In 2006 Madonna embarked on the Confessions Tour. The tour would go on to become the highest grossing tour by a solo artist until she broke her own record with 2008's Sticky & Sweet tour. The Confessions tour was in support of her album Confessions on a Dance Floor which featured the songs "Hung Up" and "Sorry".
In the usual tradition of Madonna tours this decade, the show began with a video shown on the massive screens used in the show.
In the video we see Madonna approaching a white horse. The inclusion of the white horse is an interesting choice. In the New Testament of the Christian Bible in Chapter Six of the Book of Revelation there's the inclusion of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The purpose of the white horse has been debated for centuries so there's no real explanation of what it symbolizes.
- I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.
— Revelation 6:1-2 NIV
The white horse of the apocalyptic four may represent polar qualities of evil or righteousness, depending on interpretation. The German-language Lutheran Stuttgarter Erklärungsbibel sees him as civil war and internal strife.
 As evil
The other three horsemen represent evil, destructive forces, and given the unified way in which all four are introduced and described, it may be most likely that the first horseman is correspondingly evil. Some interpret the rider of the white horse to be the Antichrist, or a representation of false prophets, citing differences between the white horse in Revelation 6 and Jesus on the white Horse in Revelation 19. Revelation 19 Jesus has many crowns, but in Revelation 6 the rider has one. In Revelation 19, the rider on the horse is depicted as "The Word of God". The rider of the white horse may represent the second coming of Christ during which the end of the world/judgment day would occur. He may also just represent judgment of the living and the damned.
 As righteous
Irenaeus, an influential Christian theologian of the second century, was among the first to interpret this horseman as Christ himself, his white horse representing the successful spread of the gospel. Various scholars have since supported this theory, citing the later appearance, in Revelation 19, of Christ mounted on a white horse, appearing as The Word of God. Furthermore, earlier in the New Testament, the Book of Mark indicates that the advance of the gospel may indeed precede and foretell the apocalypse. The color white also tends to represent righteousness in the Bible, and Christ is in other instances portrayed as a conqueror. However, opposing interpretations argue that the first of the four horsemen is probably not the horseman of Revelation 19. They are described in significantly different ways, and Christ's role as the Lamb who opens the seven seals makes it unlikely that he would also be one of the forces released by the seals.Besides Christ, the horseman could represent the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was understood to have come upon the Apostles at Pentecost after Jesus' departure from earth. The appearance of the Lamb in Revelation 5 shows the triumphant arrival of Jesus in heaven, and the white horseman could represent the sending of the Holy Spirit by Jesus and the advance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As you may remember, a white horse was featured on Madonna's previous tour, during "Bedtime Story".
Next the screen changes and we see a black horse mirrored. This is a theme that will repeat itself throughout the entire show. The screen projections are a huge part of the show and in every video the image creates duality.
"This is not a coincidence, would you like to try?" - Future Lovers
A good example of this dual effect is this shot of Madonna walking past the horses.
As the video continues a blue mirrorball descends onto the stage.
Continuing with the theme of masculine and feminine energy, the female dancers dominate the males.
Not controlled by time
Future lovers shine
In a world that's free
The lyrics to the song "Future Lovers" share a common theme with the film Xanadu which, as I mentioned earlier, Madonna used as inspiration for her music video "Sorry". In the film Xanadu, the Muses come from the "timeless realm of the Gods". In "Future Lovers" Madonna invites us to a world that's "not controlled by time".
As I mentioned in Lolita's Candy, Johnny Depp's as the Mad Hatter has drawn comparisons to Madonna.
In Through The Looking Glass the Mad Hatter is sentenced to death by the Queen of Hearts for "murdering the time". In response to this attempted murder, Time hats itself for the Mad Hatter and he remains at 6:00 forever.
"What I want is to live forever; not defined by time and space, it's a lonely place...
" - Madonna, Easy Ride
A part of the choreography requires Madonna to mount one of her dancers who is black. The only reason I mention this because the following scene is shown on the screen projections at that very moment.
I covered a possible black horse connection here.
At the end of the performance we see that the black horses have fallen to the ground.
As Madonna exhibits power and authority we see that the color of the lights used has changed from blue to red.
The next performance features her dancers confessing past trauma.
"I've always lived in my own world; I danced to escape my troubles."
For "Forbidden Love" the male dancers sported Jewish and Islamic symbols echoing the conflicts between Israel and Palestine.
In the previous performance Madonna appeared as a female messiah. In "Forbidden Love" she and the two dancers perform an interpretive dance where Madonna eventually brings the two together. Feminine energy bringing balance.
Madonna recently caused controversy by performing while wrapped in an Israeli flag.
For "Isaac" there is a Falcon shown on the screen projections. Egyptian Sky God Horus is commonly depicted as a Falcon.
"Connect to the sky..." - Future Lovers
In the actual performance a dancer, interestingly named Sophia, performs caged and in a Chador commonly associated with Islamic culture. She escapes the cage when she takes off the Chador. The performance reminds me of a scene in the documentary I'm Going To Tell You A Secret where Madonna explains the meaning of a performance of "American Life". Scroll to 2:26.
For "Music Inferno" Madonna dresses up as John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. The combination of the color red used prominently in this performance as well as the fact that Madonna is dressed as a male character fits in nicely with the themes covered in this blog entry. The screen projections feature Madonna dressed as the Acid Queen from The Who's musical Tommy which was played by Tina Turner. The Acid Queen was a gypsy who gives patients hallucinogenic drugs to cure them. Very interesting considering this entire blog entry deals with alternative realities and realms. Madonna playing a Gypsy is also interesting considering her recent controversy.
For the following performance Madonna rips off the Travolta costume and reveals a more feminine body suit underneath as the setting turns blue. Madonna is submissive and romantic in a softer remix of "Erotica".
"Last night I dreamt of San Pedro..."
For the next performance Madonna escapes into her dream island of San Pedro. Dolphins are used on the screen projection. Dolphins are believed to be psychic due to their ability to predict future events and transcend dimensions. Read the article below.
Mystery of the Silver Rings
by Don White, Creator of Project Delphis
This isn't fantasy, it's real. And it isn't magic, just marvelous. It is a rare dolphin behavior, and we first saw it in the play of two baby dolphins. It gives us a little more insight into the superb level of control dolphins can exercise on their water environment, and underscores the fact that we can still discover things about dolphins by simply watching them.
I first saw this behavior on one of my relatively rare trips out to the Delphis lab; the project's principle scientist Ken Marten said that "the two babies, Tinkerbell and Maui" had been doing it for a little while. My reaction: "Wow, neato. How the heck do they DO that? Try to get some photo and video shots of it. It sure is cool". Ken, along with Suchi Psarakos, Research Assistant and computer programmer, did indeed document the silver rings (although video and photos don't do the rings justice), and this has made it possible to both analyze the physics behind the phenomenon and to watch the dolphins do this trick in slow-motion.
As it turned out, small silver rings weren't the only toys the dolphins were making for themselves: some of the creations were as large as a basketball rim. And Tinkerbell proved able to create a silver helix, spiraling perhaps 20 feet long, that would spring into life in a fraction of a second and remain stable in the water as she swam past, observing it with sonar and vision. then--presto! she would grab a small silver ring from the helix to play with, while the rest of the helix degraded into bubbles which would belatedly "remember" to rise to the surface.
This was a wonderful mystery to ponder. My attempts at re-creating the rings in a swimming pool succeeded only in getting water up my nose, but my guesses were confirmed--with better and more rigorous explanation--by the fluid dynamics class of Suchi's close friend Hans Ramm at Scripps Institute of Oceanography.
The silver rings, as it turns out, are "air-core vortex rings", and the helices are a similar phenomenon. Invisible, spinning vortices in the water are generated from the tip of a dolphin's dorsal fin when it is moving rapidly and turning. According to Hans: "Being unstable without a boundary nearby, the vortex line tends to form into a more stable form such as a helix. When the dolphins break the line, the ends are drawn together into closed rings. Owing to the Bernoulli effect, the higher velocity fluid around the core of the vortex is at a lower pressure than the fluid circulating farther away. Air is injected into the rings via bubbles released from the dolphin's blowhole." The energy of the water vortex is enough to keep the bubbles from rising for a reasonably long period--on the order of 10 seconds. There also seems to be a separate mechanism for producing small rings, which a dolphin can accomplish by a quick flip of its head.
There is little doubt that this is what is occurring. However, understanding the physics should not diminish our appreciation of this spontaneous act of creation by a dolphin mind. These young dolphins have detected, understood, and manipulated a subtle aspect of their environment, for no reason other than play.
Creation of these rings by dolphins isn't new. (far from it--dolphins were probably blowing magnificent silver rings while our anscestors were hanging off tree limbs). It does seem to be a relatively rare behavior, though: it has been seen before only in a specific group of dolphins documented by Diana Reiss and Jan Ostman at Marine World. "The fact that ring-blowing is rare and that we have two babies doing it suggests that one baby learned it from the other", comments Ken Marten. "Whether it was a case of observational learning, or one "taught" the other, we don't know... but it'd sure be interesting to know."
The social situation also seems to affect ring-blowing: " The babies made them most intensely when they were the only two dolphins in the tank and when there was only one adult. The behavior stopped entirely when they were outnumbered by adults, " observed Suchi. "During one intense session with Tinkerbell there were often two or three rings visible in the tank at one time. She frequently swam over to me in an excited state, then went and made some more."
The reaction to our documentation of these rings has been universal--people are fascinated by them. Dr. Ken Norris, the world's leading expert on dolphins, had never seen it before. Robert Wolff of Apple Computer's Advanced Design Group made a "quicktime" movie of ring-blowing for display on Mac computers. Arthur C. Clarke, Earthtrust Advisory Board member, thought they were wonderful--but debated my offered contention that they might be the first "extraterrestrial art", pointing to interesting "artistic" achievements by other nonhuman animals.
For myself, I do consider these rings to be "art": the creation and observation of artifacts by a nonhuman mind, with no use other than entertainment and aesthetics. One must be constantly wary not to anthropomorphize the actions of other species--to treat them as though they were human. But after watching a dolphin create one of these kinetic sculptures--observe it from many angles--and then destroy it with a bite--it seems a long leap of logic to ascribe any other motive.
This can, and will, be debated... but the beauty of the rings is beyond debate. As evidence mounts for "self awareness" and other "intelligent" qualities in dolphins, I think that it must cause us again to ask the question: what are these creatures, that they spin silver lariats for the sheer joy of creation? And what sort of creatures are we, if we cannot appreciate and protect them?
"Time goes by so slowly..."
Madonna rocks a purple leotard in the final performance. The usage of the color purple is interesting as blue and red makes purple. This performance also reminds me of an interesting comment Toure of the Patternist left on one of my entries.
"Also, the leotard represents androgyny; the garment is designed to be unisex, even tho mostly women wear it."
The repetitive use of the line "time goes by so slowly" also connects with Madonna original invitation for us to join her in the timeless realm of the God's at the start of the show.
To be continued...