Madonna goes through the paces - and she does it in high heels



UHHH ... I can't jump rope in high heels!"


"Well, not that high a heel."

OK, folks, who do we know who would jump rope (double-dutch, too) in heels? Of course! It is our old friend, the indomitable Madonna.

La Ciccone 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. 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.

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 motto: 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 explains her vision on one of the numbers. The choreographer is working only from an e-mail he just received from Madonna. She has her vision, now she has to communicate it. The number will feature four girls dressed up in various versions of Madonna images from the 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!"

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.

It doesn't seem the time or place to bring up her supposedly failing marriage or the betrayal of her brother, Christopher Ciccone, and his tell-all book.

Will Madonna and Guy Ritchie separate? I don't know. I do know they have been deeply in love, very much in sync (certainly at one time) and both these strong-willed people have tried hard to accommodate the other. 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. I don't think the towel is thrown in yet. It's damp and well-used. It's hanging crooked on the shower stall. But it's not quite ready for the hamper.

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. She doesn't beg her audience for love or understanding. Seen through the oft-distorted prism of the media, her ambition and "manipulation" is not always admired. Still, many do admire her, without really admitting she has talent. Millions more worship her as a figure of empowerment and forging success in a man's world on a man's terms.

She's the music industry's Hillary Clinton, jumping rope in high heels.

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