Madonna has always expressed herself through her moves. But who shows Madonna the steps? Her dance crew reveals all to the Guardian – from brutal all-night rehearsals to performing on her command at the afterparty.
Choreographer Richmond Talauega, who with his brother Anthony (AKA Rich+Tone) has worked extensively with Madonna.
French choreographer Sébastien Ramirez, who normally works in theatre, making arty contemporary hip-hop with partner Honji Wang.
Ramirez got the job after accompanying Wang to the dancer auditions in Paris. Wang might be the only dancer to get through the gruelling audition process – 5,000 auditioned for the current tour, in Paris, New York and Los Angeles – and then turn down a job, because it would demand she put her own company on hold for a year. But Madonna liked what she saw of their work, and hired Ramirez to make two numbers for the show.
The thing that separates her from everyone else is that she started off as a dancer. She has that dance itch. She has taste, and she has that eye that knows what’s good out there.
The element of surprise is really key for live events. You buy a ticket to see the artist, but it’s up to the artist to create that element of surprise that will make the fans always come back.
She’ll fire a lot of people that come through.
She’s really sensitive on telling stories with movement. That’s one of the main reasons she differs so much from other artists. It’s not just putting dance moves to a nice beat.
A lot of artists will just leave it up to the choreographers to come up with everything, but not M, she leads every meeting. It’s very collaborative, but at the end of the day, she says yay or nay.
You need to know how to make amazing shapes that will carry to the back of the room.
She might pounce on trends, but what she really wants “is to be timeless.
It’s what we’re all striving for.
She’s very impressive. She’s into all the details. She knows who you are and what you do. She’s really looking into your eyes and trying to get you. She’s analysing a lot.
She’s a very impressive authority. When you see her arriving there’s an energy around her. But as well, I see this fragility in her. She’s so natural and accessible. She’s just one of us, working hard on the artistic vision.
What surprised me is that the creation process was not actually that different [to ours]. Except the speed.
It’s a different machinery. They’re swapping ideas every five minutes. They don’t hesitate to say: OK, keep this, throw this. It’s brutal. They change ideas constantly.
Andrew ‘Drew Dollaz’ Boyce…
She treats us like family.
She invites us to her house and we have movie nights and stuff like that.
If we’re out with her and she wants us to dance, we’re going to dance.
Unlike a songwriter, who gets royalties every time a song is performed, choreographers work for a flat fee.
Yeah, that’s the thing that sucks about our line of work! On a Broadway or Vegas show you get a bit of a percentage, but not when it comes to the pop world.. You have to sign it over to them. You’re not allowed to record, take pictures, nothing. What they give you is the credit.
The grind of rehearsals, starting from 9 or 10am in the morning, and sometimes running to 2am.
But you get very good conditions. A masseur, good food…
You are in a golden cage. She has very high expectations of herself. It has to look as good as the dancer next to her.
I mean, you cannot tell! She’s so fit!