Web Exclusives: Raising Kate
a PAW web exclusive column by Kate
Swearengen '04 (email@example.com)
Spring chickens seem to do it best
Rabbi Eitan and Gitty Webb, the forces behind Princeton University's
Chabad on Campus, organized a party on Sunday, March 7, at Tower
Club. Sunday was Purim, the holiday that commemorates the failure
of a plot to kill the Jews of Persia. On Purim it is required of
Jews to listen to the Megillah the book of Esther
and to give charity to the needy. Jews are also obligated to partake
of a special festive meal and to drink until they cannot tell the
difference between "cursed be Haman" the villain
of the Purim story and " blessed be Mordechai,"
one of its heroes. Religious opinion differs as to what degree of
drunkenness the Talmud mandates. There was beer on hand so that
those of age could find out for themselves. Gitty cooked all the
food, a sumptuous kosher feast that featured hamentaschen, triangle-shape
pastries filled with fruit jam or chocolate that are traditional
to the holiday.
Some of the attendees were dressed in costume. Gitty was dressed
as a cowgirl, and Rabbi Eitan wore chaps and an enormous orange
foam cowboy hat. Leibel, the Webbs'two-year-old son, wore a fuzzy
Matisyahu, a Jewish reggae band comprising four members, played
two sets. At one time Matisyahu was just a reggae band, but the
frontman, after falling in with the Dead Head crowd and following
the psychedelic band Phish across the country, became religious.
The rest of the group went along for the ride, and Matisyahu became
a Jewish band, which is not to say that it became your average bar
mitzvah band. With a cross of Bob Marley and religious lyrics "Torah
food for my brain let it rain til I drown, thunder! Let the
blessings come down!"the group is impossible to pigeonhole.
In attendance were two of Gitty's sisters and a group of the Webbs'
friends, one of whom was dressed in a chicken costume, complete
with rubber claws that strapped onto the back of his shoes. The
chicken was a marvelous dancer, leaping around the room and encouraging
others to dance. At one point he grabbed a nervous-looking man in
a tall black hat and pulled him out onto the middle of the floor.
The two jigged and high-kicked, feathered head and black cap nearing
the ceiling, while the crowd clapped.
Tower members, drawn away from dinner by the music, stopped and
gaped; Jewish students, catching sight of the dancing chicken, wondered
if this were really Purim. It was arguably the most counterculture
thing that has happened on the Princeton campus, surpassing Terrace
initiations my sophomore year, when the club was covered with trash
bags and chocolate sauce and everyone was made to crawl through
on their bellies.
The chicken took his head off when Matisyahu took a break between
sets. Under the chicken head was a skullcap.
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were the performance dates for
Raks Odalisque's fourth annual spring dance show. Princeton's only
Middle Eastern dance troupe, which began as a weekly belly dancing
class at Dillon Gym, was founded in 2000. One of its early performances
occurred in 2000 at the Near Eastern Studies Arabic banquet, in
a small room on the second floor of Jones Hall, where the three
dancers who performed were energetically pursued by an enthusiastic
Syrian graduate student.
Raks Odalisque has come a long way in four years, and now boasts
a membership of twenty-odd dancers. It also has some hangers-on,
namely other dance groups trying to capitalize on the exposure bought
by . . . well, midriff exposure. At the Raks Odalisque performance
on Friday night, two guest groups performed Naacho, a South
Asian group, whose members danced to an intentionally cheesy number
inspired by India's Bollywood movies, and Flamenco Puro, a Spanish
dance troupe, in their full heel-stomping, shawl-twitching glory.
A Raks Odalisque performance is equal parts dance recital and
fashion show. The dancers appeared in new costumes for each number,
bringing to mind Elizabeth Taylor's sartorial switcharoo in Cleopatra.
The typical Raks Odalisque outfit consisted of a low-slung skirt
or harem pants, paired with a sparkly, sequined bra top.
"I wish my girlfriend would buy one of those," a voice
behind me said.
"What girlfriend?" Another voice replied.
Raks Odalisque applied some contemporary touches to a traditional
medium, transforming Justin Timberlake's song "What You Got"
into a rousing belly dancing number. In a move that would have been
fitting given the recent misbehavior of the artist Mr. Timberlake
was Janet Jackson's accomplice in the Super Bowl breast fiasco
one of the dancers' sequined tops almost popped off during the Saturday
"It was hanging on by a string. If it had come off, it would
have been disastrous." she later said about the incident.
"I think everyone would have loved it," her roommate
"I wouldn't have loved it," the dancer's boyfriend grumbled.
80's Night, D-Bar Style
Princeton has gotten a lot of mileage out of the 1980s. If it's
not Eurotrash Night at Ivy or Red-Light/Green-Light at Colonial
(those interested in a quick-and-tawdry hook-up wear green, those
who can be persuaded wear yellow, and no one wears red), another
club is resurrecting the decade of bad fashion and worse music.
One Friday, the D-Bar put its own spin on the 1980s. Graduate
students and a fair number of Terrace undergraduates hoping
that a friendly preceptor or apathetic Bar Czar would let them in
lined up to have their IDs checked. The room leading into
the bar, which on less-busy nights houses a Ms. Packman videogame
and a couple of foosball tables, was cleared for dancing. Bottles
of lukewarm beer, piled in plastic tubs, marinated in their melted
ice baths. The line to the real bar was long, so long that the fatigued
bartender refused to make martinis: "Have a beer. You don't
want a beer? Get lost."
Most of the graduate students were dressed up for the decade,
or maybe they weren't it's always hard to tell with grad
students, whose sartorial selections always lag a few seasons
or decades behind. There were, alas, no mohawks, but there
were plenty of studded dog collars worn as necklaces.
The musical selections were predictable "You Shook Me All
Night Long," "Pour Some Sugar on Me," "Girls
Just Wanna Have Fun" and loud. Over the din, a British student
on loan from Oxford recounted his experiences the night before:
"I spent the night in the junior slums."
"You mean with a girl? An undergraduate?"
"No, on the floor."
"I don't know, I just got tired and wanted to sleep. This
morning I had to walk back to the Graduate College in a tuxedo.
Everyone was looking at me and saying, "Oohhhh, Walk of Shame!"
But I had nothing to be ashamed of. I didn't do anything."
"But you passed out on the floor of some girl's room!"
"Three girls. It was a triple."
People danced, or tried to. It's been said before, but graduate
students can't dance. Not that the undergraduates are much better
the Chasidic Dancing Chicken puts everyone to shame.
You can reach Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org