Madonna’s “Vogue” dancers 25 years later

Bianna Golodryga
Yahoo News and Finance Anchor

It’s been more than 25 years since Madonna’s Blond Ambition tour took the world by storm. Now, in the new film Strike a Pose, directed by Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan, the famed backup dancers who taught millions what it meant to “vogue,” take center stage.  

Yahoo News and Finance Anchor Bianna Golodryga sat down with the directors and dancers Carlton Wilborn, Salim Gauwloos, Oliver Crumes III, and Luis Camacho to talk about the stories behind the glamour, the controversy, and the moves that made them famous.  

“It was definitely a form of self-expression,” said Camacho, whom Madonna sought out to choreograph the “Vogue ” video and join the tour. “In the beginning, it was just a series of poses. As time went on, those poses became faster. They would strike a pose and then another and then another and then another. And it became faster and faster and faster and faster and faster, and then it became this dance form.”

The Blond Ambition tour kicked off in April 1990, making 57 stops worldwide and grossing more than $62 million by its last stop in August of that year. “It was just one of those moments that the stars align and everything comes together and it’s this big epic event,” said Gauwloos.

Director Reijer Zwaan was intrigued by the dancers’ story after he watched the documentary Madonna: Truth or Dare when he was just 11 years old in his native Amsterdam. “That whole world, that larger-than-life world made a huge impact on me like I think on so many other people,” he said. “It was very inspiring to see a group of people being so free and out and proud and showing who you are.” Strike a Pose takes an in-depth look at the dancers’ true feelings about the Blond Ambition tour and explores what their lives were like when the tour ended, including their struggles with HIV and drug addiction.  

The film also tells the story behind one of the most talked about scenes from Truth or Dare, in which Gauwloos kissed another dancer, Gabriel Trupin, who died of AIDS in 1995. “It was so natural. We didn’t do it to shock the world — it was just so natural.  I had a crush on him,” says Gauwloos.

The six dancers haven’t spoken to Madonna in recent years, but they all agreed they would like to speak with her today. Carlton Wilborn said, “That was a special time for her in her career, and us and her, so it would be nice to be able to reconnect in some kind of way and just for her to experience us as grown men.”    

As the dancers looked at a picture of the group posing with Madonna for the Truth or Dare documentary, they offered some advice to their younger selves. Wilborn, who kept his HIV diagnosis a secret during the Blond Ambition tour, simply stated, “[To] my younger self, I would say that it’s safe to be free. It’s safe to be free.”