Penn Live Arts Blog

5 Questions with Ayodele Casel

Posted April 22, 2021

Penn Live Arts Debuts Dance Philadelphia Debuts

Ayodele Casel’s accolades continue to roll in. The New York Times hails her as “a tap dancer of unquestionable radiance,” and she was named one of the publication’s “Biggest Breakout Stars of 2019." She will even be featured on a postage stamp soon, as part of a celebration of tap! Casel has become an inspiring and powerful voice for the art form, and we can’t wait for her to make her Philadelphia debut on our stage on May 6. But first, let’s discover more about Casel in just f̶i̶v̶e̶ six questions (we couldn’t turn down the chance to learn a bit more!)

What first got you into dance?

Seeing Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Swing Time while taking a “History of the Movies” course in high school is what peaked my tap dancing curiosity. I thought they were magic. I wanted to teach myself how to move like them and I would check out their films at the library, go home, and lock myself in the room to revel in what they were doing. My sophomore year in college presented my first opportunity to take a tap class and I was in all my glory living the dream of being a little closer to feeling like I was in 1930’s Hollywood.

What inspires you?

I feel like inspiration comes from everywhere. I am inspired by wonderful music and musicians, no matter the genre, by people who are excellent practitioners of their form, by people who live authentically and by people who are uncompromising in their pursuit of justice.

What is your creative process?

It’s so simple – what am I currently inspired by and what do I want to say about it? What elements can help me express that and who can be a part of that process with me?

Who are your biggest influences?

Gregory Hines was an incredible force in my life. Not only was he an incredible artist and performer but he was a truly generous human being who loved and advocated for the art form of tap dance at every turn. I am so grateful for his love, support, and encouragement as a young artist.

Name a few artists you love that everyone should check out.

Michela Marino Lerman, Andre Imanishi, Crystal Monee Hall (so happy she’s with me for this engagement), Leo Manzari.

Are there any future collaborations or partnerships for which you’re excited?

Yes! I am beyond stoked to get into a rehearsal room with the brilliant and soulful Ronald K. Brown to continue exploring what we started in our recent “Chasing Magic” collaboration. We had been lovingly threatening to collaborate for almost seven years now. I am in awe and in love with his artistry.

Bonus Question: Do you sing in the shower?

Much to the delight of my wife, I actually sing spontaneously throughout my entire house! I do not consider myself a singer AT ALL but I find joy in singing songs stuck in my head.

Bonus Question: I never start my day without ____________.

Gratitude for waking up to see another day.

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