Sunday, Oct. 16
GALA’s Tivoli Theatre
One of the highest-grossing documentaries of all time, Madonna: Truth or Dare sealed the megastar’s pioneering pro-gay legacy by showing a kiss between two men. It was one of a number of positive yet provocative glimpses into the lives of the dancers on her legendary Blonde Ambition tour.
But not all of Madonna’s dancers were openly gay at the time — her “unofficial favorite child” Gabriel even sued her for outing him. It’s a detail you may have forgotten in the 25 years since Truth or Dare‘s release. And it’s those details that the insightful, touching Strike A Pose celebrates. Far more than a gossipy “Where Are They Now” of the six dancers still living — sadly, Gabriel died of AIDS complications a couple of years after Truth or Dare — Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan’s documentary offers a poignant portrait of a handful of men who indirectly, if even a little unwittingly, helped pave the way to a brighter, gayer future.
Revealing the personal and professional struggles each dancer suffered after the cameras stopped rolling, the well-crafted documentary culminates in a moving, on-camera reunion full of reminiscence and revelations. Salim “Slam” Gauwloos offers the most powerful moment when he finally reveals his secret to everyone: he has been HIV positive since 1987, meaning he stayed silent on the tour even while Madonna was compelling everyone to speak out to erase the shame and stigma of the disease. The relief he experiences as his fellow dancers comfort and praise him for having the courage to come forward is incredibly poignant.
The only thing missing is the “Express Yourself” queen herself, who we learn hasn’t kept in contact with any of the men she once referred to as her children. Surprisingly, none harbor ill will, and several thank her for all that she did for them and for society as a whole. Regardless of that bittersweet twist, it’s a treat to get to know them like this, through Strike A Pose‘s considerate, non-sensational lens.
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