When did eye spasms, epileptic winks, vertiginous whatever-rolls and hummingbird blinks become the new voguing? Are hyphy eyes the next big thing?
Two days after Beyoncé’s latest—“Countdown”—dropped in all its Audrey Hepburnized, Mondrian/Crayola glory, allegations emerged that many elements of the choreography are near carbon copies of two famous works by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.
Since De Keersmaeker’s pioneering 1983 work Rosas danst Rosas—one of the pieces plagiarized by Beyoncé, right down to her demure school-uniformish costumes and Bushwick loft-cum-Warhol factory set—the Belgian choreographer has been one of the leading figures in contemporary dance, constructing groundbreaking pieces set to Steve Reich and John Cage compositions, among others. Kudos to Team Beyoncé, which seemsto have a knack for putting good taste and a broad scope of influences to use, all in the name of divadom upheld. And anyway, who needs seminal minimalists when you can have Sasha Fierce in kneepads and Steve Jobs turtlenecks rolling around with an in-utero Jay-Z?
But the more salient thievery aside, my scrutiny is on those kohl-rimmed, cat-eyed peepers of Beyoncé’s batting about all bat-shit and manic like,Can I offer you a sedative and a hit of Visine, Ms. Knowles?
If Beyoncé looks banging cross-eyed, shouldn’t we all now opt for the cross-eyed look too?
One would suppose, then, that next up to eye-bat would be none other than Ms. Harajuku Barbie Nicki Minaj. Her entire Neon Real Doll look hinges upon her wildly expressive Anime eyes, which have created an entire ocular cultural niche as they superhumanly flip from doe-dew flirtatious to warrior intense in one cartoonish wink.
Minaj was perhaps the first to surf the present wave of looney-toons visionaries. Her recent “Super Bass” is pupiled left and right with her trademark intimidating stares and glittery glances. Minaj, along with Lady Gaga circa Bad Romance, seems to have spawned an entire tide of teen girls desperate to get bug-eyed and Manga-lashed with the aid of contraband contacts and mounds of eyeshadow.
But insofar as echoes of Minaj’s eye tics are all over Beyoncé’s “Countdown,” so too does Minaj’s whole shtick whiff heavily of Missy Elliot’s hallmark supa-dupa-fly bulges and sock-it-2-me robotic convulsionsof yore. Hyphy-eyeing, it would then seem, is nothing new.
And yet we can trace the lineage even further. Just as Minaj’s facial theatrics smack of Kabuki antics, so too do her convulsions—and Missy’s and Beyoncé’s, too—recall eye gestures intrinsic to classical dances from India and Southeast Asia, such as the elaborate Drishti Behdas of Bharatanatyamor the Thai and Balinese dances set to Gamelan orchestras.
Here's what I would like to know: if avant-garde contortions have been done (long before Beyoncé copied De Keersmaeker, Lady Gaga’s wheelchairs and crutches were aping the archives of Canada’s Marie Chouinard), and if eyes are the next to go, which physical oddity can pop plagiarize next? My vote is on Snake Manu.