The dancers

What does it take to express yourself? The surprising and moving story of Madonna’s most famous troupe of dancers: Luis Camacho, Oliver S. Crumes III, Salim Gauwloos, Jose Gutierez, Kevin Stea, Carlton Wilborn and Gabriel Trupin (deceased in 1995).

Oliver Crumes III

Oliver has swag. The only straight dancer on the tour was born and raised in the projects of New Orleans. He moved to L.A. at the age of 15 where he began his career in hip-hop dancing. He and his brother Lance taught themselves how to dance by frantically copying Michael Jackson’s Thriller video in the days when folks like the Crumes family didn’t own VCR recorders. Oliver stands out from the others with his bubbly enthusiasm and stance on life. He admits to being homophobic when he first joined the troupe and thanks Madonna and the other dancers for opening his heart. He still remembers every single move from the Blond Ambition Tour. Nowadays he teaches hip-hop to kids at the Musicology Academy in Henderson, Nevada which he runs together with his wife.

Carlton Wilborn

“Give me more of you!” is what Madonna always told the dancers during rehearsal and for Carlton this still is his motto to live by. Carlton was born and raised in Chicago, where he studied dance and joined the celebrated dance company Hubbard Street. On stage with Madonna, he was the only dancer trusted to lift the pop icon. In Truth or Dare, big, strong Carlton became the personification of proud self-expression – laughing loud, dancing wild and jumping into Madonna’s bed bare-naked. But carrying a big secret, his extrovert personality was more a pose than true confidence. “I was acting all grand, but inside I was feeling fucking small.” Carlton is currently a life coach and actor in Los Angeles. He recently developed ‘Danceformation’: a program which combines life coaching with the power of dance.

Luis Camacho

Luis – a born dancer and diva – learnt how to be proud and fearless on the streets of New York. In the eighties, before Madonna took vogue mainstream, he and his dance partner Jose were striking poses in Harlem’s house ballrooms: a gay and drag scene in which men compete against one another for their dancing skills, style and catwalk presence. Partying hard at night, Luis’ days consisted of strict ballet classes at the disciplinary dance school LaGuardia. He and Jose taught Madonna how to vogue and performed the infamous Like A Virgin number with her during the tour. A few years after, Luis & Jose did their own record Queen’s English with Madonna singing backup-vocals. Now living in Los Angeles, he still works as a choreographer and regularly performs as his alter ego Tatiana.

Salim ‘Slam’ Gauwloos

Born in a small Flemish town by Belgian-Moroccan parents, Salim moved to the US after being selected for an American ballet school at the age of 17. His second country named him ‘Slam’, a name he grew to dislike after years of living and working in the US as an illegal immigrant. Apart from his long hair, Salim made an impression in Truth or Dare by kissing fellow dancer Gabriel Trupin – the first gay kiss ever to be shown in a major movie. It’s only lately that he has come to see what both the tour and Truth or Dare have meant to people around the world: “We helped the world to come out of the closet!” Salim teaches dance at the Broadway Dance Center in New York and works as a choreographer for theatre companies and fashion brands.

Kevin Stea

Kevin at first wasn’t selected to be part of the Blond Ambition Tour. Only when another dancer was kicked out by Madonna, she asked him to come on board as a dancer and dance captain. Kevin didn’t even know what that was when he said ‘yes’. He now sees the tour as his coming-of-age and coming-out party at the same time and feels lucky it was all recorded on film. Kevin looks back without any naïveté about what he has been part of. “Only now, in the past seven years or so and from social media, have I actually seen the impact this movie had on pop and gay culture. I constantly receive messages from people recalling how this movie — this bigger-than-life glimpse into a world beyond shame-filled communities, closeted lives, and disapproving families — changed their lives.” Kevin has worked with stars like Prince, Beyoncé, Michael Jackson, Cher, David Bowie and Lady Gaga. He performs himself under the name of That Rogue Romeo.

Gabriel Trupin

Everyone on tour loved Gabriel, not in the least Madonna. He stood out from the other dancers because he was quiet and less outgoing. Today, Gabriel is the only dancer who is missing. He died in San Francisco in 1995, at the age of 26, after losing a silent battle with AIDS. Gabriel kept his sickness a secret until he could no longer hide it from his mother and close relatives. His mother Sue is the person who encouraged him to dance by taking him to an arts camp as a teenager. All of the dancers praise his calm presence and the remarkable grace with which he danced. However, Gabriel was everything but calm when he heard that the famous Truth or Dare scene of him French-kissing with Slam was to be part of the film. He begged Madonna not to use the scene and when she did, he sued her for forced outing. The case was settled out of court. If he were alive today, his mother believes he would be proud of the impact that Truth or Dare has had on an entire generation. At the time, not a born advocate, dance was his way to express himself.

Jose Gutierez

Jose grew up in the Lower East Side of New York. He and Luis became members of the underground House Ballroom scene, long before the masses had even heard of voguing. Both classically trained – much to Madonna’s surprise – Jose continued to work with her for years after the Blond Ambition Tour and was featured in the Justify My Love video. Together Jose & Luis choreographed the Vogue video, resulting in a nomination for an MTV Award. In 1993 Madonna sang background vocals on their club hit ‘Queen’s English’. It took some time to convince Jose to participate in Strike a Pose. Jose is now father of the House of Xtravaganza and a renowned figure in the voguing scene. He still works as a dancer and choreographer and recently contributed to the Baz Luhrmann series The Get Down. He also teaches voguing to the LGBT youth in New York and worldwide.