Ayodele Casel: Rooted Elevates the Rich History of Tap

September 8, 2023
Ayodele Casel tap dancing on stage with other dancers on risers around her.

Check out these featured facts before the Ayodele Casel: Rooted performance Sep 27-29 at Northrop.

Ayodele Casel wearing a black top and smiling

Video still of Ayodele Casel from CBS Saturday Morning show

A Breakout Star

Casel, recently honored as a 2023 Doris Duke Artist in dance, was recognized as one of the "Biggest Breakout Stars of 2019" by The New York Times and was recently featured in a U.S. Postal Service Forever Stamp celebrating tap dance. Featured on CBS Saturday Morning on Aug 26, 2023, Casel says about her performances, “I want people to feel the joy that I feel” and focuses on honoring the Black historical roots and women of tap who came before her. She has performed at The White House, Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, and Madison Square Garden. Her works have been presented at many prestigious venues, including The Joyce Theater, Lincoln Center, and Joe's Pub at The Public Theater.

Dazzling the Broadway Stage

For the hit 2022 Broadway revival of the musical Funny Girl, Ayodele Casel served as the "tap choreographer,” brought on to modernize the tap numbers. Renowned for emphasizing tap's Black roots and challenging traditional gender roles within it, Casel shared with The New York Times, "We have an opportunity to infuse history and a rhythmic sensibility that may not have been present the first time the show was seen." The production premiered on Broadway on Apr 24, 2022, and garnered Casel a 2022 Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Choreography.

Scanned image Ayodele Casel from a cover of the the Village Voice magazine

Photo courtesy of the artist.

Reclaiming the Legacy of Tap

Born in the Bronx and raised in Puerto Rico, Casel is known for her highly narrative works rooted in expressions of identity, culture, and legacy. She began studying tap while majoring in theater at New York University with iconic tap artists Baakari Wilder and Charles Goddertz. Here, she learned "hoofing" (check out this video of Baby Laurence, known as the Jazz hoofer!)—which emphasizes grounded, hard-hitting steps. Casel’s imaginative improvisational skills makes her a standout in representing a new generation of women in tap, while carrying on its rich history and legacy.

Ayodele Casel dancing on stage with other dancers.

Ayodele Casel. Photo © Tony Turner.

Part of the Ensemble

For the performance of Rooted at Northrop, tap artists, jazz musicians, and the seated audience will share the stage. This immersive setup allows participants to experience each intricate movement and sound up close while feeding off of the dynamic atmosphere that jazz and tap improvisation involves.

Casel in casual conversation with a young woman while standing on an outdoor basketball court.

Photo courtesy of abroaderway.org

Passing the Torch

A dance educator for over 25 years, Casel continues to enrich emerging and future generations with her knowledge and passion for tap dance and choreography. She is the co-director of the online tap dance educational platform Operation Tap, resident Director for Dance Lab New York’s inaugural Tap Dance Project, and serves on the board of the youth arts leadership organization A BroaderWay Foundation— all of which plays a crucial role in mentoring and supporting artists in their creative pursuits.

Music & Movement

Ayodele’s Bessie Award-winning collaboration with renowned Afro Latin jazz composer and pianist Arturo O’Farrill, Chasing Magic, was hailed by the New York Times as “next level” and “thrilling.” More recently, they joined forces for Worldwinds, a program bringing together O’Farrill and his multi-GRAMMY® winning Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra (ALJO) with young choreographers (including Ayodele) and companies to explore a dialogue of music and movement between contemporary street and percussive dance with Afro Latin jazz.

Inspired and craving more? Secure your spot onstage for the Sep 27-29 performances and engage further in the tap experience with Ayodele Casel at these related events surrounding the performances!