entertainment

Madonna's Blond Ambition dancer Jose: 'People still tell me that documentary saved their lives'

In 1990, Madonna changed pop music - and the lives of her dancers - forever.

2020-04-14

It's been 25 years since Madonna released her documentary film In Bed With Madonna, which profiled the star on and off stage during her legendary Blond Ambition Tour of 1990.

The film also shone a spotlight on her troupe of mostly gay dancers, whose presence in her life and on her stage preached a powerful message of acceptance to her huge mainstream fan base.

Now, a quarter of a century later, their stories are being revisited through a new documentary Strike A Pose by film makers Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan, and Attitude has taken the opportunity to catch up with five of them.

We’ve already caught up with SlamKevinCarlton and Oliver, and in this fifth and final interview with Jose, he says people still contact him to praise the original film, and that he's currently working on the eagerly-anticipated Baz Luhrman Netflix series...

You were one of the youngest dancers on the Blonde Ambition Tour weren't you?

I was 18, and I celebrated my 19th birthday on tour. Imagine that, right?  I felt like it was not only the opportunity of a lifetime that was given to a lot of us, but it was such a huge job to be so young. Dancers work for all of their lives, and it takes years to try and achieve enough credibility to be even considered for a job like that.

You are one of the most prominent faces in the 'Vogue' video, and you already knew the dance style at that point?

Yes, yes. It was very big in the ballroom and underground club scene here in New York, in the Harlem balls, you know? Because of the fact that I was trained professionally - I studied ballet and stuff like that - I was able to incorporate, and make it really more of a form of dance. It wasn't originally as creative as it has evolved to be throughout the years. I did a lot of the dancing for the 'Vogue' video, and the choreography. I also brought it to the 'Like A Virgin' number on the tour.

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That was the famously raunchy moment where you were wearing a big gold bra, and she was masturbating.

Yeah, it was! We were like, censored, and we were gonna get arrested. I remember. But everybody loved it, you know? Everybody is still like, “That's one of the best scenes on the tour!” So, you know, I'm very proud of wearing those cones!

'Vogue' is so iconic. How does it feel to still see it after all these years?

Yeah, it's so great even still, because its timeless, you know? David Fincher shot it and he's amazing. All of the stars aligned, and we put out some great visual movement, and the wardrobe, the costumes, everything just gelled you know? That's all what makes the video so timeless.

As well as 'Vogue', you were the gimp in the 'Justify my Love' video too.

Yes, I continued to work with her after the Blond Ambition Tour. It was great. We also released a couple of club tracks, and stuff like that.

In a way, that was just the start of your career. What have you been doing since then?

I've done so much! I've continued to teach. I've been teaching at The Door, which is an organisation funded by the board of education for minorities - urban minorities, and gay youth. It is so they can go somewhere to practice art and dance. I've also just finished working with Baz Luhrman on a Netflix project (The Get Down) that's coming out soon, as an assistant choreographer, and I'm also in it so it's been really good.

How does it feel when you consider the lasting impression of the Blond Ambition Tour, and the documentary In Bed With Madonna?

I can't believe that after so many years, people are still like, “You saved my life - watching that movie and seeing you” and you forget that! Because you don't set out to touch people that way, and here were are 25 years later and people are still moved by it, words can't express like really. I was crying through out the whole premiere! It just felt so good to be appreciated like that still.

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As you say, a lot of people took inspiration from seeing you guys on screen, just living your lives as gay men. Did you know at the time that Madonna was putting you on screen for that purpose?

No and I think she was also very unaware. We didn't set out to show us at a gay pride parade, or kissing, it was all just free, like whatever happens happens.  I don't think she set out to really move everyone the way everyone was moved. It wasn't part of the plan.

When you guys all get together again, after all these years, is there a strong sense of camaraderie?

Yeah, it's crazy because it's like we never left. It's like brothers when they grow up, you know? You grow attached because you're young and learning about relationships and friendships and stuff like that, and I think that it was like we were going through our puberty together or whatever.

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What have you thought of Madonnas career in the years since then?

I think she's still being creative of course. From a dancer's point of view, I went to a couple of shows since the Blond Ambition Tour, but I think that her latest stuff got repetitive, you know? A little bit. As far as having 30 something dancers, and trapeze artists and big LCD screens. When we did it it was just 7 of us, and 2 singers, and that was it, and so everything else was creativity from within. It was more theatre, I think, and the dancers had more importance in the actual show. And I guess that's why we're still remembered. 

Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour Dancer Slam: ‘I still get letters about my gay kiss in the film’

Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour Dancer Kevin: ‘I didn’t accept I was gay until I saw the documentary’

Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour Dancer Carlton: ‘I hid my HIV status from everyone on the tour’

Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour Dancer Oliver: ‘The tour taught me to appreciate gay people’