‘Sweet’ dreams for Madonna

Diva hard at work on upcoming tour

The indomitable Madonna has been rehearsing her “Sticky and Sweet” tour in a massive space in New York. Her latest troupe of beautiful dancers is present, as is every other member of a massive Madonna undertaking. When the boss works, everybody works! It is 80 degrees and humid outside. Inside it’s a steam bath. Madonna does not enjoy air-conditioning. (Audiences tend to leave her concerts having lost about 10 pounds in water-weight.) Everybody looks whipped. Not Madonna. Without makeup, her long blond hair lank, dressed in funereal black rehearsal togs, she looks fresher, younger, and more vital than she does on the red carpet. (She also looks less muscular. Concert lighting and flash photography tends to over-emphasize her toned sinew.) She certainly shakes a tailfeather like she is still writhing along the canals in Venice for the “Like A Virgin” video, filmed back before most of her dancers were born.

People close to Madonna, those who love her, are always saying, “Why don’t you relax more; have some fun?” Sometimes she will agree. But most of the time she doesn’t bother to give concerned parties her life memo: hard work –pushing herself to the limit and most of all, dancing is her fun and relaxation. So many of her songs celebrate the power of dance and how it can free you — perhaps just temporarily — from immediate care.

Watching this star go through her paces, she seems not to have a care in the world, except to perfect her show. “That sucked!” she declares after failing to execute her double-dutch without error. “I have to be better.” Madonna pauses and gives a mock scowl to her dancers, “And so does everybody else.”

Later, she painstakingly explains her vision on one of the numbers. The choreographer is working only from an email he just received from Madonna. She has her vision, now she has to communicate it. The number will feature four girls who are dressed up in various iconic versions of Madonna images past. She’s laughing at her old ‘looks’ and discussing the particulars. “At first I thought mannequins, then no, real girls would be better. Truthfully, I wanted drag queens, who does me better? But I figured that might be too much drama, you know — those girls love their scenes. And I provide enough of that!”

As Madonna recruits the dancers who’ll stand and strike a pose, each holding or wearing a prop the star will snatch away, the choreographer beams, “Oh, this is getting so wickedly weird. Now I’m really loving it!”

THROUGHOUT THE afternoon and evening Madonna never flags, and never loses her sense of humor or the maternal camaraderie she always shares with her dancers.

Happily lost in her greatest love — her work — it doesn’t seem the time or place to bring up her supposedly failing marriage or the betrayal of her bother, Christopher Ciccone, and his tell-all book.

Will Madonna and Guy Ritchie separate? I don’t know. The last time I saw Guy and Madonna together, they couldn’t have been more convivial and affectionate. They were in public, of course, so we take the proverbial grain of salt on that one. She has three children. She is not cavalier when it comes to divorce. (Remember, this is only her second marriage.)

Certainly Madonna does not look or behave like a woman whose marriage is on the rocks. She wouldn’t show that face anyway; that’s a great part of her appeal.

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