April 8, 2019

Lewis Center for the Arts presents Performance Lab

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Dance at Princeton University will present Performance Lab, showcasing seven new works created by eight Princeton students, on Thursday and Friday, April 11 and 12 at 8:30 p.m. in the Hearst Dance Theater at the Lewis Arts complex on the Princeton campus. Each performance will be followed by an audience talkback on the new works. The event is free and open to the public.

Performance Lab provides an opportunity for students working at intersections of dance, creative writing, architecture, engineering, music, theater, and/or visual arts. Through one-on-one meetings with dance faculty over the past several months, students have looked at the ways that structure, intent, and theatrical elements can support their artistic creation. The independent student projects shared at this event are the product of this mentored creative process.

student with pipes

A demonstration of a prototypical instrument-dress conceived by Princeton students Eli Berman and MC Otani for Performance Lab. Photos courtesy of Berman and Otani

This year’s Performance Lab includes experiments and narratives about music-making and “high tech” attire, the limits of gravity, crosscultural/interracial love, and the interrelationship of performer and audience, among others.

“The depth of cross-disciplinary exploration and collaboration in this year’s PLab is magical,” said Aynsley Vandenbroucke, the dance faculty member who coordinates the program. “I always hope for it to be a forum in which students come together to experiment with new ways of working, and this year’s group has taken up that challenge in fabulous ways. From our first meet-and-greet dinner to this past week’s rehearsals, the students have been fearless and wildly imaginative in their thinking about and making of art.”

abstract image

Photo courtesy Isla Han

MC Otani, a junior in the Department of Electrical Engineering, and junior Eli Berman, a music major, experiment with PVC pipe and fabric to prototype a wearable instrument-dress that is designed to extend an individual’s vocal tract into an entire outfit and allow groups of individuals to “sing into each other” by connecting their outfits together.

Isla Weber’s “High on the ground” explores “physical and emotional altitude (or lack thereof)” within the restrictions of overpowering gravity. A sophomore, she is planning to major in neuroscience.

Abbie Minard, a junior majoring in history, will share “Anatomy of the Hysterical Body: Big Hat Day,” part of an ongoing embodied and textual creative research project on mania, hysteria, and the ridiculous. This particular vignette explores the relationship of language to the hysterical mode and proposes joy in the act of transcending speech.

writing on note

Photo courtesy Tyler Ashman

Graduate student Isla Xi Han, a candidate for Master of Architecture, explores movements with extended sensibility through embodied costume design, including elements such as e-textiles, electronics, sensors and more.

Tyler Ashman, a sophomore certificate student in the Program in Theater, creates a devised play, “Liturgy,” in which someone wanders around a theater in muted existential crisis as he tries to figure out how his faith affects daily life.

black and white hands intertwine

Photo courtesy Ayodele Foster-McCray

Ayodele Foster-McCray, a junior in the Department of Anthropology, explores crosscultural/interracial love through movement and performance, both as story telling and social commentary. Two partners switch social and interpersonal roles through movement, playing with the dichotomies of white equalling feminine and black equalling masculine.

A piece by Anagha Prasanna, a senior majoring in molecular biology, attempts to capture artistic transmission through a multisensory approach, noting that dance can seem like a temporal experience, but the messages transmitted between the audience and performers are far more permanent.

Students submitted proposals in the fall to Program in Dance faculty and then got to know each other through a series of gatherings over the next several months. Vandenbroucke has been mentoring the students in development of their pieces, which will be performed by other Princeton students.

The Program in Dance, led by award-winning choreographer Susan Marshall, offers Princeton undergraduates a wide range of opportunities in dance. Students can enroll in a single course, pursue a certificate in dance (similar to a minor), or participate in co-curricular classes. Studio-based courses taught by dance professionals range from modern and contemporary to ballet, to experimental, urban and African dance, and include the creation of original work, study of master repertory, and rigorous technical training. Frequent performance opportunities include the annual Princeton Dance Festival, individual and collaborative senior thesis concerts, and informal showings.

For more information on this event, the Program in Dance, or any of the more than 100 public performances, exhibitions, readings, screenings, concerts and lectures presented annually by the Lewis Center for the Arts, most of them free, visit

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Steve Runk
Director of Communications