Tap artists and jazz musicians share the stage with a seated audience for an interactive performance that elevates the rich history of tap dancing. Born in The Bronx and raised in Puerto Rico, Ayodele Casel is hailed as a “tap dancer and choreographer of extraordinary depth” (The New York Times). A Doris Duke Artist known for her skilled and imaginative improvisation, Casel’s projects include her concert and Bessie Award-winning film Chasing Magic, and her Drama-Desk-nominated work as tap choreographer for the Broadway revival of Funny Girl.



Learn More - Explore These Themes

The content below derives from the Northrop Across Campus Program that supports Northrop's mission towards intersections between performing arts and education for the benefit of all participants now and for generations to come.

Find ways to make thematic connections to these suggested topics:

  • Dance: Tap, Urban & Street Dance, Modern/Contemporary, other forms rooted in cultural expression
  • Music: Composition, Orchestra, Modern
  • African American Studies
  • Music: Composition, Jazz
  • Theatre

Start a conversation about the performance, or encourage reflection, using these questions as inspiration.

Award winning tap dancer and choreographer Ayodele Casel will be performing her work Rooted at Northrop. The performance invites community participation and is uniquely configured to have the artists—5 dancers and 3 musicians—and the audience onstage. The show highlights tap history and celebration of identity, accompanied by a live score of jazz music.

  • Why do you imagine an artist would encourage audience participation during their performance? How might audience participation contribute to building a sense of community?
  • Have you ever attended a performance where the audience sat onstage? If so, how did it impact your experience?

In an interview with Creative Times, Ayodele Casel was asked to speak about her mantra, "I am my ancestors' wildest dreams.” She responded, “I just try to live my life with the awareness that I am able to do my work as freely (literally and figuratively) as I can and with such vigor because of the work and sacrifice of those who came before me.” 

  • What are some of the things you do today that are evidence of your lineage? 
  • What are some of the ways you honor the legacy of those who came before you? 
  • Why is it important to recognize the historical context of the dances and music that we enjoy today? How can historical context shape an artist's identity?

Casel’s solo work, While I Have the Floor, incorporated spoken word and tap and explored her evolution as a tap artist and her upbringing in the Bronx and Puerto Rico. Growing up, she had to learn and relearn both Spanish and English, which made it difficult to express herself. Her performance paid homage to the forgotten Black female tap artists that came before her, and she began to build narrative into her improvisations, including stories about her love of music and family history.

  • Where are you from? How has the place or places you call home defined or contributed to your sense of self?
  • How do you imagine Ayodele’s multicultural upbringing influenced her creative process?
  • Why do you think Ayodele chose to include spoken word along with tap, and how do you imagine this combination of art forms might enhance the performance?

Most professional dancers start taking dance classes very young. Ayodele Casel didn't take her first dance class until college.

  • Are there art forms that you did not participate in due to lack of access, or conventions of age, background, or gender?
  • What do you think could be challenges or advantages of beginning an art career at a younger age? What about beginning at a later age?

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This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.