Saturday, February 11, 2017

Madonna, Dance Music, Dancers and Kevin Stea

Salim, Oliver, Carlton, Kevin
Luis, Jose, and (Gabriel in spirit)
Thursday night I attended the showing of the documentary “Strike A Pose” at the Victoria Film Festival. In 1990 Madonna hired seven male dancers for her Blond Ambition Tour, they taught her to Vogue, were featured in that iconic video, but more importantly they were the subject of her film, the behind the scenes documentary “Truth Or Dare” which came out a year later. The film was one of the biggest documentaries at the time and those seven dancers were thrown into stardom. “Strike A Pose” takes a look 25 years later into the lives of those dancers. I had no idea till I was seated at the cinema that one of those dancers Kevin Stea would be present for a Q&A session. I was so excited and all I could think about throughout the film was what I could say to him. “Truth or Dare” was the first representation of gay men I had ever seen, this was a time when Ellen, Will & Grace etc.… didn’t exist, but there on the big screen was gay men openly living their lives, going to gay pride parades and just being themselves,  some of us saw our first male on male kiss. I still remember seeing the film in 1991 with a close friend and I remember our reactions and talking about the dancers afterwards, I remember having a crush on dancer Salim "Slam" Gauwloos although I had no idea I was gay. Two years later I came out as a gay man and a few years after so did my friend. I always wondered through the years what happened to those dancers and now we get to see. The film is joyous and heartbreaking at the same time, as we discover that some of them were HIV positive and were struggling with this dark secret, while touring in a show that was all about “Expressing Yourself”. Some were not completely out or comfortable, Gabriel Trupin had asked Madonna to cut that famous kissing scene with Salim, but she refused, he tried suing her, sadly in 1996 he lost his battle with AIDS. Others sued her for a breach of contract, money they were owed, a sad but not uncommon tale for many in the showbiz industry, while others just lost their way with drugs and life. Seeing the six remaining dancers get together at the end was pure joy, it’s was nice to see that they were all OK all these years later and that they were still “family”. Oliver Crumes’ stood out for me in the original documentary as he was the one straight guy of the crew, as gay men we have our own prejudices, as I always wondered if he was really a closeted gay man and came out years later, but there he was still straight, his reactions to finding out that some of his friends were HIV positive was very moving, I could feel his pain.

Kevin Stea and me
When the film ended I made a straight line to the front row hoping to meet Kevin. Kevin was the  associate choreographer for Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour and became the dance captain, when he left the  tour he was broke but then went onto work with some of the biggest iconic stars including Michael Jackson his sister Janet, Lady GaGa, Celine Dion, Prince and David Bowie to name a few, he has starred in numerous commercials and films. I was so nervous when I approached him, I told him what it meant to me, seeing him and the other dancers on screen back in 1991, I was wearing my George Michael T-shirt and asked him about George, and I quickly got a pic with him. There was an event at the Copper Owl club afterward, a dance party to benefit AIDS Vancouver Island, I wasn’t sure I was going to go but when I heard Kevin was attending and that there would be a “Vogueing” session I quickly changed my mind. I was there alone, many others were in cliques, so I sat at the bar for about a half hour staring at my phone, Madonna's music was playing but nobody was dancing. Kevin was sitting at a table talking to a few people but afterwards I noticed like me he was sitting alone.  I turned around and said “How come no one is dancing”? We chatted for a good 20 minutes if not more,  I didn’t want to seem like a stalker so I told him I didn’t want to take up too much of his time, he told me never to apologize for that and we kept on talking, he was a real gentlemen and a class act. When the Vogue lesson started we moved towards the dance floor, I didn’t end up Vogueing but afterward I danced nonstop for over an hour, it was one Madonna song after another, they even played one of my favorite album tracks from True Blue which was never a single “Love Makes The World Go Round”. At one point I was hoping they would play a bad Madonna song so I could take a break. Kevin was mostly chatting with others during this time but then they starting playing other artists, he finally came on to the dancefloor when Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy was played. Talking with him about music, dancing and life was a dream come true but I really wanted to dance with him. The dancefloor was really small, there were only a few people between him and me, then Michael Jackson’s “Black Or White” came on, I was thinking, do I dare dance up to him? It took me to halfway through the song to get the courage, at that time we were in a circle of people, I pushed my way through and busted my best Michael Jackson moves, including a few spins, I thought I was going to fall flat on my face or hit someone but I got through it, he started dancing to my moves, and I heard a few cheers, when the song ended I thanked him and he hi-fived me. It wasn’t till the next day that I found out going through his website that Kevin worked and danced on the video for “Black Or White”, my reaction was “OMG what was I thinking!”. If this wasn’t on my bucket list it, it is now, mission accomplished. I wanted to stay longer but I had work the next day, I went to get my coat, I saw Kevin sitting at the bar so I went up to say goodbye but again we ended up chatting for a while, then I stayed to watch the dance competition which he judged, a final goodbye and I was on my way. This was truly a night to remember. Thanks to Jose, Luis, Carlton, Salim, Oliver and Gabriel for being an inspiration all those years ago and to Kevin who was so gracious and has inspired me then and now.

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