Hoofer Awards


The annual Hoofer Award recognizes prominent tap artists as leaders in the community

for their unique contribution to the form and for inspiring future generations.

2017 - Ayodele Casel, tap dancer, choreographer, and teacher noted for representing the new generation of high-heeled and low-heeled women in tap, was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1975, and of Puerto Rican heritage. Raised by her mother, Aida Tirado, her father, Tayari Casel, was a renowned martial artist from Chicago. She spent her formative years in Rincon, Puerto Rico, where she listened to the Puerto Rican Salsa orchestra El Gran Combo and singers Hector LaVoe and Celia Cruz. Her rhythmic sensibilities were etched by the music of Salsa--a mixture of Spanish and African music based on the son--and Afro-Cuban Latin jazz, which includes meringue, songo, son, mambo, Timba, bolero, charanga, and cha cha cha. She returned to New York City in 1990 and in the Fall of 1995, in her sophomore year in the Undergraduate Acting Program at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, she began the study of tap dance with Charles Goddertz. One year later, she met and befriended Baakari Wilder, who began showing Casel tap steps, took her to tap jams at Fazil’s and Deanna's, and introduced her to Savion Glover who, impressed with her tap dancing, invited Casel to be the only female dancer in his fledgling company Not Your Ordinary Tappers (NYOT). In a performance with the company in Savion Glover/Downtown, Casel was the first woman to be partnered by Glover in the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers' styled "Cheek to Cheek." But it was her own solo, set to a tango with original music arranged by the band, that showed her off as a rhythm-savvy soloist.

Hailed by the legendary Gregory Hines as “one of the top young tap dancers in the world,” Casel has been creating and presenting her own work with the production of Ayo! (1999, Triad Theatre on 72nd Street), tap dancing with a Latin band that included Joe Medina (violin), Sammy Galvez (flute and vocals), Gil Suarez (piano), James Guevarez (timbales), Danny Del Valle (congas, vocals), Edward Iglesias (trombone), and Wilson Aponte (vocals and small percussions).

She continued a career as a soloist, in 2007 she starred in Rob Kapilow's work for tap and classical music entitled Paddywack: A Tap Dance Concerto" performed at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center. In 1999, she appeared in The Rodgers & Hart documentary film Thou Swell, Thou Witty, as well as performing in Roxane Butterfly's Beauteez ‘N the Beat at The Supper Club in New York. She also performed in T.A.P.P. - The Art and Appreciation of Percussion (2000), with the Jazz Tap Ensemble at the Joyce Theatre (2005), in Hank Smith's The Story of Tap: Sequel (2005), and in the premiere of Jason Samuels Smith's Charlie's Angels (2006) at Chicago's Harris Theatre. In 2006, Casel produced Tappy Holidays, the first of many Christmas tap shows at New York's Symphony Space.

Ayodele’s television and film credits include “Third Watch,” “Law and Order”, “The Jamie Foxx Show”, “Bojangles”, “Savion Glover’s Nu York”. Ayodele originated the role of Yvonne in Nelsan Ellis’ heart-wrenching play “UGLy” to great reviews at NYC’s Fringe Festival and Santa Monica Playhouse. She also originated the role of “The Doll” in Derick Grant’s “Imagine Tap!” which premiered at The Harris Theater in Chicago. Ayodele currently serves on the Artist Board for New York City Center’s Encores! Under the artistic direction of Tony Award winner Jeanine Tesori.

She has appeared on the cover of Dance Spirit, American Theater Magazine, The Village Voice and has been featured in many other magazine articles. Ayodele, also a Capezio Athlete, was featured alongside Sutton Foster and Jonathan Groff in Off-Center Encores! Jamboree! at New York City Center and performed her work “While I Have The Floor” at City Center’s Fall for Dance this Fall. She was most recently seen performing at the St. James Theater in NYC for a “Broadway For Hillary” Fundraiser with Michael Mayer as director. She is on faculty at A Broader Way, LA Dance Magic, and Marymount Manhattan College. She is the co-director of Original Tap House and Operation: Tap.

Written by Constance Valis Hill

American Tap Dance Foundation

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