Voguing – until that time – had been a part of the underground gay club scene & ballroom subculture. Madonna introduced it to a larger audience through her song and video, and (just as everything else she did) it became a new phad.
During 1990 Madonna toured the world for 5 months with her ‘Blonde Ambition’ tour. She held an audition to find some fierce and fabulous male dancers for her tour, and the seven guys that made the cut are the ones you see in her Vogue video.
During the tour, Madonna allowed camera crews to follow her around for her 1991 documentary ‘Truth or Dare’. This documentary allowed the viewer a (never before seen) behind-the-scenes look, and it also featured the lives of her ‘Blonde Ambition’ family; her backing vocalists and dancers.
The 2016 documentary ‘Strike a pose’ by filmmakers Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan is a film about the lives of the 7 dancers from Madonna’s ‘Blonde Ambition’ tour. It has recently been released in movie theaters, and the film talks about what happened to the dancers after the ‘Blonde Ambition’ tour and the release of the ‘Truth or Dare’ documentary. It shows the viewer how they are doing now, how their lives were affected after working with Madonna (and the fame and exposure it got them), and how they – as openly gay (and flamboyant) men – look back on being viewed as role models for so many gay young men back then. All this occurred during the years when HIV & AIDS reared its ugly head, and many people back then only associated the disease with gays.
I went to see the documentary this past week at the Filmhuis in The Hague. What left an impression on me, was how watching the documentary made me feel. It felt as though the filmmakers put a lot of love into creating this film. I could see and feel how they treated everyone with a lot of respect, and how they captured all the main ‘characters’ in the movie: Kevin Stea, Jose Gutierez Xtravaganza, Salim Gauwloos, Luis Camacho, Carlton Wilborn, Oliver Crumes and Gabriel Trupin through a tender and loving lens. Gould and Zwaan take you on a journey through the highs and lows, the good times and the sad times, and it was as if the more I heard the dancers speak about their life experiences, the more I felt a deep sympathy and affection for them growing inside of me.
I was deeply touched by their sincerity, their openness and by watching them evolve from very young and carefree guys, into mature men whose life experiences now speak very honestly through their eyes, words and actions. This quote in particular, by Jose Gutierez Xtravaganza, struck the right chord with me, and made me tear up during the movie:
“Be proud, you know. Be proud, whatever it is. ’cause everyone is someone.”
The dancers are currently touring the world to promote the documentary, and so they also appeared on the RTL Late Night talk show (in the Netherlands) about two weeks ago. Here’s a clip of them talking to the host of the show (Humberto Tan) about the film.
If you want to see another video clip of the RTL Late Night interview, where they also dance at the end, then click right here to view it.
I’m seriously contemplating seeing the documentary again if I can find some time in my schedule, because I really enjoyed it a lot, and I loved the impression it left on me after seeing it. Would I recommend the movie to others (and to you)? Yes, I definitely would! It’s a great human interest film, and although I shed a tear or two while watching it, overall I walked away with a very nice feeling.
I want to finish this review by sending my compliments to the filmmakers: Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan. You guys did an excellent job of portraying the men in a very human and real way, and I absolutely love how the amount of care and effort you put into making this documentary transcends the screen. Thank you for this beautiful cinematic experience!
Shantay you stay (and slay)!