Radcliffe Institute Selects Tap Dancer Ayodele Casel as 2019–2020 Fellow

Photo by Kevin Grady/Radcliffe InstitutePhoto by Kevin Grady/Radcliffe Institute
June 28, 2019
By BWW News Desk

Ayodele Casel, a disciplined and brave performer who honors the roots of tap dance while pushing the boundaries of the art form, has been named a 2019-2020 Frances B. Cashin fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Joining more than 50 incoming fellows as they pursue work across the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and art, Ayodele will direct her energy toward research and development of a new theatrical work inspired by the historical context of tap dance's cultural heritage.

Casel is among the 3.7 percent of applicants accepted into the Radcliffe Institute. While in residence, Radcliffe Institute fellows present lectures and exhibitions to the public, participate in cross-disciplinary study groups, and work closely with undergraduate Harvard students who serve as research partners. The Radcliffe Institute has awarded more than 900 fellowships since its founding in 1999. Casel will reside in both Boston and New York during the fellowship.

Additionally, Casel will premiere a new work in collaboration with six-time Grammy Award winner Arturo O'Farrill at The Joyce Theater, September 24-29. Hailing from Afro-Latin roots, Casel and O'Farrill, along with an astonishing ensemble of tap dancers and musicians, will explore their common musical language in a work that celebrates culture, legacy and artistry.

Known for paying homage to the women in tap that paved the way for her, Ayodele Casel uses rhythm and language as the bridge that connects the past, present, and future of her craft. While tap as an art form has historically been rooted in its masculine legacy, Casel's work strips away limiting stereotypes and creates new conversations with resonant artistic integrity and a deep commitment to social justice.

"It is a tremendous honor to bring the full breadth of who I am as a Black and Puerto Rican artist to Harvard University and The Joyce Theater, this fall," states Casel. "It brings me great pride to represent the lineage of African-American women tap dancers who, because of social and racial injustice, were kept from realizing their full artistic potential and impact. Collaborating with maestro Arturo O'Farrill, an artist whose glorious creative expression is an extension of his extraordinary humanity, is beautifully aligned with my mission to create work that is rooted in identity, culture, and the sophistication and elegance of tap dance."

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