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Madonna’s Choreographer talks Rebel Heart Tour

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Dance Spirit: What’s the process of choreographing for a tour of this scale?
Megan Lawson: Jamie King is the show’s director. The process starts with a discussion between Jamie, Madonna and I about ideas and concepts. Then, my dancers, Jamie and I get into the studio and experiment for a while before presenting to M. She always has a hand in the choreography. She loves to be part of the process and collaborate with everyone, from the lighting designer to the makeup artist. I’d say every number in the tour has at least one part Madonna choreographed herself. It’s a really fun process.

DS: Are there other choreographers working with you?
ML: Since I’m the lead choreographer on this tour, I got to recommend other choreographers to collaborate with. I was so fortunate to bring in other artists, including Jillian Meyers, Matt Cady and Kevin Maher, who are all friends of mine. The great thing about involving other choreographers is that the show becomes really diverse. Every song is different stylistically, and each has a unique choreographic vibe.

DS: Does anything about the tour scare you?
ML: Getting it all done in time! It’s been a challenge to coordinate everything. Madonna doesn’t settle for anything but the best—she’s a perfectionist. It takes time. This is certainly the biggest-scale production I’ve ever experienced. I can’t wait to see it all come together. I know it will. But right now it’s crunch time, and that’s a little scary.

DS: What are your top three favorite Madonna songs?
ML: “Human Nature,” “Messiah” and “Falling Free.”

DS: What’s your advice for Dance Spirit readers?
ML: Explore as many avenues as you can. I never really had goals or plans that were set in stone. I just knew I wanted to dance and create for living. I tried lots of different things—from taking a wide variety of classes to assisting choreographers to picking up small gigs here and there. What really paid off the most, though, was grabbing some friends and making a few little videos of my own. Those experiences were more satisfying than working as a backup dancer—and Madonna ended up hiring me after seeing some of the clips! It’s OK if your goals change over time. Be open to your desires and follow your heart.

Dance Spirit

Madonna on Pitchfork’s 200 Best Songs of the 1980s list

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17. Madonna, “Into the Groove” (1985)
With two hit albums, Like a Virgin rising in the charts, and one wild MTV wedding cake performance behind her, Madonna’s career was in a very sweet spot in 1985. So it’s no wonder the It Girl would make moves in Hollywood, starring in Susan Seidelman’s Desperately Seeking Susan. It’s there, in the closing credits of the movie, that a demo version of “Into the Groove” was not just heard, but also essentially released.
“Music can be such a revelation,” preaches Madonna on “Into the Groove”, yet again making the dance floor a place for physical and emotional freedom. Playing shy, she bounces between earnestly begging for company and aggressively making her partner dance right to win her affection. While songs like “Borderline” and “Dress You Up” were successful dance-pop tracks, nothing Madonna had put out was as club-appropriate as “Into the Groove”. Penned by Madonna and songwriter Steve Bray, “Into the Groove” was initially intended for producer Mark Kamins. But Madonna thought it would suit her new movie well, much to the chagrin of Kamins.
The fact that Madonna would give the song such an unconventional debut shows how strong her popularity was at the time and how big of a hit the song really is. With filming finishing right before Like a Virgin was out, Desperately Seeking Susan swiftly became a Madonna vehicle before its release. Ratings were lowered specifically to accommodate the star’s teen fanbase and lead Rosanna Arquette was seen as a supporting actress in Madge’s shadow. The unpolished demo didn’t even land on the film’s soundtrack and was only available as the B-side to “Angel” in the U.S., but it’s still regarded as one of Madonna’s best dance tracks. —Hazel Cills

50. Madonna, “Like a Prayer” (1989)
Madonna filed for divorce from Sean Penn two months before she released “Like a Prayer”, the title track to the 1989 album that would cement her as a serious songwriter and an unstoppable cultural force as she entered her thirties. In anticipation of her fourth album, Madonna would grace the covers of Interview, Rolling Stone, and Spin. Like a Prayer was her most visible album to date, and also her darkest.
“This is reality, and reality sucks,” Madonna said in her Interview cover story. She was describing her initial vision for the “Like a Prayer” video, which was apparently even more brutal than the one that scandalized the Vatican, but the statement undercuts the whole song, too. Written toward the end of an abusive marriage, “Like a Prayer” sees Madonna assume a pose of surrender. Its gospel triumph comes only from its embrace of absolute darkness—”everyone must stand alone,” she sings into the emptiness. Then she’s falling from the sky, calling to God, or really just any power that will listen. She’s singing from her own rock bottom, waiting for someone—anyone—to carry her back up to the top. —Sasha Geffen

106. Madonna, “Borderline” (1984)
Released in 1983, “Borderline” is one of the first laid bricks in the cathedral of Madonna’s mythology, four minutes of emotional helium that became her first Top 10 hit on the heels of an iconic music video. In the clip, Madonna closes the gap between the club kid she was and the glamorous star she’d become as she plays her two beaux—a Latino tough boy and a snobby British photographer—off each other. Ironically, while lyrics refer to the gnawing desolation one might feel while navigating a relationship in which they don’t have any power, Madonna has total control in the video. She makes the tough boy miss his shot at the pool table by simply standing in the doorway; she spray paints the photographer’s car, causing him to flip out. She takes the energy from the song—a bubblegum instrumental given weight by her legible vocal performance—and uses it to dispel all the lingering demons from that bad relationship. There’s so much charisma, it’s easy to see why this was the song that catapulted her toward being the biggest pop star in the world. —Jeremy Gordon

Pitchfork

Making of Madonna’s 1990 MTV VMA performance

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Often recalled as the “Marie Antoinette” performance, Madonna’s game-changing 1990 rendition of her hit “Vogue” was based on the film Dangerous Liaisons, with Madge donning Michelle Pfeiffer’s actual dress from the movie. Luis Camacho and Jose Gutierez, both of whom danced on Madonna’s “Blonde Ambition” tour and choreographed and danced in the original “Vogue” video and VMA number, recall that unforgettable night.

Madonna performing Vogue at 1990 MTV VMAs

Gutierez: At first, we were going to do another song, ’cause people were already sick of us doing this. We had already vogued all year. It was between “Keep it Together” and something else.

Camacho: The idea [for the “Vogue” performance] came about during a game of charades. During the last days of the tour, we were in the South of France, in Nice, and one of the charades was Dangerous Liaisons. I was sitting next to her, and Madonna goes, “You know, that’s very ‘Vogue.’ ”

Gutierez: For the choreography, I was trying to basically keep the same stuff that was in the chorus section [of the video]. Everyone remembers those counts of eight from the chorus. Voguing is very arrogant and very aristocratic with all this attitude, so I think the theme and the costumes made us emulate it even more.

Camacho: The only thing that had us a little nervous were the fans the women [dancers] had. At one point in the choreography, they flipped the fans in the air, and they’re supposed to catch them. At almost every rehearsal, somebody would drop the fan.

Gutierez: Janet Jackson’s dancers also were performing that night, and there was always this Janet and Madonna competition throughout the years. Janet opened the show with “Black Cat” and we were closing the show, so we got to see them go on first. We were so amped because we were like, “Oh my God, they sucked! They were so bad!” We were like, “Oh, it’s in the bag!”

Camacho: We were also up for an award that night for best choreography.

Gutierez: I really wanted to win, but I knew that we weren’t going to. Madonna told us, “Don’t get your hopes up, because it’s very political in these awards ceremonies. They’re not going to give it to two young kids from the Lower East Side.” I was like, “You don’t know that!”

Camacho: By the time we went to perform, we [hadn’t won]. Standing offstage, Jose and I felt like, “We are about to show you why we should have gotten that award.” We always did a prayer circle before we went on stage. Madonna was like, “Let’s go out there and give it to them! Let’s serve it up, ladies and gentlemen!”

Gutierez: You can see our energy. It’s that moment when the curtain goes up and we are there, and everyone in the crowd just rises to their feet. I was jumping out of my skin.

Camacho: And no one dropped a fan! After they all caught it, we all clapped and breathed a sigh of relief. It was a nail-biter.

Gutierez: Talking about it now is like reliving those moments of being on stage—it gives you this rush of wanting to be the best and wanting to leave such an impression. It’s crazy because 25 years later, people still remember. I still get recognized on the street from this job that I did 25 years ago, and it feels so good.

TV Insider

Diplo on experimenting with Madonna

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“With Madonna… I had to gain her trust. I was really honest with her in the studio about what I’m doing, what we’re doing. I wasn’t like a fan. She knows I wasn’t trying to be there and make some money..”

Madonna gave Diplo full permission to go left-field on songs like “Bitch I’m Madonna,” which features production work from SOPHIE, an affiliate of London’s enigmatic PC Music collective. “I think Madonna’s manager was like, ‘Who is this person?’ and I was like, ‘Trust me, this is very cool to have him be part of this song,’” Diplo remembers. “PC Music is a really post-modern attempt at pop. It’s something the kids are generating because everything is so clean as far dance music [is concerned].”

Diplo talks about Madonna

Watch the interview at Time.com

Time

Happy Birthday Madonna!!!

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M turns 57 today! Happy Birthday, Madonna! #longlivethequeen #HappyBirthdayMadonna

Madonna's Birthday

Madonna on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Songwriters list

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#56 Madonna

Before she was a star, Madonna was a songwriter with a sharp ear for a hook and a lyrical catchphrase, playing tracks like “Lucky Star” for record companies in the hope of scoring a contract. Her earliest hits honed the electro beats coming out of the New York club scene into universal radio gold. But songs like her greatest statement, “Like a Prayer,” can also summon an anthemic power to rival Springsteen or U2. Madonna has enlisted numerous collaborators en route to selling more than 300 million albums — she started working with longtime writing partner Patrick Leonard after he brought her “Live to Tell” in 1986, and from Shep Pettibone and William Orbit in the Nineties through Diplo, Avicii and Kanye West on 2015’s Rebel Heart, she’s worked successfully with producers across many genres. Through it all, her songs have been consistently stamped with her own sensibility and inflected with autobiographical detail. “She grew up on Joni Mitchell and Motown and. . . embodies the best of both worlds,” says Rick Nowells, who co-wrote with Madonna on 1998’s Ray of Light. “She is a wonderful confessional songwriter, as well as being a superb hit chorus pop writer.”

Full list at Rolling Stone

Madonna tops The Telegraph’s Pop’s Greatest Female Artists list

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1. Madonna

Love her or loathe her, it would be hard to deny Madonna’s pole position as the greatest female pop star of our times. Her world-beating, shape-shifting, trend-setting and at times ground breaking pop music has covered the gamut of female archetypes: virgin, whore, wife, mother, witch, diva, saint, sinner and 50-year-old cheerleader, and put it all to dance beats and catchy hooks. She might not be the greatest singer, she may not be the finest songwriter, she may favour surface over depth and make music that barely ripples the soul, but Madonna’s pop genius has carried her on a three decade winning streak that no other star, male or female, can match.

2. Tina Turner
3. Kate Bush
4. Debbie Harry
5. The ABBA girls
6. Aretha Franklin
7. Amy Winehouse
8. Beyoncé
9. Adele
10. Patti Smith
11. Janis Joplin
12. Lady Gaga
13. Dusty Springfield
14. Siouxsie Sioux
15. Whitney Houston
16. Grace Jones
17. Dolly Parton
18. Joni Mitchell
19. Chrissie Hynde
20. The Spice Girls

Madonna tops Telegraph's list

The Telegraph

Madonna Taps Gucci, Moschino for Rebel Heart Tour Costumes

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Throughout her long career, Madonna has enlisted the world’s top designers, most famously Jean Paul Gaultier, to collaborate on the costumes for her globe-trotting tours.

She’s again recruited a murderer’s row of fashion talent for her latest, the “Rebel Heart” World Tour, named after her 13th studio album of the same name.

On Wednesday, she revealed exclusively to WWD the designers who made the cut, including Jeremy Scott and Alexander Wang. And add Madonna to the Alessandro Michele fan club: the Gucci creative director also pitched in.

Just like she’s been teasing her setlist on Instagram for months — yes, “Vogue” and “Holiday” will make appearances on the tour — Madonna has also been posting snippets of looks she’s been working on with her longtime costume designer, Academy Award-nominated Arianne Phillips.

Ahead of the tour’s opening in Montreal on Sept. 9, she is revealing the full list of designers today: Fausto Puglisi, Prada and Miu Miu, Swarovski and the Lebanese designer Nicolas Jebran are the others. She’ll show sketches at a later date.

The pop singer’s predilection for some of these names has been evident for a while: she wore Scott for Moschino to the Costume Institute gala in May, on the red carpet as well as to various after parties, for instance. And she was also in full Moschino regalia in her last video, “B**ch I’m Madonna,” where Wang made an exuberant cameo. Before that, she was spotted around town wearing the platform moon boots from Wang’s fall 2015 show, practically straight off the runway.

Curiously, Versace, in whose 2015 advertising campaign Madonna appeared, is not involved in this tour. Phillips, who has been nominated for two Oscars, including her work on Madonna’s own “W.E.,” is marking her sixth tour with Madonna and will also contribute costumes.

Some of the other designers, though, like Michele, are more surprising, underscoring the singer’s knack for spotting new talent.

Long before pop acts fraternized with fashion designers, it was Madonna who asked Gaultier in 1990 to design costumes for her famous “Blonde Ambition” World Tour. He delivered the now iconic coned bra and the two have since collaborated on several tours, on 2001’s “Drowned World,” 2006’s “Confessions” and 2012’s “MDNA,” which included a reinterpretation of their best-known garment.

Previous tours included costumes from Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Christian Lacroix — he designed the crystal-studded corset that opened the “Reinvention” Tour in 2004 — and Riccardo Tisci, who designed the costumes the singer wore during the halftime show at the 2012 Super Bowl.

“People say everything has a limit,” Tisci told WWD at the time, “but limits do not exist with Madonna.” With today’s news, that still seems to be the case.

WWD

Don McLean on Madonna

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Q. A few years ago, Madonna covered “American Pie.” I’m sure you’ve heard it. What did you think of it?

A. I loved it. I thought it was outstanding. I thought Madonna did a great job with it. To me, she’s an artist for the 20th and the 21st century. She’s magnificent.

Take 5

Taylor Swift on “Bad Blood” / “B*tch I’m Madonna” comparison

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“I felt so much resentment that they would take two women who made ambitious music videos and use that as a qualifying factor to comparing and contrasting them. I hated that because Madonna and I have gotten along and been fans of each other and performed together, and I didn’t want to see that, and there was nothing I could do, and there’s nothing she could do, because that’s the way the world works right now.”

Vanity Fair

Nicole Kidman on meeting Madonna

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“I remember just being so excited to wear [the gown to the Oscars],” Kidman said. “And then I remember Madonna coming up to me at the after party — and I was, you know, still very new to everything — and saying ‘best dressed! Best dressed!'” Remember, in the primitive, pre-social media days of ’97, the notion of “Best Dressed” wasn’t quite the orchestrated production that it is today.

Nicole Kidman with Madonna

Fashionista

Madonna feels like Picasso

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Madonna thinks artists deep into their careers should stop if they don’t have anything more to say. But at 56, the singer says she still has things to talk about, and in short, she feels like Pablo Picasso.

“I like to compare myself to other kinds of artists like Picasso. He kept painting and painting until the day he died. Why? Because I guess he felt inspired to do so,” she said. “Life inspired him, so he had to keep expressing himself, and that’s how I feel.”

Madonna released her self-titled debut album in 1983, and her latest album, “Rebel Heart,” earlier this year. She said the key to sticking around is her continual desire to inspire others.

“I don’t think there’s a time, a date, an expiration date for being creative,” she said. “I think you go until you don’t have any more to say.”
The pop icon will launch her Rebel Heart Tour on Sept. 9 in Montreal. The tour includes more than 60 shows across North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.

“The theme I really truly explore in this show more than anything is love and romance,” she said in a phone interview from her home in New York City last week. “I want people to walk out like they’re feeling inspired and like they’ve seen something they’ve never seen before (and) felt something they’ve never felt before.”

Comedian Amy Schumer, whose new movie “Trainwreck” opened impressively at No. 2 with $30.2 million last weekend, will open for three Madonna shows in New York.

“She’s a role model for women, and I am too, and I think it’s a good match,” said Madonna, who added that the idea to bring Schumer on board came from the singer’s management team. “I love her and … I just thought, ‘That’s interesting.’ (I’ll) try something new and different rather than the usual run-of-the-mill — have a band, have a DJ. It’s definitely a new thing. I hope it works — fingers crossed.”

Madonna says picking the set list for her upcoming tour has been hard, mainly because she wants to sing her newest songs but also satisfy her longtime, die-hard fans.

“I realize I have 32 years of other songs, so I have to pick and choose. I sit there for weeks and weeks and weeks trying to figure out which of my old catalogue I want to do,” she said. “It’s a puzzle that we have to put together ’cause thematically the songs — the old and the new — they have to go together; sonically they have to go together.”

She’s even picky about the costumes onstage.

“What people wear, from their footwear to the buttons on their jacket, is all very important to me,” she said.

AP

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