The face contributes a vital, yet often overlooked, component of dance performance. Facial Choreographies: Performing the Face in Popular Dance
examines what the face does in dance and what it may mean. Author Sherril Dodds focuses on popular presentational dance, which permits the face to be one of excess and spectacle, as well as disclosure or deception. The concept of facial choreography resists the idea that the expressive countenance in dance is simply by chance, and instead conceives its movement as purposeful, creative, and communicative.
The book centers on three facial case studies: global celebrity Michael Jackson, whose face has occupied a site of fervent controversy; Maddie Ziegler, child star of the reality television series Dance Moms and de facto face of pop star Sia; and a community of hip hop dancers who engage in fiercely contested dance battles. Chapters are organized according to action-expressions, actively working even in times of stillness: SMILE, LOOK, FROWN, CRY, SCREAM, and LAUGH. Across each case study, the book explores pedagogies of facial composition, the purpose of codified expressions, and how dancers re-choreograph their faces as a critical unworking of what a dancing visage might represent. Facial choreographies engender opportunity for startling creativity, the articulation of identity, a cathartic expression of emotions and attitudes, and the capacity to dismantle previously held assumptions. As the dancing face tauntingly slips between visual, sensory, and kinetic registers it ensures that nothing can be taken at face value.