On the Campus
May 9, 2007:
strokes in paint and dance
By Laura Fitzpatrick '08
"SPLATTER. STREAK. SMEAR. TEAR. THINK,"
reads a sign in thick black marker in a drab hallway on the top
floor of Wilcox Hall. Push open the heavy wooden door, and you enter
a world of vibrant yellows and oranges and violets where the air
is drenched with the smell of acrylic paint. This is the new Wilcox
Visual Arts studio, up and running since February.
Four days a week, the studio, the brainchild of RCA Jessica Wey
'07 and prospective art and archaeology major Elizabeth Kassler-Taub
'10, is open to any undergraduate who wants to pick up a brush.
Their goal, Kassler-Taub explained, was to fill in the gap on campus
left by the department studios at 185 Nassau St. and the ceramics
studio already in Wilcox. The room has a raw simplicity and the
earmarks of a professional studio: a scratched wooden table, an
armoir filled with thick stacks of canvas and newsprint. It's not
only for serious art students, though. The "18 (Artsy) Commandments"
that hang on the wall reveal the project's goal:
"Thou shalt revel in art-making of all kinds," reads
one, and "Thou shalt enjoy thyself thoroughly."
Some of the artwork hanging to dry on the wall and two easels
shows training (a skillfully outlined pen-and-ink drawing and a
series of oil paintings on canvas, for instance), while other pieces
look straight out of elementary school (a unicorn, drawn in conte
crayon and enclosed in a heart). Some of the regulars, Kassler-Taub
said, are visual arts students who prefer not to walk across campus
to the studio at 185 Nassau St., while others are dabblers, looking
for a study break. All, she emphasized, are welcome.
"I think [recreational artists] are the people who come the
most," said Kassler-Taub. "They just paint and dance around
to music with their friends. That's really fun to see."
Kassler-Taub said that every session has been well-attended, new
names are being added to the mailing list every day and the plentiful
supplies are nearly depleted. Eventually, she added, students will
be able to swipe themselves into the studio by prox at any time
of the day or night. The Figure Drawing Club is hoping to hold meetings
in the Wilcox studio, and Wilson College is recruiting area artists
to teach classes there.
Kassler-Taub said the most crowded studio sessions are on Thursday
night, when some students choose to go there instead of or as a
prelude to a night on Prospect Street. With mixed media supplanting
mixers, the studio offers students a new way to paint the town red.
AS CAMPUS DANCERS warmed up backstage at the
International Festival Gala March 31, strains of different dialects
– both spoken language and body language – filled the
room. Not only did the performers represent countries all over the
world, they also belonged to 12 individual companies that battle
for student talent and ticket sales, and clearly those campus
allegiances were the greater source of tension.
A few paces away from a music stand holding the tech crew's plan
of attack (a minute-by-minute schedule) sat three dancers in saris
from Kalaa, Princeton's classical Indian dance troupe whose name
is Sanskrit for "art." They penciled on eyeliner and eyeballed
the action warily.
Across the floor, belly dancers with the company Raks Odalisques
did hip undulations double-time, their bangles and the coins on
their skirts swishing and clanging defiantly. Nearby, two Flamenco
Puro bailarines, red roses tucked into their neat buns
and ruffled skirts sweeping the floor, stomped out sevillanas,
the traditional rhythmic Flamenco step.
The clomp-clomping of their heavy black shoes nearly drowned out
the Raks dancers' swishes and clinks.
To add to the din, in the center of the studio, Black Arts Company
members pumped their arms in circles, pummeling their feet against
the floor to the beat of a live drummer. Horning in on BAC's studio
territory, a handful of students from Triple 8, Princeton's Asian
dance company, wielded cloth flowers that unfurled into ribbons,
shooting arcs through the air as they moved. Bravely sidling through
their midst, a performer with Capoeira – the Brazilian art
form combining dance, fight and rhythm – jangled a tambourine.
Near the door, four diSiac dancers (including this writer) stretched
their hamstrings and rolled their ankles, black-and-white skirts
spread out over the floor. The diSiac choreographer gave last-minute
notes, but all five were distracted by watching as two members of
the rival mixed-discipline company eXpressions did high kicks while
clutching their iPods, evidently synched up to the same spot in
Every time a group was ushered upstairs to perform, though, there
was a cease-fire. While a few dancers traipsed up the stairs to
take their places in the wings, the rest of the throng cheered them
on. At those moments, the applause and laughter mingling with the
sounds of dance melted together, turning the competing company members
into a sweaty but elegant United Nations.
Fitzpatrick '08 is an English major from Ossining, N.Y.
Photo by Hyunseok