V: Yeah. Well I was doing a little bit of acting and trying to pull a theater club thing together. And then I went to see a little performance that she did at the university. I though it was really interesting. I thought maybe I should try this as exercise. Because being in the theater I wasn’t really that physically active. Although I had done a lot of mime and pantomime stuff and I explored that.
M: So you started doing more dance work?
V: Not really dance, more… the movement stuff that I would add into the pieces we did, I never really though of it as dance. I thought of it as acting without talking. And that’s what happened. I went to a class and this guy said I was too old to get involved in it if I wanted to take it seriously. So I went and studied with eleven and twelve year old girls ballet for two years. Then I got into a lot of little companies in Tuscon. And I got to, I really shouldn’t say choreograph, but I did choreography, truly experimental; it probably would be pretty hideous if I saw it now. But I had a lot of stage presence and a lot of knowledge so they wanted me to perform with them as a dancer, and they let me take classes for free. So that was sort of what I did. I struggled. I did that and I moved to L.A. and I danced, did a lot of television, and a lot of commercials. I toured with Shirley Maclaine. I was Barbara Mandrell’s partner on her series.
M: Which life of Shirley Maclaine’s?
V: (laughing) One that I don’t ever want to go back to.
M: Is she really that difficult?
V: We didn’t really get a long that well. I was a novice and I was a very hard worker. I think I was a bit in awe of her. And I don’t know what she had against me, but it didn’t work.
M: What was your resume? What got Madonna to pick you up?
V: Like I said, with madonna it happened by chance. Joe Pitca. I guess it was because I assisted Michael Peters a lot. People knew me and saw how I worked on a set.
M: There was no one work that you thought was a pivotal point?
V: Yes, I think the pivotal… I think what really changed everything for me was that I wrote and choreographed and edited Smooth Criminal for Michael Jackson. He came to me. I had only worked with him as a dancer and as an assistant but we got along really well. And after he did Bad he wanted to do Smooth Criminal and he came to me with the project and I had no idea why he was coming to me. I thought he wanted me to dance in the video. I came with a tape all prepared with the commercials and videos I had done and he said: “No. I want you to put it together for me. I’ve got to go back and finish the album, and I want you to do it!” So his original idea was that it was an all male club in tuxedos and the more I listened to the music the more I changed everything. So he gave me a soundstage and a set and let me keep on building as I went and extended the song from three minutes to ten, and keep adding characters, people and dancers. And I think that’s what changed everything. It certainly changed my perspective of my work. You always find yourself on a path but you don’t know where it’s leading or what’s happening to it. And there are certain situations that evolve that confirm your placement in your craft and that was the first. From that everyone sort of wanted to know who I was as a choreographer. As a dancer it was from Beat It.
M: Madonna suggested we talk with you. She seems to really be promoting you. Why is it?
V: I guess she probably feels the show is our creation, her on the inside, me on the outside; that I know the show as well as she knows the show, if not better. So I guess that was important that someone else give feedback about it. Madonna has been very gracious with situations like this. Michael is not so free with the press. And Madonna’s been very interested and supportive and prodding with me talking to the press. I usually don’t like to do publicity. My goal is not to become a public figure. My goal is just to be an artist who gets to really do the work.
M: Don’t you think public relations has become an art?
V: Yeah. That’s why I think I shy away from it because I think there are a lot of people that are in the limelight that become flavor of the month. And everyone jumps on the bandwagon to get them to work for them for that period of time. That’s not what my career’s about. That’s not what my interest as an artist is about. I’m interested in working on projects that I really like. And I don’t really care that that many people know who I am outside of the business. I have no interest in being a recognizable face. I just want to do my work.
M: What are your images of Madonna? impressions?
V: My images of Madonna? I just keep coming back to one word: artist. It’s the strongest and clearest description.
M: What about visually?
V: Oh, visually that’s part of being an artist. She’s not concerned with having to hook up with one picture that everyone has to hang on to, for fear of forgetting who she is or what she’s about. That’s part of the bravery. I think the visuals she creates are part of her art. My god, look at the visuals just this year. From what she looked like in Like A Prayer, what she looked like in Dick Tracy to what she looked like in Express Yourself. I mean every single time it’s different but it’s always Madonna. I think that’s one of the powerful artistic aspect that she has is the freedom to create all this, that takes balls.
M: As I’m editing pictures of her, sometimes I forget what period they’re from. I’m watching the videos and I say: Is this from the Virgin Tour? No, maybe this is….(both laugh)
V: I think she’s the most beautiful now than she’s ever been.
M: It seems like her voice has matured?
V: I think when she started her vocal career, she wasn’t that strong as a singer, it just kind of happened and she did it. She studies all the time. When you start to sing Sondheim you can’t be clicking around, you have to have some serious technique going on there. So, that’s why we pulled in some songs from her old albums and she said,: “I love these songs. I know how to sing them now, where before I sang them, now I can really perform them and can really sing them because my voice is so much stronger.” And it is; she sings all the way through the show and she doesn’t stop moving. You have to have technique to do that.
M: It seems like Vogue is a summation of her career to date?
V: Yeah and I think Keep It Together is a summation of her life. That’s the last piece of the entire show. I think that is what Madonna is all about. Keep It Together is what Madonna is about as a person. She’s about family, about having those people around her, and be on the same level as her. She knows little arguments ensue and that they’re all because and based on love and petty jealousies. And they all work themselves out. And it’s everybody working together and supporting each other, believing in each other and caring for each other when you have to. That seems to me to be the way she works and the closest to what she is as a real person.