that the scene of him French-kissing another man had been included in Truth Or Dare.

“That paradox was very interesting to us and something we talked about a lot to the dancers and to Gabriel’s mother,” says Zwaan. “So many people have pointed out to us that that scene (of the gay kiss) helped them to accept themselves and to dare to come out. Then, at the same time, one of the kissers had a whole different feeling about it.” During their time with Madonna, the dancers had been living in “a bubble” and inevitably that bubble burst. There were struggles with alcoholism, illness, professional disappointment, personal rifts.

“They all have dealt with self-doubt, shame and losing their own identity,” says Zwaan.

These proud dancers became defined in the public eye for what they had done with Madonna. “It’s one of the themes of this film – how do you get over this highlight? If you have this highlight when you’re 20 or 21, or for Jose and Luis, I think they were 18 or 19. There comes a point where they think, do I have to do another interview about Madonna? It keeps on following you throughout your life. Of course, they’re trying to move on,” Gould remarks.

No, Madonna hasn’t seen the film yet. The film-makers have “reached out” to the singer, her lawyers and management but haven’t yet had a response. Nonetheless, Zwaan believes she would be fascinated by what they’ve uncovered. “She is touring right now. She is doing the Rebel Heart tour and so she is all over the world and quite busy – and so I can imagine she didn’t even have a chance to respond. But I do believe that she cares about these guys. They were with her at a very important part of her career and they were very close. I do think that once she sees the film, she might be touched by their stories… they were sort of a family.”

Whatever the price they later had to pay, the dancers were Madonna’s foot soldiers when the singer was at the very height of her power and popularity – and their contribution to the success of the Blond Ambition tour was immense. As Gould puts it, “they do realise that they made a mark”.

‘Strike a Pose’ receives its world premiere at the Berlin Festival on 15 February 

Read more at The independent

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