Lena Dunham interpretively danced to Sia’s “Chandelier” live on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and it was…something! I admit I’ve been obsessed with this song ever since 11-year-old Maddie Ziegler wiped the dance floor with her expressive performance for the official video. To me, barring any “save the children!” speeches, having Maddie interpret the pain and anguish of the alcoholic subject matter spoke volumes to how amazing and powerful of an art form dance can be. I’m not afraid to say it got me a little choked up. The Sia+Maddie performance brought to life on “Ellen” just a little while back cemented that for me, and I believe made the message come across even more poignantly.
Watching Lena Dunham take her turn, well, it may be hard to swallow if you still can’t get this dance scene from season 3 of “Girls” out of your head (clearly Dunham loves to dance!), and half the time I’m wondering if she’s trying to be earnest or silly, or both. But here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter. Whether Ms. Dunham was given specific choreography or she donned the blonde wig and made up her own spastic rag doll moves on the spot, it makes no difference because expressive movement doesn’t shy away from improvisation, in fact, it flourishes from it. Even in Maddie’s choreographed version the steps take on a life of their own, acting as physical representations of intangible emotions that are difficult to express solely through music. And this is what I’d like to think Sia is trying to convey.
Having an interesting philosophy on fame herself, Sia is known for stepping away from the spotlight not only just in writing music (she co-wrote Rihanna’s “Diamonds” among many other songs for pop stars) but in her performances (there aren’t many, and notice the back to the audience trend) and her lack of touring and interviews over the years. “Hiding in plain sight” is how Steve Knopfer described her in his New York Times profile on the prolific artist. So it makes sense, then, that Sia would choose dance to portray the deep and visceral emotion of “Chandelier,” her first solo single in four years.
Coming from a dance background, as in dance was my primary extracurricular growing up, I may have a biased opinion about the art form’s ability to tell a story, and its unique capacity for giving not only the performer, but the audience a sense of freedom. Even still, it’s hard to deny that something is unleashed when the body is set to motion and is allowed to experience e-motion in a very physical way. We may never know if Lena Dunham was making it up as she went along or what she was feeling when performing, but something tells me we already got the message. And it has nothing to do with how “good” it is.
Here’s the Lena Dunham version from last night’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers”:
And here’s Sia performing with Maddie on Ellen:
And finally, the official video: