Ayodele Casel

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Ayodele Casel
Born (1975-06-05) June 5, 1975 (age 48)
Occupation(s)Tap dancer, choreographer
Years active1997–present

Ayodele Casel (born June 5, 1975)[1] is an American tap dancer and choreographer. Raised in Puerto Rico, she derived inspiration for her tap style from salsa music. While in college, she studied with Baakari Wilder and Charles Goddertz. She became the first, and remains the only, woman to be a member of Savion Glover's Not Your Ordinary Tappers.

Early life and education[edit]

Ayodele Casel was born in the Bronx in New York City. Her parents were martial artist Tayari Casel and Aida Tirado. Ayodele moved to Rincon, Puerto Rico when she was in the 4th grade, returning to New York in 1990. In Puerto Rico, Casel listened to the music of Hector Lavoe, the El Gran Combo, and Celia Cruz. Their salsa music would influence her tap dance style.[1] While in high school, Casel became "obsessed" with the films of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.[2] She also attended acting classes at the William Esper Studio.

As a young artist, Casel attended Mind-Builders Creative Arts Center and was a member of the Positive Youth Troupe (PYT). Casel attended the Tisch School of the Arts for acting.[1][3] While at Tisch, in 1995, Casel began studying tap dance under Charles Goddertz. She also became friends with Baakari Wilder, who was attending school at New York University, too. During that time, Wilder was a principal dancer for Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk. Wilder taught Casel tap steps and she accompanied him to tap events at clubs in New York, where she would learn improvisation.[1] She joined the New York Shakespeare Festival Institute of Tap.[2] With the encouragement of Wilder, Casel started studying under Barbara Duffy. He also introduced her to Savion Glover, who would help Casel launch her career.[1]


Glover saw Casel perform at the Nuyorican Poets Café. He invited Casel to perform in the opening credits for Monday Night Football in 1997. Shortly thereafter, Casel became the first woman to join Glover's Not Your Ordinary Tappers (NYOTs) group.[1] She performed with NYOTs for two years, including at Carnegie Hall, the White House, and Radio City Music Hall.[1]

She performed as a soloist in Imagine Tap. Casel left NYOTs in 1999. That year, she would launch her first solo show was !Ayo!, a Latin music themed performance, and would appear in the documentary Thou Swell, Thou Witty. She also performed in "Beauteez ‘N the Beat" that year. She performed in "The Art and Appreciation of Percussion" (2000), with the Jazz Tap Ensemble and in The Story of Tap: Sequel, both in 2005. In 2007, she performed in "Paddywack: A Tap Dance Concerto" at Lincoln Center.[1]

In 2017 at Spoleto Festival USA, Casel performed the world premiere of her solo show While I Have The Floor.[4] She was named one of the Biggest Breakout Stars of 2019 by The New York Times.[5] In 2019-2020, Casel was the Frances B. Cashin Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.[6] In 2021, Casel created Chasing Magic directed by her long-time collaborator Torya Beard.[7] The show first premiered as a film as part of The Joyce virtual program, then as a stage show at the American Repertory Theater.[8] It returned to The Joyce as a live show at 2022.[9] The 2022 short documentary film (produced by Five Sisters Productions), Tapping Into Our Past, Tapping Into Our Future: Ayodele Casel tells the story of her development as an artist and her discovery of the Black women and men tap dancers who came before her.[10] Also in 2022, Casel was the tap choreographer for the revival of Funny Girl on Broadway, which earned her a Drama Desk Award nomination. [11][12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Hill, Constance Valis. Tap Dancing America, A Cultural History. Performing Arts Encyclopedia: Library of Congress. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  2. ^ a b Brian Seibert (17 November 2015). What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. 426. ISBN 978-1-4299-4761-9.
  3. ^ Morrison, Winston (3 August 2013). "Ayodele Casel reflects on her career in tap". Dance Informa. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  4. ^ Courier, Kayla Boyd Special to The Post and (June 2017). "Ayodele Casel gives world premiere of 'While I Have the Floor'". Post and Courier. Retrieved 2023-03-09.
  5. ^ Salam, Maya (2019-12-19). "The Biggest Breakout Stars of 2019". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-03-09.
  6. ^ "Ayodele Casel". Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Retrieved 2023-03-09.
  7. ^ "Ayodele Casel: Chasing Magic | The Joyce Theater". www.joyce.org. Retrieved 2023-03-09.
  8. ^ "Ayodele Casel: Chasing Magic Digital Program". americanrepertorytheater.org. Retrieved 2023-03-09.
  9. ^ Ayodele Casel: Chasing Magic | November 2-13, 2022, retrieved 2023-03-09
  10. ^ Tapping Into Our Past, Tapping Into Our Future: Ayodele Casel _ TRAILER, retrieved 2023-03-09
  11. ^ Scheps, Leigh (2022-04-25). ""Funny Girl" Choreographers Ellenore Scott and Ayodele Casel Make a Space for Themselves on Broadway". Dance Spirit. Retrieved 2023-03-09.
  12. ^ Broski, Jennifer. "Up on the Marquee: FUNNY GIRL". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 2023-03-09.

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