Big Girls Cry: Sia, Maddie and the Dancing Face

Friday 22 November 2019, 2.30PM to 4.00pm

Speaker(s): Sherril Dodds (Temple University)

My current book project examines on the work of facial choreography within dance performance, and here I examine the music video for “Big Girls Cry” (2014) by Australian pop star Sia Furler. Notorious for refusing to show her face in public, Sia has adopted Maddie Ziegler, former child star of the reality television show Dance Moms, as a surrogate face for her public appearances, live shows, and a trilogy of music videos.

I specifically look to “Big Girls Cry” as it comprises a single close-up of Maddie performing a complex facial choreography that both moves and alarms in turn. Given that young female spectators and various music critics speak of the affective capacity of her performance, I employ feminist scholars Sara Ahmed (2015) and Rosie Braidotti (2015) to examine how her facial choreography offers a feminist intervention against the trope of the weepy female. Yet I also call attention to the aesthetic, ethical, and political discomfort of this video.

I use literature on celebrity and whiteness (Redmond 2007; York 2018) to raise concern over the way that Sia replaces her own face with that of a beautiful celebrity child, which ensures that her economic and racial privilege is maintained. I conclude that, in choreographic terms, crying can produce a flood of ideas, but its excess can distract from a singular political intent.

Location: Sally Baldwin Buildings, Block D, Room D003