Web Exclusives: On the Campus

May 9, 2007:
Different 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 the song.

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.

Laura Fitzpatrick '08 is an English major from Ossining, N.Y.

Photo by Hyunseok Shim ’08