We know what happened to Madonna, who never left the limelight. But her coterie of male dancers - who worked so closely with her that the then-childless Madonna was like a mother to them - seemingly disappeared into the wind after a brief flurry of fame. The film is a role reversal, with six of the seven dancers (the last is shown through archival footage and family interviews) front and center on screen, while the Material Girl is a ghostly presence, seen in some clips but no recent footage. That was a conscious choice on the part of co-directors Reijer Zwaan and Ester Gould.
'We realized that whatever she would say, or if she would even appear, even if we wouldn’t want to, the film would shift towards her. Because she’s an attention-grabber. We didn’t want that to happen. It would be so much different,' says Zwaan. 'There wouldn’t be this freedom and there wouldn’t be this space for them to connect with each other, because they would connect to her.'
Instead, Zwaan and Gould focused on recruiting the dancers who brought the underground dance art of vogue to the MTV-watching masses and a provided a groundbreaking example for the gay rights movement.
'We wrote them all carefully written letters in which we explained what we set out to do. That we wanted to make a film about them and their lives and their experiences, and that this wouldn’t be a film about Madonna, but a film about what that special period of time had meant to them but also to a lot of other people. And also because of the AIDS epidemic in the early '90s, it was just a moment in time where it all happened together, and they became such an iconic group of people,' says Zwaan.
Most of the dancers came on board right away, but a few were skeptical of the Dutch filmmakers’ intentions. In the aftermath of 'Madonna: Truth or Dare,' the 1991 black-and-white documentary that followed them on the 'Blond Ambition' tour, several of the dancers sued Madonna over invasion of privacy; others didn’t want to be the subject of a modern gossip flick. But Zwaan and Gould won them over, and always had in mind a film that focused more broadly on contextualizing the men within the times.
For the rest of the article and to buy tickets to the film/events visit: www.freep.com
'Strike a Pose'
7:30 p.m. Sat 01 April., Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
4 p.m. Sun 02 Apr., Emagine Royal Oak.
After the films: On Saturday, Jose Gutierez Xtravaganza talks to the Free Press’ Ashley Woods, and demonstrates voguing. On Sunday, he chats with Free Press style columnist Georgea Kovanis.
Voguing Workshop With Jose Xtravaganza
1 p.m. Sun 02 Apr.
Boll YMCA, 1401 Broadway St., Detroit.
Says Extravaganza about the workshop: 'Know that there’s no experience necessary. We’re going to find your inner performance artist. Everyone has one. You don’t need a technique because voguing is a feeling. It’s not something where you need to study 12 years of professional ballet or anything. It was created out of emotion and out of movement and out of feeling, and we all have that.'