On the Campus
September 26, 2007:
sweat and study
By Laura Fitzpatrick ’08
Ballet classes everywhere share
certain hallmarks: simplicity, sweat, and lots of steps with French
names. But each studio has its own character. This summer, members
of diSiac Dance Company (including this writer) bridged the gap
between two dance worlds, traveling by Dinky from the gym space
in Dillon to the dance capital of the world. With vastly different
training backgrounds, each found a personal rhythm in New York City.
For Philip Grace ’08, who had never danced
before coming to Princeton, the city represented an opportunity.
“I decided that [taking classes there was] the only way I
would begin making some serious progress within an art form I have only
just recently become incredibly passionate about,” he said.
When he had time off from working at the manuscript library on campus,
Grace took hip hop, jazz, and house classes at Broadway Dance Center.
One highlight was a class taught by Nick Lazzarini,
winner of the first season of Fox’s So You Think
You Can Dance?, one of Grace’s favorite shows. “Being
in that class was akin to skydiving with a bed sheet for a parachute,”
he said. “But it was nonetheless one of the most amazing
dance experiences I’ve had.”
Virginia Byron ’10, who trained seriously in
ballet throughout high school, relished standing toe-shoe to toe-shoe
with hot shots in the city. Feeling her plies a little stiff after
a year at college and looking to get back in top form, she enrolled
in American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) three-week summer intensive
program for college students. Byron said she appreciated the intense
training, but added that in other ways Princeton has its advantages.
Because each piece at ABT was rehearsed by a professional instead
of by fellow dancers as at school, she said, “the dancers
had no part in the creative process.” She added that the atmosphere
was competitive instead of passionate. “In diSiac we help
each other out and encourage and support the other members. It’s
not quite like that in the ballet world,” she said wryly.
Colleen Poynton ’09, an alumna of the same
ABT program, took most of her ballet and modern classes this year
at the Alvin Ailey studios. Dancing, she said, was the perfect end
to long days working at the Project for Public Spaces, an urban
design and city planning firm. She said that the common love of
the art is what bridges the gap from Princeton. “You still
get the wonderful sensation of sharing something you're passionate
about,” she said, “with a group of people who feel the
THE THESIS is a Princeton institution,
but for every crop of rising seniors it is a new and scary proposition.A
group of hardy academic souls met the challenge head-on, spending
the summer doing research to jump-start their writing.
Laura De Silva, an English major and winner of the
A. Scott Berg funding for senior thesis research, spent six days
near Ernest Hemingway’s home in Key West, Fla., during the
annual Hemingway Days festival. Her thesis will explore “the
way novels themselves can take on cultural identities divorced from
their contents,” she said, through the lens of Hemingway’s
work. “How do we construct, or reconstruct, his memory?”
She found one quite literal answer to that question: the droves
of look-alike contestants who make an annual pilgrimage to the festival.
“The winner is crowned ‘Papa,’ ” De Silva
noted, after Hemingway’s famous nickname.
Jon Monk, a chemical engineer, stayed on campus,
working with Ron Weiss, associate professor of electrical engineering,
on synthetic biology research. Their goal was to use the principles
of engineering to design biological systems, and specifically to
design a system to detect and destroy cancer cells. “We are
still trying to perfect the cancer detection system and to ensure
that it’s foolproof,” Monk said, adding that initial
results have been promising.
Now that Monk has learned all the necessary lab techniques
and logged some hours with Weiss, his adviser, he says he feels
much more prepared to tackle his thesis. Gradual progression
is key, he’s discovered. That was also the case in the kitchen,
where he and his roommates made great strides in cooking. “We
progressed from macaroni and cheese to spaghetti and even Indian
curry,” he boasted.
Sebastian Urday, a chemistry major and one of the
roommates behind the cooking, spent his time on campus doing experimental
research under chemistry adviser Istvan Pelczer, senior spectroscopist,
and assistant molecular biology professor Manuel Llinás.
He examined how the metabolism of the deadliest malaria parasite,
Plasmodium falciparum, changes throughout its 48-hour life
cycle. Urday said his summer work let him test different experimental
models, producing useful data for his thesis. The hard part isn’t
getting started anymore; now, he said, “I am most nervous
about getting done.”
By Laura Fitzpatrick ’08
Photo by Hyunseok