This month sees the premiere of a new Madonna World Tour. We're happy that the exclusive interview we present you this month will also help celebrating this exciting event. The MadonnaTribe team is happy to have as our exclusive guest this month, Raistalla, the amazing performer M-fans had the chance to know during the re-Invention tour back in 2004. Raistalla will be sharing not only her fondest memories from that tour in her first interview ever with a Madonna Newsite, but will also be chatting with us about her brand new career as a singer. Raistalla has just come back from the lauch party of her self-titled debut album at Club Outbreak in Tokyo, Japan, on Tuesday May 9th. Welcome into the world of Raistalla.

MadonnaTribe: Hi Raistalla, and welcome to MadonnaTribe. It's a pleasure to have you here with us.
So, you're just back from this year's Winter Music Conference, how was it like?

Raistalla: It was definitely an experience. The beach was crowded not only with WMC go-ers, but BET's Spring Fling go-ers as well. I met a wide range of people.
I gained the interest of a lot people, on the streets and at my shows, who didn't think they'd be into electro/funk.

MT: You actually grew up there in Miami, surrounded by a family and an environment filled of art, dance, and music.
Your own way to the show business started through professional dancing though.
Was that a sort of a natural choice?
Did you have a feeling you wanted to become a dancer, a singer, or maybe simply an "artist", in the most complete sense, when you were growing up?

R: Looking back at my youth now I realize I was never too concerned with anything. All I wanted to do was have fun.
I notice now that I always lived in the moment. I didn't aspire to be a professional dancer until I was 16. That's when I met my first Hip Hop teacher Tawanna Hall. She really opened my eyes to how extraordinary it is to be a professional dancer… you know, wanting to be in videos, and on tour, etc.
I have always been able to sing but never took it seriously... that is until I knew what I wanted to do with it.

MT: Speaking of this, what was your background and education, and how did they influence your approach to life and music?

R: As a dancer I started with tap when I was 6, then ballet, jazz, and musical theater followed. My Mom would always take my sister and I to see musicals and live shows and dance festivals. The dance studios that I went to seemed to always focus on the art of dancing as opposed to just learning technique and tricks. We'd travel to do conventions and competitions all the time as well. My Mom encouraged us to try new dance forms: African, Modern, Swing, Irish Step, Clogging, Hip Hop, and so on.
So, I was exposed to a lot at a young age.
As a singer I was part of the Advanced Chorus and Show Choir in middle school and high school, but it really started in elementary after the movie Wayne's World was released. That was the first time I had ever heard of the rock group, QUEEN. The rest is history.


MT: Over the past few years you worked as a professional dancers for legends such as Prince, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Missy Elliot, Outkast, and of course Madonna. What was your first experience, and what memories do you have of your first time on stage with one of those internationally acclaimed artists?

R: I've had unforgettable moments on stage with all those artists, but the one I distinctly remember is the first time I performed with Alicia Keyes. It was at the Hollywood Bowl, in May 2005, with the LA Philharmonic accompanying her band. Talk about dancing with the stars. I've never felt the high I felt the night I performed for Alicia Keys. The music was jazzy, her vocals were smooth, the crowd was wanting, I was "ready", and the weather was perfect.
I was one of the five female dancers that were given a few bars of music to improv a solo to during a musical interlude. As I was waiting on the side for my turn to come up I felt compelled to take the stage. It was like the music was calling me forward. I was so enraptured in the moment I went on an eight count before my time. Boy when I tell you I was lifted, "I was lifted!"
I was overwhelmed with emotions and as the music intensified so did my performance. All I remember is taking on the crowd and hearing them yell. I went to the tip of the catwalk and must have done something amazing cause the crowd went bonkers. Then I headed back towards the stage and calmed things down to prepare them for the next dancer's entrance. What more could a performer ask for.


MT: What kind of music has influenced your early years, what have you been listening to when you were growing up?

: I believe it all started with QUEEN.
I would listen to that tape everyday to and from elementary school. I loved how musical and fun it was.
When I got to middle school it was all about NY Hip Hop, R&B and occasionally Rock.
In high school I was more into Alternative, Reggae, and most importantly Electronic music, which at the time we called Rave Music (house, techno, drum & bass, jungle, etc.).
I think at that point in my life something had really sparked inside of me. I felt like I could do anything when I heard "electro music!" I was exposed to other types of music in dance school as well.

: And what was your relationship with the music of Madonna before working with her?

: My Mom and sis would always play the "Immaculate" album when I was growing up, so I knew all the songs. I really felt I clicked with her when I heard "Side Walk Talk" for the first time. I don't know it just brought me to life. We'd perform to a lot of her songs at my dance studio, too, especially "Vogue". Another one of my favorites.

: Do you remember which was the first time you met Madonna?

: I auditioned for Madonna a year or two before the Re-Invention tour audition. It was for the "American Life" video.
I remember when we walked in the room at the final callbacks and she was sitting there behind the table with her dark blue pea coat and news boy hat. I was actually stunned… and fired to go. I wanted to perform my best for her.
There was a section of the choreography when we had to do one-handed push-ups. I remember looking dead in her eyes on that part and felt at that moment we connected.
I don't know if she remembers that but of course I always will.


MT: The re-Invention tour was the second Madonna show to have been "witnessed" by a documentary crew, and this time, contrary to what happened with "Truth or Dare" and the "Blond Ambition Tour", we were also given a behind the scenes look at the creation of the show. In "I'm going to tell you a secret" Madonna's dancers are introduced to the audience by the auditions.
What do you remember of that experience?

R: I remember thinking I had no chance of dancing for Madonna, and not wanting to go because of that, but I went anyway.
Once I made it past the second call I realized I actually had a fighting chance to go on tour with Madonna.
I remember her bringing Rocco to one of the audition days, in LA, and me wanting to make him laugh with my "Kooky, crazy, freestylin". It didn't work!
The audition lasted four days. On day one, we did characteristic type choreography with bamboo sticks. It sort of had the chimney sweep feel from Mary Poppins. Day two we had to learn Tango. Day three we got to practice the Tango combo with several partners. Day four, "Judgement Day," we auditioned against the NY dancers in front of the big boss.
When it came down to the last bunch she called twelve of us in and asked us questions about ourselves. Then she said those three lovely words, "Congratulations, you're hired." I thought, "this is it, finally I get to go on the big tour I've always dreamed of going on."


MT: So you remember the routines that were being taught to the dancers...

R: Yeah! They started out with the bamboo stick combo, which was the idea for "Get Into the Groove", and the tango combo, which was the idea for "Die Another Day".

: There was a huge number of dancers auditioning for the tour, do you have a feeling of why Madonna and Jamie did choose you, as one of the female dancers for the show?

: At first I thought it was just pure luck, but when I saw the documentary I heard her say she chose us because we were great actors as well as dancers. I was really happy to hear that because that is who I am. I like to bring music and concept to life through performance. For me, its not just about doing cool steps, its about relaying a story line or a moment or a situation through my body and voice.

MT: What was your first feeling when you learned you where hired? Do you remember that moment?

R: Of course, I was like, "WWWHHHHAAAATTTT!!!! Its about bloody time!" We were all jumping up and down and hugging each other even if we didn't know each other.
It didn't seem real for about the first month of rehearsals.
It's not often that you win a chance to work with an icon like Madonna and see her everyday in rehearsals and actually talk and dance and eat with her and play with her kids and see her with her husband and some of her hollywood buddies and relate with her close staff, and hang with her band...

: When I think of Raistalla at the re-Invention tour, the first thing it comes to my mind is one of your Vogue "poses" in the opening number of the show.
I can't even remember if it was by watching you live from the first rows, ot if it was in my own pics, or videos, or photographs, but it really sticks in my mind and comes as one of the most iconic moments of the show.
How was working on "Vogue"?

R: OH MY GOSH, talk about living a dream.
When I heard we were doing "Vogue" I was like, "yes, I'm ready." I got my "vogue-vain-stoic-catty character" out in every rehearsal. That was one of the highlights of my day whenever we rehearsed.
I practiced my poses and planned out my execution for the show. I wanted to be golden for that performance.
I remember my Mom telling me how she couldn't hold back her tears when she heard that song and saw me come out at the opening of the show. That's one of my Mom's favorite songs as well. I was living for so many people on that song: me, my mom, all my vogue-ers, all the dancers who've ever wanted to dance for Madonna, and the ones that would love to re-live that experience of dancing with her for that song. I could go on and on about this.

MT: You know that "Vogue" has been performed live quite a lot of times before, which is not very common in the Madonna show history. Was it challenging working on this number? Did you have a feeling of how Madonna and her team were going to "re-Invent" its coreography?


R: It wasn't challenging at all for me because I love vogueing and that character and dance style is very natural for me. However, my assumptions for how it would be re-invented were wrong.
I thought she might do something even more elaborate and theatrical than the original icon performance on MTV, but when I thought about it it wasn't a re-invention, it was an enhancement.
What they did with it was evolve the style to a simpler yet progressive vogue-style with amazing visuals from the video screens to depict the modernization of the "new vogue."
It was definitely different from what I imagined but I still loved it!


MT: Do you have a favourite moment in the re-invention show?

R: Yeah! During a costume change, I would look up from under the stage at Madonna performing "Burnin' up." I love that song and I loved that she played guitar.

MT: Which was the most difficult routine to learn?

R: The swinging section, you know the section when the three girls are swinging in front of the screens. I didn't make the cut for that. I couldn't lift my fat a** off the swing for longer than 3 seconds, ha ha! It was funny!!!


MT: There were some changes done to the re-Invention show setlist during the rehearsal process, do you remember working on any number that didn't end up being performed in the final show?

R: Luckily I wasn't one of the dancers who had to learn a number that got cut. I did feel bad for Paul and Zack, though.
They had to learn a difficult and tiring routine for one song and it got cut from the set list right after they had rehearsed it for the millionth time.

MT: Is there a moment from the rehearsal weeks you would like to remember with us for some particular reason? I don't know, maybe because it was a funny one, or a paticularly tough one...

R: Every day was hard work but I remember the week I had to get ready to shoot a video clip for 'Mother & Father" - it was going to be played on one of the video screens during the song.
The director told me I was going to be birthed from the earth... naked!
I was like, "ok, guess I'm not eating this week!" I worked out during our breaks and in the morning when I arrived.

I didn't get to partake in the delicious sweets and snacks that were laid out everyday for our leisure. That was at my own discretion. It paid off though because Jamie was really pleased with how I looked in the video.

MT: And coming to the live show, what are your memories of the opening night at the Los Angeles Forum?

R: I remember saying to myself, "This is it, the beginning of this whole adventure on tour with Madonna."
We were all ready to finally perform in front of a live audience.
The lights went out, her intro played and we got on stage.

Everything happened so fast after that.

There was a big celebrity friends and family party after the show. Everyone was congratulating one another and drinking and laughing and having a ball and talking about how amazing the show was. I had my friends and family there as well. It was good times!

MT: That was also the first time you "met" the crazy Madonna fans, and all over the tour you had the chance to feel how different they are from venue to venue, in the various different countries the tour stopped by. How was this experience for you? Do you have any nice or funny memory of you encounters with the fans?

R: All I really remember are the fans from France. They were crazy! They made the show seem like a big party. We didn't really encounter fans on a daily basis because we didn't have a tour bus. We flew and were shuttled everywhere. Plus, Madonna never traveled with us so there were never any fans waiting at the airports or hotels.

MT: One of the many things that made "re-Invention" so special was the fact Madonna and her dancers get incredibly close to the audience during "American Life" and "Holiday" when the suspended catwalk brings them literally few feets over the heads of the crowd. I've been "down there" quite a lot of times but I've been always wondering how was being "up there"?

R: I anticipated the catwalk every night.
I loved running up there to get to the tip for the rap section, where we did the sign language choreography.
I felt like Madonna's security.
It was scary at first, though. At rehearsals when we saw it for the first time I was very cautious and paranoid. I was like, Safety Mom, making sure everyone was being cautious of hazards at all times. It was horrible. I had to get used to how wobbly it was.
Being there on top of all those people was cool. From the stage you can't see past the first 7 or 8 rows, then when you got to the tip of the lift you could see all the people under you, and the back of the arena suddenly becomes your front row. It was crazy!!!

MT: The re-Invention tour was one of Madonna's biggest productions so far, with a really long setlist and many people on datge playing, singing, and dancing with her.
How was your personal tour experience, how was spending such a long time with this sort of new "family"?

: It was actually really comfortable. Madonna's staff treated us like royalty. I felt we were very well taken care of. Life with the dancers and the band was great too. I mean we all had our moments but overall we got along really well and still communicate today.
Touring is what you make of it. If you want to be crazy, trust me, you'll find your crazy group and there will be lots of drama, but if you're cool and accommodating, everything around you will be the same.

: And how was life on the road? Is there any town or place from the tour you particularly loved visiting?

R: Life on the road was great cause I love to travel and when you're being taken care of its even better.
I always like to take bus tours or ferries when I go to a new country or city.
I loved Amsterdam, and not because of the treats.
London, of course was one of my favorite cities. I flew my family out to London to experience the tour-life with me overseas. Ireland was so peaceful. I took a tour out to the country side and to one of their many castles.
I felt like the guy in the Irish Spring commercials; flashbacking to the beautiful, enchanted land right out of Medieval folklore.

MT: I remember reading reports about Madonna giving to all her dancers a very special necklace with a customized zodiac sign constellations on as a special present.
What can you tell us about the story?

R: She gave it to us, I think, the day of the first show. We walked into our dressing rooms and there were all these gifts: two different sets of sweat suits (Baby Phat and Velour), Baby Phat sneakers with our names on them, and the necklaces.
They had the constellations of our signs engraved on them with the points marked with diamonds.
I thought to myself, "I guess she really likes us," ha ha. I still wear it today.

MT: And how was the feel between fellow dancers, the band, the crew. Are you still in touch with some of them, did you become friend with any of them?

R: Oh yeah, we all got along great! Especially with Steve, the drummer, and Lorne, the bag piper, and Stuart, the musical director. They were all really silly guys.
I love that!
Reshma was my partner in crime. We'd get stomach aches from laughing so much together. Paul was my homie. Even though we didn't hang out that much every time I saw him I felt reassured because we came up together in dance. He made me feel right at home. Cloud was my idol. I wanted to be like him so much. We had great moments as well. Caresse, Hasina, and Jordana aka "The Lovely Ladies". I'd chill with them in the office when I had free time before the show. And of course Siedah aka "funny girl." She always said the right things at the right moments. I miss them all but we still stay in touch. Sometimes if we're available someone (Siedah mainly) would set up a "Re-Invention Tour dinner". Those are always fun!

MT: What is the most important thing that you brought with you from your re-Invention tour experience, and how did it influence your transition from dancer to artist?

R: I knew before the tour was over that I was ready to fill in my shoes as an artist. Every night on stage I knew this was where I belonged and that it couldn't just end after being on tour. I felt I needed access to that high all the time.
Touring is one of the greatest experiences of an artist's life and when it's over reality sets in and things get real hard again.


MT: You said that the artist in you began to develop as the want to sing grew stronger in you. I immediately felt that this is somehow a nice parallel to the career of Madonna, who also trained and started her career as a dancer but soon after also started singing and writing your own songs.
I was wondering if you happened to talk about this with Madonna during the months you spent working with her.

: No. I never spoke about my music or my desire to be an artist while on tour with her. I didn't feel it was the right time.
However, almost a year after the tour, at the documentary screening, I did give her a rough demo of what I had been working on. I just wanted her to know what I had been doing since the tour ended.
A couple days later she listened to it and emailed me her comments.
She said she appreciated the originality of my music and gave me a heads up about how tough getting into this business could be.
I thought it was cool that she even replied.

MT: You also said that you needed to write "in your perspective", and indeed your first three songs, that fans can listen to through your myspace page or on the radiomilano website - "Attention", "Krazy", and "Pressure" really seem to be able to "introduce" a new Raistalla that everybody will love.

What do you love the most in the process of writing a new song?

R: I love it when I come up with a melody in my head that sounds great.
After the track is completed, I'm amazed at how a simple melody I've created comes alive after it's recorded. This doesn't happen all the time. Also, I like creating characters for songs and seeing if I can pull them off.


MT: Speaking of your own works, you also say that a lot of your songs depict visuals, which is again a nice parallel to Madonna and her writings. It seems to me that the way you choose to showcase your works to the public is that of the live show, with a "Club tour 2006", that has been bringing you to Miami, New York, Japan, keeping Los Angeles as your final for the big bang. How is like performing your own songs, what kind of energy does this bring to you?

R: It's WONDERFUL! It feels awesome to know that every part of the music is familiar to me and how much more feeling I can put into it because I created it. I relate to my music much more because of that.
And it's easier to change things at any moment. If the crowd's having a certain vibe you could cater to that vibe. I feel I can become personally appealing with my audience as an artist than I can as a dancer. I can speak, I can sing, as opposed to just dancing.

MT: Raistalla, are you planning to shoot any videos from your upcoming album, and what should we expect from your Summer 2006 CD release?

: Yes. I plan to shoot a video real soon, possibly this summer. I'll be working on it with my good friend and Director Anthony Honn. As far as the album goes, I see it as an introduction to the world of my artistic abilities and myself, as well as the incredible talent of my producer Kaz Gamble. I dabble with a wide range of genres like funk, soul, rock, punk, alternative, house, all electrically infused but still having a common sound; some of it experimental and some of it feel-right-at-home. Almost like your favorite playlist on your iPod.


MT: Did you have a chance to listen to Madonna's new album, "Confessions On A Dance Floor", what do you think of her new work, and of the idea of a non-stop dance CD she and her producer came up with?

R: I thought it was cool. I couldn't get "hung up" out of my head. I must say I did contribute to the hype.
Whenever I was in a club and they played her song I couldn't stop myself from doing that one step from the video where the dancers are marching with their elbows high. Yeah, I liked that one.

MT: You know that Madonna is going to hit the road again this Summer, but we know that this will be a very special Summer for you, too, with your new album "Raistalla!" coming out this week. How do you feel now that you're finally a solo artist, and do you have any regrets, of maybe just nostalgia, of knowing that you will not be on tour with her again this time?

R: I feel like I've graduated from high school, as in "the school of life."
I feel that I've reached a new point as an artist and am ready to show the world who I am.
I don't see any boundaries I can't cross.
My future as a performer is in my hands.


As for regrets or nostalgia, honestly, I don't feel that because I had great moments on tour and with Madonna and like everything in life, nothing lasts forever; you must move on.

MT: To close our interview, can you tell us which is your fondest memory of Madonna?

R: Seeing how cute she is with her family and feeling like you are part of her family as well.

MT: Raistalla thanks a lot for sharing this time with us. Congratulations for your new work and all the best for all the great, thrilling things to come!

For more information about Raistalla please visit her official website
and her Raistalla Music page at MySpace.
Pictures courtesy of Raistalla used by permission.
This interview © 2006 MadonnaTribe

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