Berlin Review: Moving Documentary ‘Strike A Pose’ Catches Up With Madonna’s ‘Blond Ambition’ Dancers

There is something eternally fascinating about survival stories — not necessarily the ones that involve Robert Redford on a sinking boat orSandra Bullock in a leaky spacecraft, but real survival stories, of people going on with their lives after the sometimes brief period that defined them. That fascination is multiplied, shaded with regret, nostalgia, and maybe even bitterness, when those defining moments involved youthful beauty, a physicality that time has eroded, or at least changed. Ester Gould and Reijer Zwann‘s crowd-pleasing, where-are-they-now-style documentary catches up with the troupe of dancers from Madonna‘s 1990 “Blond Ambition” tour, several of whom were subsequently featured in her then-controversial movie “Truth or Dare,” as well as the iconic video for “Vogue.” Of the seven — Slam,Kevin, Carlton, José, Luis, Gabriel, and Oliver (the straight cuckoo in this gay nest) — not all survived. Some contended with HIV/AIDS, some had to overcome addiction or homelessness, but all shared a unique and life-altering experience: a moment on the crest of a wave of fame that, with the arrogance of youth, they believed would last forever. Right until it crashed.

Actually, their time orbiting the biggest star in the world, just at the point at which she went supernova, was short, really only lasting from the beginning of the tour to the fallout following the 1991 release of “Truth or Dare.” The film, with its spontaneous gay kiss between Gabriel and Slam, became the subject of a lawsuit when Oliver, Kevin, and Gabriel sued Madonna for, essentially, involuntarily outing them. It’s a bitter moment that in retrospect takes on an almost matricidal air (they frequently refer to Madonna in maternal terms), as though it were a premeditated plan to cut the apron strings. It wasn’t, of course, and but it did abruptly sever their connection to the Queen of Pop. It feels somewhat ruefully moot now, when all of them now acknowledge their intense pride in inspiring a generation of gay people just then coming to terms with their sexuality in an environment less enlightened than today’s.

READ MORE: ‘Fire At Sea’ Takes Golden Bear At Berlin Film Festival, Mia Hansen-Love Wins Best Director, And More

Oliver, the self-confessed former homophobe despite his fondness for flamboyant clothing (“How can you be a homophobe? You look like a parrot” Luis remembers thinking) is now married, works in a restaurant, and the right hand side of his face sags slightly as a result of Bell’s Palsy, which he and his wife explain good-naturedly in one of the film’s most unexpectedly endearing moments. Jose lives with his boyfriend in a room of his adored mother’s apartment: he cries when she reminds him of the house she thought he’d one day buy her. Slam confesses to a secret he has held close since 1987, Carlton talks openly about his HIV-positive status, Luis refers to his heroin addiction: not one of them fails to understand just how young and naive they were when this whirlwind hit.

"Strike A Pose"
Linda Posnick

But neither would any of them exchange the memory of that period for anything, and most have remained connected to the dance world in one capacity or another. This contributes to the film’s loveliest sequence, where we cut between each of the men performing today: in contrast to the crisp bravado of the moves that made them famous, their short routines are elegiac and slow, scored to an delicate instrumental track rather than a pop hit, often performed in silhouette or near-darkness — a rather lovely metaphor for a graceful withdrawal from the limelight.

Otherwise, Gould and Zwann’s film runs along perhaps too familiar and formal lines to have too many tricks up its sleeve: it establishes a rhythm of switching between the dancers individually in their post-fame lives, that we just know must end with a reunion. Yet that does not rob the inevitable meeting of its simple, sweet power, and the gentle revelations, mellowed with time, that punctuate the excited chatter are truly moving. Yes, the contrived nature of the situation contributes to a performative feel, but these men are all performers, and their interactions are no less authentic and sincere for being self-consciously dramatic.

There is also the palpable air, hanging over that dinner table, that some or maybe all of them secretly hoped that Madonna herself would make an appearance. Because aside from their personal stories, “Strike A Pose” also functions as an examination of the halo effect of fame, and what happens when the flame moves on and leaves you behind. Despite Luis’ more philosophical take (“She doesn’t owe us anything… and we became who we are because of us, not her”), Madonna is the film’s structuring absence. As a result, some noticeable omissions (we never see the “Vogue” video, for example, and concert footage is used more sparingly that you might expect), while possibly rights-based, also feel thematically appropriate.

Indeed, a deus-ex-machina last-minute appearance by the star would have thrown the whole center of gravity of the film off, because it’s not about her, it’s about life after her. And that’s how “Strike a Pose,” despite the melancholy nature of some of the stories, becomes such an uplifting survival tale. “At the time any one of us would have taken a bullet for any one of the others,” declares Oliver definitively, but there’s not always a hail of gunfire handy in which to prove your mettle: mostly it’s how you persevere in the absence of drama that really tells you who you are. [B]

Read more at Indiewire

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Thousands of Madonna fans converged on the Studio City Event Center (SCEC) over the weekend to see the Queen of Pop’s two debut performances in Macau as part of her worldwide “Rebel Heart Tour.”
The Times attended Saturday’s concert, which started at 10.35 p.m. in the crowded 5,000-seat SCEC. Madonna performed some of her all-time hits, including “Like a Virgin,” “Material Girl,” and the lead songs from her Rebel Heart album.
During a pause between acts, Madonna sat on the stage and said to the audience: “I’ve never been anywhere quite like Macau before; it’s remarkable and it is special. It feels intimate and grand. It feels small and it feels… not small.”
Madonna’s Saturday performance in Macau also featured a surprise entrance from Hong Kong Cantopop singer Eason Chan, who took to the stage and danced alongside the musical legend. Madonna uttered, “Oh shit!” to roars of applause, as Chan fell over while dancing. Madonna ended Saturday’s concert in Cotai wrapped up in a Macau flag, as she did in HK with the Bauhinia jacket.
According to a press release issued by Melco Crown, Madonna’s two performances attracted numerous Asian celebrities, including Aaron Kwok, Miriam Yeung, Charlene Choi, Christy Chung and award-winning actress Carina Lau. Also present were celebrated couples Simon Yam and Qi Qi, and Leo Ku and Lorraine Chan.



read more at MacauDailyTimes

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Madonna crew to make Filipinos crazy for her

AT AGE 57, Madonna seems to have done everything, imaginable or otherwise, in her 36-year career.

But for her current “Rebel Heart” tour, the Queen of Pop is pulling out all the stops to give her fans, including Filipinos, a show they will remember for a long time.

Staggering are the details involved in the production of Madonna’s tour, cited by Forbes magazine as “the most expensive” of 2015, and which rolls into Manila on Feb. 24 and 25 at SM Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena:

More than 2 million Swarovski crystals adorn Madonna’s costumes, whose seven designers include Alessandro Michele for Gucci, Alexander Wang, Fausto Puglisi, Jeremy Scott for Moschino, Nicolas Jebran, MiuMiu and Prada.

Over 1,000 wardrobe pieces are required for all the performers on stage, 500 pairs of shoes have been custom-made, and more than 200 pairs of fishnets will be worn by Madonna when the tour ends, with 60 people dressing, sewing and adjusting the costumes night after night.

While the audience are watching the show, some 2 million LED pixels will light up the rear screens on stage, with 63,500 kilograms (140,000 pounds) of lights, sound and video equipment in use for each night’s performance. The movable stage ramp alone weighs 24,970 kg (55,000 lb).

Comprising Madonna’s advance party are more than 100 crew members, who are due to arrive in Manila today to start mounting the elaborate stage set, which will also be flown in from Macau, the tour’s previous stop.

The stage—the same one used for the tour’s opening date on Sept. 9, 2015, at Bell Center in Montreal, Canada, and all other coming dates—was designed by Stufish, the design studio founded by Mark Fisher, which also did the sets of the respective tours of Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, U2, Lady Gaga, Elton John, and 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, among others.

The MOA Arena crowd will be thrilled to see that the Rebel Heart stage “is almost as long as the entire court floor area” of the venue, according to a representative of the tour’s Philippine promoter, Music Management International.

The main stage leads to a long catwalk extending from its middle to the center of the space. At the middle of the catwalk is a second, circular-shaped stage, while at the far end is a third, heart-shaped stage.

The stage will allow Madonna to move as freely as possible and reach out to all sections of the venue. In fact, there will be seven bouncing sway poles extending over the audience during the performance.

The Rebel Heart concert averages 20 songs, give or take a couple of additional tunes, depending on Madonna.

The set list from the Feb. 20 show in Macau contains four segments: “Joan of Arc/Samurai” theme, opening with the Beatles’ “Revolution” accompanying a video, before segueing with five Madonna songs; “Rockabilly meets Tokyo,” five songs including “True Blue” and “Like A Virgin”; “Latin/Gypsy,” five songs including “La Isla Bonita”; “Party/Flapper,” five songs including “Material Girl”; plus an encore, “Holiday.”

The tour, which will end on March 20 in Sydney, has a total of 82 shows: 36 in North America, 25 in Europe, eight in Oceania, and 13 in Asia, including the two dates in MOA Arena.

It is presented by Live Nation, with whom Madonna signed a five-year contract worth over $1 billion.
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Madonna arrives in Manila

Madonna arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, dawn of February 22, 2016.

The American singer and songwriter, whose full name is Madonna Louise Ciccone, was aboard a chartered Boeing 752 at 1:58 a.m., the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said.

From the plane, she walked at the runway’s ramp and boarded a limousine going to her hotel.

Madonna will be having a concert titled “Madonna Rebel Heart Tour” at the Mall of Asia Arena on February 24 to 25 2016.


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New in Filmography: Madonna in Truth Or Dare / In bed With Madonna, TONS of scans, lots of videos!

New in our Filmography is Truth Or Dare / In Bed With Madonna. We couldn’t have timed it better as it’s been almost 25 years since it made it’s memorable debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 1991. Not only that but the Dutch documentary Strike A Pose following up on what happened to the dancers of the Blond Ambition Tour has just premiered at Berlinale. Receiving nothing but praise and set for a Dutch premiere in May.

We have taken a lot of time getting this one together, hours of scanning original articles, finding great videos and memorabilia (from our own collection).

  • Press – over 125+ original magazine and newspaper articles scanned
  • memorabilia – including the original Cannes programme, displays, original videos and much more
  • Trailers – view a rare original TV spot and see the trailer
  • Movie Scenes – view some scenes from Truth Or Dare from the blu-ray in HD
  • Interview – watch the entire interview with Rene Mioch
  • Buy the film!
  • Read the facts

Visit Truth Or Dare now, ENJOY


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‘strike a pose’: a homage to madonna’s blonde ambition dancers

At the drop of a hat, any serious Madonna fan can run down the most indelible moments fromTruth or Dare (or In Bed with Madonna). The highest-grossing documentary ever at the time of its release, the film details the on-and-off-stage antics of her 1990 Blond Ambition world tour. My highlight would be when the tenacious pop princess sings a cappella with her two back-up singers outside an arena, as they hold hands and strut past impassive police “in the fascist state of Toronto,” after being told she’d face arrest on the grounds of not-very-virginal onstage crotch play.

Sure, the film seared into our collective consciousness those iconic Jean Paul Gaultier costumes and Madonna’s oft-discussed water bottle fellatio feat. But with the luxury of hindsight, what remains most groundbreaking about Truth or Dare is the way it candidly explored and embraced young queer life. At one point, hip-hopper Oliver even complains about being the only straight performer on the tour, as her six other dancers were gay men. And in a pre-So You Think You Can Dance era when dancers mostly toiled in oblivion, Truth or Dare propelled Madonna’s surrogate family of backup talents — Salim, Gabriel, Carlton, Jose, Kevin, Luis and Oliver — into the spotlight in an unprecedented way. While the dancers became role models of self-empowerment and success for millions worldwide, the touching new documentary Strike A Pose reveals that applying those ideals of freedom to their own lives proved far trickier.

“It’s impressive to see people follow what you did and, 25 years later, still appreciate you for telling your personal side of the story and getting all emotional about it. I’m so moved by that,” iconic voguer Jose Gutierez Xtravaganza tells me when we sit down with fellow dancers Kevin Stea and Salim Gauwloos for a chat at the Berlinale, where the film’s world premiere elicited rapturous cheers and heartfelt Q&A testimonials the night before. Still reeling from what Kevin describes as “the overwhelming love and look of awe in people’s eyes,” I reckon it’s just starting to dawn on them that they never stopped being role models for such a wide spectrum of fans.

Among them, Strike A Pose co-director Reijer Zwaan, a political scientist and deputy editor for a current affairs program in the Netherlands. In other words, not quite the filmmaker profile you’d expect for such a project. Zwaan agrees it’s a happy departure, explaining how the guys left a big imprint on him growing up. “It stems from a personal fascination of mine with these dancers,” recalls Zwaan. “I saw the film when I was 11 at an Amsterdam theater and was immediately mesmerized. I saw the film many times after that and wondered what had happened to them. I found people online writing about how they came out or dared to be themselves because of them. It certainly was inspiring to see a group of gay guys be so open, proud and cool. I remember being impressed with them, as was [co-director] Ester Gould.”

Upon meeting the guys separately and being completely taken by their combination of “sweetness, strength and openness,” Zwaan and Gould agreed there was a big story to tell. One that would afford the six surviving dancers (Gabriel sadly died of AIDS in 1995) a chance to speak for themselves, and open up about the inner demons that prevented them from achieving the very freedom they embodied so convincingly. “The idea of self-acceptance as being very hard for all of us, even when you are a paragon of pride, was very powerful to us,” says Zwaan. “That’s what connected all their stories for us.”

Read the full article at I-D Vice

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Exclusive Video: Synth Secrets of Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour

Behind the big production and choreography of Madonna’s 2015-16 Rebel Heart tour are some state-of-the-art synth rigs. Musical director Kevin Antunes, whom we’ve also talked to about his work with Justin Timberlake and on Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: One tribute, invited us onstage for a rare look at the hardware-meets-software stage rigs assembled for himself and co-keyboardist Ric’key Pageot.
On Antunes’ stage riser, a huge amount of the sounds come from a mirrored dual-laptop Native Instruments Komplete setup that includes Maschine pad controllers and Komplete Kontrol MIDI keyboards. The MacBook Pros also runMOTU Digital Performer. His audio interface of choice is the RME MADIface XT because he needs to send lots of channels to and from both the front-of-house and monitor mixers. A venerable Mackie Big Knob serves as Antunes’ personal monitor controller, along with customized Master & Dynamic headphones. To his right, a Roland Fantom-G workstation and V-Synth GT comprise the hardware synth portion. A custom-made rack of Gibraltar components utilizes a convex, ribcage-like shape to allow freedom of movement and easy access to foot pedals–and also looks so stealthy that from the audience perspective, it’s as though the keyboards and synths are floating in mid-air.
Ric’key Pageot’s main axes are an Access Virus TI 2 above a Nord Stage 2. For loops and samples, he runs Ableton Live and a Push controller on a MacBook Pro, via an Apogee Ensemble interface, connected via Thunderbolt. (Read about the latest features in Ableton Live 9.5 here.) Like Kevin, he also has the Roland Fantom-G and V-Synth GT.
Kevin, Ric’key, and keyboard techs Joe Wolfe and “Bongo” Longo explain all this and more in this trio of exclusive videos, shot just before sound check at Madonna’s October 2015 performance in San Jose, California.
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Madonna will not perform sensitive segment in Singapore, organiser clarifies – Holy Water will be cut

“We wish to reconfirm MDA’s earlier response to this matter and clarify that Holy Water will not be a part of the Singapore show,” says organiser Live Nation Lushington.

SINGAPORE: Madonna will not be performing her controversial song Holy Water during the Singapore leg of her Rebel Heart Tour later this month, clarified organiser Live Nation Lushington on Friday (Feb 19).

In an article published by the Straits Times on Feb 16, it cited an investor in the show, Chief Executive of Kinglun International Holdings James Lee who said Holy Water would be performed in an amended version at the Singapore show.

Live Nation Lushington also stated that it had a cleared song list and performance that would meet the Media Development Authority (MDA) guidelines and requirements of show licensing in Singapore. The company holds the licence for the show.

MDA stated previously that Madonna would not be allowed to perform the segment because it contained “religiously-sensitive content which breach our guidelines”.

The regulator reiterated that the concert organiser has agreed to comply with the terms of the license. “(The license) states that the concert should not contain content or materials which offend any race or religion, and that the performance overall must fall within the guidelines of the R18 rating.”

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Madonna’s Groundbreaking ‘Truth or Dare’ Helped the LGBT Community at Its Most Vulnerable Time

I’ll never forget May 24,1991. It was a sunny Friday and my friends and I went to the Old Orchard Theater in Skokie, IL. to see the opening of the film Truth or Dare. I was still the only huge Madonna fan left in the group. The other guys respected her up until she did the lesbian kiss in the video for “Justify My Love,” released on video cassette after it was banned on MTV five months earlier. We talked about it on the way to the theater in the early afternoon.

“Yeah, that video is so sick,” I said, fully knowing I was a closeted homosexual, as were at least two of the five people who went with us — all pretending to be macho straight guys.

I knew the movie would contain questionable content, but that it did receive good reviews. Besides, Madonna could attempt to murder me at that time and I would still forgive her. This was 1991, when Madonna was the Queen of the Universe. There was no mainstream Internet, but she ruled the radio airwaves, the music charts, conservative protests, magazine covers and just about everything else.

We laughed at the beginning of the film, especially when Madonna says, “I’m waiting!” only a couple seconds after she requests help on stage with the sound at a show in Japan. At that time, Madonna’s narcissist behavior and rudeness were part of her appeal.

The scenes with her flamboyant dancers made me uncomfortable. Was I uncomfortable because of the very conservative environment that our country was going through at the time, when gay people were thought of as evil? Was I uncomfortable because her dancers reminded me that I was different and would have to soon face my differences if I wasn’t going to commit suicide (which is what many gay men did at the time)? Was I uncomfortable because I thought that if I was to come out, these men didn’t represent me at all?

There were other raunchy scenes, but they were more funny than disgusting, although at least ten people in the theater had walked out. However, the scene where Madonna’s dancer Oliver talks about the problems of being the only straight dancer on the tour led into something that changed my life forever. It was a scene of a gay pride parade – something I had never seen before. I knew they existed, but I didn’t know several thousands participated in them. I didn’t even realize there were several thousand other homosexuals in the world.

In the scene, Madonna’s dancers stand in the sidelines while people march, screaming, “We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to us!” There are all types of people in the scene: some flamboyant, some simple, some old, some young, some dressed outrageously and some dressed conservatively. In other words, they represented everybody. “Even I could fit in there,” I thought.

That moment changed my life. I felt a tear form in my right eye and wiped it right away, just so my friends wouldn’t suspect I was gay since I was moved by the scene. I felt a tingling sensation in my legs that was both powerful and relieving. Even though I still felt I was nothing like Madonna’s dancers, they were now my heroes. They let me know that it was okay to be different. Even if you are a part of the LGBT community, you wouldn’t understand what I felt unless you lived through the 80s or early 90s as a teenager.

When I remember the decision to accept myself no matter the consequences (and believe me, there were some major consequences), I always remember that scene in Madonna’s Truth or Dare at that Midwest movie theater. Even though Skokie wasn’t considered a conservative town (the majority of people there voted for Bill Clinton in the 1992 election), saying the word “gay” was still considered a sin in the early 1990s.

There was another scene where two of Madonna’s male dancers kissed each other. I remember the collective shock and awe the theater experienced. Those who stayed through the film thought they had seen it all. I remember hearing word such as “gross,” “sick,” “disgusting” and even “Jesus,” but I just laughed. I can’t say the same thing about my friends.

Truth or Dare was the first mainstream gay film that many people, gay or straight, saw. It led to acceptance of future films and television shows with gay themes (Roseanne being the biggest). Madonna’s career was hurt by this film as well as future gay and sex-themed projects that alienated a lot of her fan base. However, as many gay men who grew up during that time will admit, it changed their lives. Of course, Madonna’s LGBT activism certainly didn’t end with Truth or Dare and she even influenced Ellen DeGeneres to come out of the closet and change history herself.

It’s important to recognize the dancers in this film just as much as Madonna for putting these scenes out there. Little did they know that they would be a part of pop culture history and would lead to LGBT acceptance. Little did they know how much controversy the film would cause.

Madonna’s dancers from the film, with the exception of Gabrielle Trupin who died of complications from AIDS, will appear in a documentary called Strike a Pose, which premieres at the Berlin Film Festival this week. According to the Independent, the film deals with how the dancers inspired many gay men to come to terms with themselves, how the tour affected their lives and — most importantly — what became of them after the tour.

Like all others who instantly rise to fame, Madonna’s dancers struggled once the fame went away. A couple of the dancers sued Madonna for the film and claimed their privacy was invaded. The case was settled in 1994, but their impact on gay rights will be something that lasts forever.

Daryl Deino

Read more at the Huffington Post

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Madonna flies the flag for Hong Kong: bauhinias, breasts and bravado in first of two sold-out concerts

Bauhinias, breasts and bravado: welcome to Madonna’s first Hong Kong show. “It’s the year of the monkey, right?” she asks, appearing momentarily sweet and innocent.

In her tightly choreographed show, there’s little room for improvisation. But after courting controversy in Taiwan last week for her politically charged message, she is willing to taunt an expectant and enraptured local crowd. “We’re starting a revolution, we’re fighting for what you believe in. So if you’re a Rebel Heart, put your f**king monkey hands together,” she proclaims.Madonna brandishes a crucifix on stage. Photo: Supplied

It’s a wry nod, almost too subtle for a megastar more accustomed to thrusting her groin in the face of vagaries. Then the crimson bauhinia appears, draped across the shoulders of a shirtless dancer.

READ MORE: Madonna in Hong Kong: thousands of fans gather in glittery garb to watch superstar perform at Asia-World Expo

The crowd erupts and Madonna appears to have become the Messiah. It’s the parting shot at the end of a night of Madonna asserting her relevance and cultural immortality amid a set of relentless dance floor anthems spanning three decades, combined with raunchy, religious iconography.

With 32 years in the industry, ten mammoth world tours and 13 albums under her belt, the undisputed Queen of Pop had yet to indulge a Hong Kong crowd on a city stage.

Tickets for tonight’s appearance sold out within 30 minutes – the fastest-selling concert in Hong Kong’s history, prompting another Asia World-Expo date to be added to the Rebel Heart tour.

When she disappeared offstage to change costume, the dancers came into their own in beautifully choreographed routines.

READ MORE: Hong Kong’s 30-year relationship with Madonna: it’s complicated

Whether you think she’s a trendsetter-turned-tagalong, or zeitgeist-mining genius, there’s no denying that without Madonna, live music wouldn’t be what it is. Extravagant dance routines, a backdrop of pyrotechnics, cutting-edge visuals, and a carousel of costume changes are now the modus operandi for major popstars worldwide.

In these uninhibited times, it’s easy to overlook her achievements. A forebearer and sort of fairy godmother for the #freethenipple era; an age where kink and nudity can be artistic expression and political awareness, and a pop star can be simultaneously object of lust and pillar of revolution.

The prolific pop star’s first performance in Hong Kong proves that the longer something is withheld, the more rabidly it is desired and enjoyed.

The show culminated in a bacchanalia of Great Gatsby proportions, featuring chameleonic dancers suddenly shimmering and swinging in flapper gear. Music and Candy Shop were given a roaring 20s makeover while Madonna – somewhere in the glittering melee – was momentarily outshone by a topless dancer evoking “black pearl” Josephine Baker.

Taking to a vintage microphone, the singer suddenly reigned in the fiesta with a powerful solo rendition of Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose, oozing with romantic languor. No one was allowed to catch their breath for long as the revellers steamed on towards the pulsing grand finale, Unapologetic B***h.

Encore and closer Holiday was a free-form freak-out of lights, colour, feathers, streamers, and that fluttering, red flag. It was both parting shot and starting gun: Hong Kong finally got to bask in Madonna’s glow, but it was far too much fun to be a one-night stand.

Read more at SCMP

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