If the Western has the Wild West with its cowboys, the Macho Dancer Movie nestles within the dark walls of the Gay Bar with its cast of gyrating, undressing male performers. Macho dancers are not to be confused with the callboy/common prostitute or the torero/live sex performer, although they can be those too. The Macho Dancer's weapon is his particular brand of striptease. And just as the Western is American and the Samurai film Japanese, the Macho Dancer Movie is quintessentially Filipino. Is there any country other than the Philippines that can fill a top ten list of macho dancer movies with a few extra to spare? In these films, the plight of a people are played out via intermittent seductive numbers, like a musical, but hotter, where the thongs usually come off. Herewith, the zarzuelas of our time.
1. Sibak: Midnight Dancers
Directed by Mel Chionglo (1994)
Written by Ricardo Lee
Packed end to end with eroticism, buoyed by three brothers who work as dancers in the same bar, Sibak recreates a universe that is so complete, it's downright epic. There's drugs, theft, streetwalking, repeated abuse by an influential client, a minor who moonlights, true romance between dancers and gay men, and of course, the nightly shows where the stage literally spills with the swarm of nubile bodies. And yet it's most vividly about family, dismantled and reassembled by poverty and the new conditions of postmodern times. A decade and a half since it was unleashed, Sibak still feels like a needle shot straight from the underground.
Hot Dancers: Gandong Cervantes, Lawrence David, Alex Del Rosario, Danny Ramos / Hottest Dance: The debut of Gandong
2. Macho Dancer
Directed by Lino Brocka (1988)
Written by Amado Lacuesta and Ricardo Lee
Where it all began. The story -- a rookie enters the world of macho dancing, loses his innocence and ends co-opted in a corrupted society -- struck such wild resonance that it has become the formula for the genre. That, and the bold, lingering devotion to the dances, jerkoffs, and onstage sex, plus the blatant melodarama. If everything else that followed seemed like copycats, that's because the first one hit the right nerve.
Hot Dancers: William Lorenzo, Allan Paule, and Daniel Fernando (who is still the only actor to win a Gawad Urian for portraying a macho dancer) / Hottest Dance: The Shower
3. Sa Paraiso Ni Efren
Directed by Maryo J. Delos Reyes (1999)
Written by Robert Silverio and Jun Lana
The first thing it did was to shift the point of view to the gay man sitting in the audience (Allan Paule), lonely and struggling to understand his object of admiration. The macho dancer here is a thing of enigmatic, beastly beauty, yet no other movie has dived as deeply into the psyche of the supposedly bisexual man in a homosexual relationship, even entering his childlike dreams. We've yet to see a richer exploration of the bond between the gay spectator and his macho dancer love.
Hot Dancers: Anton Bernardo, Simon Ibarra, Zoltan Amore / Hottest Dance: Fishnet Dance
4. Burlesk King
Directed by Mel Chionglo (1999)
Written by Ricardo Lee
Funny and tongue-in-cheek, as is the trend in TF's (Titillating Films) of the 90's, Burlesk King was a refreshing entry to the genre because it basked in the naivete of its two cute young leads, who start in the macho dancing business with beaming smiles and little hang-ups. They're also American half-breeds at a time when the U.S. military bases had abandoned the people in sex entertainment who depended on them. The audition scene is untoppable, pure funny-sexy gold, but is only the beginning of a depraved yet sappy journey.
Hot Dancers: Rodel Velayo, Leonardo Litton, Tonio Ortigas / Hottest Dance: Velayo's soapy peek-a-boo
5. Bridal Shower
Directed by Jeffrey Jeturian (2004)
Written by Chris Martinez and Armando Lao
Sure, it's about the chicks -- three gal pals who try to mount the perfect bridal shower party -- but the heart (and groin) of this sexy comedy is the search for the perfect macho dancer and the romance that develops between him and Miss Insecure and Overweight (Cherry Pie Picache). Alfred Vargas' Joebert is the Macho Dancer as Leading Man, the most romantic male stripper in Pinoy movies, with two supporting macho dancers who are romantic in their own right -- they share a kiss.
Hot Dancer: Alfred Vargas / Hottest Dance: The Bridal Shower
6. Twilight Dancers
Directed by Mel Chionglo (2006)
Written by Ricardo Lee
The macho dancer movie hits midlife crisis. An ageing performer meets a young rising star, and just when you think every macho dance has been filmed before, here's one with a live snake, and older people are now prone to sudden political speechifying.
Hot Dancers: Tyron Perez, Lauren Novero, Allen Dizon, Kris Martinez, Johnron Tanada, Chester Nolledo, Harold Montano / Hottest Dance: The Search for Mr. Big
7. Totoy Mola
Directed by Abbo Dela Cruz (1997)
Written by Cris Marcelino and Bunny Martinez
Adapted from a popular serialized fiction in a tabloid newspaper about a guy with a gigantic penis who finds a home in a gay bar, this hit could have left less to the imagination (we never see the schlong). But macho dancers don't come as iconic as the character of Totoy Mola.
Hot Dancer: Jay Manalo / Hottest Dance: Totoy's training
Written and directed by Lau De Jesus (2006)
Ridiculed when it was shown in theaters, this piece of bad filmmaking from before the boom of gay digital movies rewards those with patience and a sense of humor. A runaway teen bunks with his cousin the macho dancer. They're both irresistible jailbait, but the rest of the attraction is real-looking macho dancers with not exactly great bodies doing extended lazy solos. Begs for a video release to be rediscovered.
Hot Dancer: Dexter De Vera / Hottest Dance: De Vera's solo
Directed by Ihman Esturco (2007)
Written by Aileen Viray and Ferdie Aboga
A straight-to-video documentary that interviews real-life headlining macho dancers, good-looking and personable, with re-enactments of their gigs. By no means an exceptional doc, it nonetheless mixes humanity and sexuality to steamy effect.
Hot Dancers: Victor Valerio, Brent Lorenzo, Kiko Montenegro, Russel Anderson
Directed by Robert Abihay (2003)
Written by Rolly Perello Lao
A B-movie in which a former macho dancer illogically murders the gay man (Emilio Garcia) who gave him his break in showbiz. It gets a spot on the list only for the onstage magnetism of Gerald Lauron, who wasn't memorable in anything else.
Hot Dancer: Gerald Lauron / Hottest Dance: Lauron's solo
Almost made the list: Gusto Ko Ng Lumigaya (2000) with Alyson VII, Bawal Na Halik (1997) with Jay Manalo (again), Biglang Liko (2002) with Harold Pineda, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (2005) with Paolo Serrano, Kalakal (2008) with Froilan Moreno.
Other movies in which macho dancing only makes a minor appearance and therefore cannot really be classified as macho dancer movies: Sagad Sa Init (1998) with Jomari Yllana and Cholo Escana in a wonderful number in front of screaming ladies, Manay Po! (2006) with Christian Vasquez in a pool party, Trabaho (2005) with a gang of ordinary boys doing a bridal shower, straight-to-video Provoq (2006) with John Miller as a macho dancer in one of ten unrelated vignettes. The instructional video Hubad! (2007) features wall-to-wall stripteasing men, but the dancing is depicted as a recreational diversion, not a profession.
Any of your favorites were overlooked?
"Re-Envisioning the Macho: Masculinity in Philippine Visual Culture" by Reuben Ramas Canete
Forum: Who is the Most Daring Actor in a Macho Dancing Role?
"Macho Dancer Movie Capital of the World" by Jessica Zafra
"A Swan Song For Macho Dancers?" by Rasheed