Salim Gauwloos, Madonna’s “Vogue” Backup Dancer, Now Helps Bring Dance to Fashion

Salim Gauwloos, who was featured in Madonna’s “Vogue” video and her Truth or Dare documentary, has carved out a side gig as fashion’s favorite choreographer.


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.

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From left: Moncler Gamme Rouge jacket and shorts; Bally shirt; Tuleste rings; Dior sneakers. Joseph top and jackets; Calvin Klein Underwear bralette; Yang Li skirt; Agmes cuff; Versace boots. Dries Van Noten jacket; Prada shirt; Moncler pants; Nike sneakers. Prada coat and shirt; Calvin Klein pants; Nike sneakers. Versace sweatshirt, skirt, and boots; (right wrist) Agmes cuffs; (left hand, from left) Courrèges hand cuff, Saint Ann Jewelry by Ann Marie Spinelli cuff, Agmes cuff. Balmain dress and pants; Ambush earrings; Spinelli Kilcollin cuff; Alyx belt; Dior boots.

Photo by Emma Summerton, styled by Giovanna Battaglia.

From left: Mugler dress; Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co. cuffs; Fendi boots. Max Mara bodysuit, pants, and belt; Eddie Borgo earrings; (right hand) Bulgari bangles; (left hand) Chanel Fine Jewelry bracelets; No. 21 shoes. DKNY jacket, bralette, and briefs; Fendi sandals; Puma soccer ball. Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci shirt, T-shirt, and trousers; Nike sneakers. Mugler bodysuit; MSGM top (around waist); Eddie Borgo necklaces; Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co. cuffs; Versace sandals. Lanvin jacket; Outdoor Voices pants; Nike lanyard; Hermès sneakers; Hood By Air dress; Tuleste rings; Salvatore Ferragamo sandals. Beauty note: Smooth your moves with Yes To Shower Cocktail Body Wash Hydrating.

Photo by Emma Summerton, styled by Giovanna Battaglia.

From left: Fendi sports bra and briefs; Chromat top with detachable sleeves; Eddie Borgo necklaces; DKNY shoes; Alexis Bittar Archive Collection bracelet. Dior bra, briefs, and boots; Roxanne Assoulin choker; David Yurman bracelet.

Photo by Emma Summerton, styled by Giovanna Battaglia.

From left: Adidas Originals by Alexander Wang shirt; Tory Sport skirt; No. 21 sandals. Dior Homme cardigan and pants; Calvin Klein Underwear briefs; Adidas Originals sneakers. Fendi top, pants, and boots; Paco Rabanne shorts; Altuzarra earrings; Ben-Amun by Isaac Manevitz black bangles; Alexis Bittar Archive Collection bangles. Chloé dress; Speedo USA bra (underneath); Altuzarra earrings; Nike lanyard (worn as choker); (bangles, from top) Ben-Amun by Isaac Manevitz, David Yurman, Dinosaur Designs; Fendi boots. Stylist’s own swimsuit; Cartier necklace; Fendi sandals. Gosha Rubchinskiy x Sergio Tacchini jacket and pants; Gosha Rubchinskiy x Fila sneakers. Fusalp jacket; AMI Alexandre Mattiussi pants; Fila sneakers. Prada top, shorts, and belt; Altuzarra earrings; (bangles, from top) Alexis Bittar Archive Collection, Dinosaur Designs, Dinosaur Designs; Salvatore Ferragamo sandals; Spalding volleyballs.

Photo by Emma Summerton, styled by Giovanna Battaglia.

From left: IRO poncho; Adidas Originals by Alexander Wang shirt; Dior Homme pants; Hermès sneakers. Proenza Schouler dress, feather slip, earrings, and sandals; Nike leggings; Roxanne Assoulin choker. Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci shirt, T-shirt, trousers, and sneakers; Spalding basketball. Tory Sport jacket and shorts; Paco Rabanne T-shirt; Alessandra Rich headband; Cartier bracelet; Miu Miu shoes. Acne Studios jacket and shorts; Balmain sweater and leggings; Christopher Kane sneakers. Adidas Originals by Alexander Wang shirt; Rag & Bone pants; Adidas Originals sneakers.

Photo by Emma Summerton, styled by Giovanna Battaglia.

From left: Prada jacket; Roxy wet suit; Adidas Originals by Alexander Wang sneakers. Maison Margiela embellished jacket, skirt, and sandals; WXYZ Jewelry bracelet. Prada vest and pants; Nike lanyard and sneakers. Alexander Wang jacket and shorts; Roxy wet suit top (around waist); Prada neck strap; Fendi sneakers. Sacai jacket (around waist); Christopher Kane shorts and sneakers; EA7 swim shorts (underneath); A.P.C.O.V. tights; Prada backpack. Esteban Cortázar dress and leggings; Proenza Schouler earrings and sandals; Roxanne Assoulin chokers; Tuleste rings. Beauty note: StriVectin Stress Defense Hydrating Water Gel won’t leave you high and dry.

Photo by Emma Summerton, styled by Giovanna Battaglia.

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.

NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 15: Salim Gauwloos attends “Strike A Pose” Premiere – 2016 Tribeca Film Festival at SVA Theatre 1 on April 15, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

Ilya S. Savenok

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.”

Scenes From Madonna’s Glory Days on the 25th Anniversary of Her Cult Film, “Truth or Dare”

© 1991 Miramax, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
© 1991 Miramax, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
© 1991 Miramax, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
© 1991 Miramax, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
© 1991 Miramax, LLC. All Rights Reserved
© 1991 Miramax, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
© 1991 Miramax, LLC. All Rights Reserved
Steven Meisel. © 1991 Miramax, LLC. All Rights Reserved
© 1991 Miramax, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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