Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan’s affecting documentary, Strike a Pose, revolves around six dancers—Carlton Wilborn, Oliver Crumes, Salim Gauwloos, Kevin Alexander Stea, Jose Gutierez, and Luis Camacho—from Madonna’s 1990 Blond Ambition tour (the seventh, Gabriel Trupin, succumbed to complications from AIDS).
The iconic tour featured Catholic Church–baiting imagery and cabaret-dominatrix outfits from designer Jean Paul Gaultier, including an infamous conical bra, that found their way into Alek Keshishian’s resulting concert film, Truth or Dare, which showcased the dancers—mostly gay men of color—who appeared to own their sexuality as much as Madonna did.
Carlton Wilborn remembers receiving a call from the lady herself informing him that he got the gig. Oliver Crumes, who is straight, broke into tears when he got the call. He remembers that he “went from being homophobic to loving everybody.” The dancers still receive letters from young gay men who took inspiration from their openness, but the years afterward have not been easy.
If the first half of the film plays like a celebration, the second half touches on addiction, homelessness, lawsuits, and HIV, but these men are still standing—and dancing. It’s hard not to come away with mixed feelings about Madonna, who freely outed associates, but the impact of the tour on music, fashion, and LGBT acceptance is undeniable.