The male backup dancers for Madonna’s 1990 “Blond Ambition” tour assume the foreground in the documentary Strike a Pose: The six surviving members of the original seven are always excellent company, though Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan’s film at times seems frustratingly under-researched.
The now middle-aged men are frequently juxtaposed with their younger, most fabulous and famous selves as they revisit clips from Alek Keshishian’s immensely pleasurable vérité backstager/concert doc Madonna: Truth or Dare (1991). In present-day sit-downs, they offer cogent and clear-eyed reflections on being unofficial ambassadors of queerness — all but one of the dancers is gay — during the height of the AIDS crisis (the disease that killed Gabriel Trupin in 1995, remembered by his colleagues as their boss’s “unofficial favorite child”). The same holds true for their thoughts on Madge herself, whose absence here is conspicuous though by no means detrimental.
There are tears, regrets, and, for some, like Carlton Wilborn, scorching self-rebuke, but no displays of score-settling or self-pity, no matter how straitened their circumstances may be today. Yet for many in this sextet, the specifics of their lives — jobs, relationships, hopes, plans — since their early-Nineties zenith remain too little explored by Gould and Zwaan.
“We carried our flamboyance as a warning,” Luis Camacho — who, along with fellow House of Xtravaganza member Jose Gutierez, was most responsible for teaching Madonna the intricacies of voguing — tells the filmmakers early on. What provided their armature over the past 25 years?
Strike a Pose
Directed by Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan
Opens January 18, IFC Center
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 18, 2017