Team Experience is at the Tribeca Film Festival. Here's Manuel on Strike a Pose.
Perhaps it’s unfair to compare Strike a Pose with Madonna: Truth or Dare. After all, that now iconic documentary is really on a league of its own. Then again, this newer doc, which focuses on the male dancers from that 1991 film (and from the Material Girl’s Blond Ambition Tour) cannot help but drum up the comparisons. As a pseudo-sequel to Truth or Dare, Strike a Pose is perhaps less enthralling—no Warren Beatty or Antonio Banderas here—but just as entertaining. And while the first twenty or so minutes of the film do indeed feel like a sequel in spirit if not in name (we get to revisit the tour and the doc in ways that show us how much these dancers kept to themselves even as they seemingly opened up their lives for Madge and the camera), this documentary soon reveals itself to be something much rarer.
In profiling these men 25 years after the fact, Strike a Pose becomes a rare portrait of the middle-aged dancer, a figure that we’re not often offered on screen. It’s often hard to hear what these guys went through—you’ll be surprised to hear candid talks about AIDS that even Truth or Dare, despite its activist zeal given its time,couldn’t and didn’t breach—and it’s even more heartening to see their resilience. It was hard, many of them note, to have always lived with the, for better or for worse, “Madonna dancer” label especially given how their relationships to the Queen of Pop frayed soon after (addiction, rehab, and lawsuits didn’t help). By the time we see all of them reunite for the first time in decades and see them playing the infamous game of “Truth or Dare” again, you cannot help but feel a kinship to these people some of us have felt we’ve known for just as long. For Madonna fans, this is an unmissable film. But where directors Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan succeed is in producing a touching portrait of ageing, of finding the inspiration and the drive to keep going even when the promise of youth (and the promise you had in your own youth) threatens to disappear.