In 1990, Salim Gauwloos was one of the featured dancers in the iconic music video for Madonna's "Vogue," a song that celebrated a dance style that emulated the grandiose and dramatic poses found in the pages of fashion magazines.
It's fitting , then, that as a choreographer, Gauwloos has helped to bring the more natural movements of dance to fashion shoots, like W's "Let's Get Physical" editorial with Giovanna Battaglia Engelbert in the April issue.
While Gauwloos, perhaps best known as "Slam" when he was a featured dancer in Madonna's Truth or Dare documentary and the Blonde Ambition tour it chronicled, keeps his main focus on dance (in addition to choreography, he's an instructor at the Broadway Dance Center), he's carved out an interesting side career of teaching models how to dance on set. It began years ago on a commercial where he coached Cindy Crawford, Helena Christensen, and Claudia Schiffer on their movement.
"It was in '92, shot by Bruce Webber, and called Revlon’s 'Trinity' commercial," said Gauwloos. "It was just amazing. I was such a fan, and to just meet with them so exciting. The girls were beautiful."
Gauwloos' most recent adventure in fashion is on display in W this month, after he was referred to the photographer Emma Summerton, who wanted to make sure the models showed an exuberant a sense of movement in the photographs. In other words, Gauwloos' speciality.
"On fashion shoots no one really knows what's going on until we you get started," Gauwloos said. "I just get there and figure it out. What really was my inspiration for the shoot was sort of Sports Illustrated meets kitsch meets camp meets high fashion."
"Its always a challenge, but the models were so open and eager to learn. It always depends on each shoot. Sometimes it can be intimidating for them. Here comes a male choreographer to coach you and to tell you to pose more like a girl. But the girls were very versatile, eager to learn and very humble," Gauwloos said.
Gauwloos' fashion resumé also includes work for Versace and three seasons worth of advertisements for Longchamp (two of which featured model Coco Rocha, a natural dancer Gauwloos calls "The Martha Graham of fashion.")
"I love working with models. Even when I was little, I put on my moms clothes and wore her skirt, and wore her heels," he said. "I always wanted to be a female model, more interesting than being a male model."
Though his fashion efforts continue, its Gauwloos' original breakthrough that may be getting him more attention lately. Truth or Dare celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, and a follow-up documentary, Strike a Pose, which focuses on the lives of the dancers on the tour is set to premiere on Logo on April 6th at 9pm ET after a well received run on the festival circuit.
While Truth or Dare's hook was a candid look at Madonna's life on the road during her most ambitious tour up until then, and at the height of her fame, the film also shone the spotlight on her male dancers, six of whom identified as gay, at a time when there was little representation of the LGBT community in mainstream media. Gauwloos himself was featured in one of the film's more notable moments.
"A big male kiss, on the screen for the first time," he said.
For Gauwloos, it's been encouraging to see how far mainstream culture, and fashion, has come since then.
"In the 1990s or the ‘80s, you couldn’t really say 'You know, I’m gay,'" Gauwloos said of male models. "You’d never book a campaign. They told them you'd have to have this butch, manly persona...Now you have these beautiful trans supermodel, Andreja Pejić, Valentina Sampaio. You have more models of different ages, and races too. It blows my mind to see the difference between now and then. It makes me happy."
As for Gauwloos, he's happy to continue to bring dance and movement into fashion. He has a wish list of collaborators that includes David Sims, Peggy Sirota, and Mario Sorrenti.
"It brings more life," he said of what a choreographer can add to a shoot. "The subject, the model, the whole package, it brings it more life. Thats changed so much too, to see more movement. There’s so much dance in fashion now. I love it."
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