Harvard Town Hall with Ayodele Casel


Thursday, November 1, 2018, 5:30pm to 7:00pm


Harvard Commons, The Smith Campus Center, 1350 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA

Join famed tap dancer and choreographer Ayodele Casel for an interactive Town Hall at Harvard Commons in The Smith Campus Center on Thursday, November 1, at 5:30pm.

Ayodele Casel's autobiographical show, While I Have the Floor, premiered to rave reviews and a sold out run at the Spoleto Arts Festival in Charleston, SC. Together with members of tall poPpy, inc. (the show's production company) Torya Beard and Darren Biggart, the Harvard community is invited to explorAyodele Case. Photo Credit: Michael Higgins.e how claiming authorship can strengthen community. An interactive experience of performance and conversation, this Town Hall is designed to investigate how claiming identity and legacy can create a path to agency and action. Ayodele Casel will also perform an excerpt from While I Have the Floor

Joining the conversation as co-facilitators will be Destiny Polk and Amanda Gorman '20. Destiny Polk is a Boston-based performance and teaching artist, producer, and founder of art-activist platform Radical Black Girl. Amanda Gorman '20 is a published author, community organizer, inaugural Youth Poet Laureate of the United States, and Founding Executive Director of One Pen One Page, which promotes literacy through free creative writing programming for underserved youth. 

Refreshments will be provided at the end of the event. 

Ayodele Casel is a 2018-19 artist-in-residence supported by the Harvard University Committee on the Arts (HUCA). She will also be leading a tap master class on October 29, 7:30-9pm, at Lowell Lecture Hall as part of the Harvard Dance Center Master Class & Lecture Series. Observers are welcome! Participation is free, but registration is required for both participants and observers. 

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While I Have the Floor at Harvard is an oral history project that aims to create a platform for people to tell their personal stories and to be heard. Taking its cue from tap dancer and choreographer Ayodele Casel’s autobiographical piece by the same name, these stories will create a collective registry of our current time, and provide a long-term catalogue from which to discover history.  The project endeavors to be a marker of evolving zeitgeists, forces, challenges and triumphs in our own lives and in our culture – and the chance to learn from them.  What led us to this point of extreme division in our culture?  How do we address the important civic issues of our day when fellow citizens are dehumanized? Can hearing someone else’s story foster empathy, compassion and greater, understanding? What are the stories that disarm us or dare us to change?  What are our enduring hopes?  From students, custodians, engineers and librarians, to artists, bus drivers, chaplains and teachers – these stories provide a chance for people to be heard – and to listen. While they have the floor, what is it they would like to say?

The 2017 recipient of the  “Hoofer Award,” Ayodele Casel is a native New Yorker and began her professional training at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and is also a graduate of The William Esper Studio in New York City, having studied directly with the masterful William Esper. Hailed by the legendary Gregory Hines as “one of the top young tap dancers in the world,” Ayodele has been creating and presenting her work since 1999 and added Spoleto Festival USA to her list of eager recipients this season in her world premiere of While I Have The Floor. Most recently, Ayodele served as choreographer for Carole King and Maurice Sendak's musical Really Rosie being presented at New York City Center's Encores! Off Center under the direction of Leigh Silverman. She is on faculty at A BroaderWay, LA Dance Magic, and Marymount Manhattan College, and the co-director of Original Tap House and Operation: Tap. Ayodele has performed at New York City Center, The White House, Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden, and Off- Broadway in Savion Glover’s Downtown: Live Communication. She also co-choreographed and was featured on PBS’ Rodgers and Hart Story: Thou Swell, Thou Witty. She has been creating and presenting her own works since 1999 in venues that include The Apollo, New York’s City Center, Aaron Davis Hall/The Gatehouse, The Lisner Auditorium, Lincoln Center "Out of Doors", Symphony Space, Joyce SoHo, Dance Theater Workshop, The Triad Theater, and Joe's Pub at The Public Theater. Ayodele has worked and performed with the greatest tap dancers and companies including the late great Gregory Hines, Jazz Tap Ensemble, American Tap Dance Orchestra, and Savion Glover as the only female in his company N.Y.O.T.s. (Not Your Ordinary Tappers). Her work has been presented nationally and internationally, and she continues striving to make Tap Dancing a relevant presence in the arts.

One of the three members of tall poPpy, inc., Torya Beard is creative consultant, choreographer, and producer specializing in dance and theater. Torya is Creative Director of A BroaderWay Foundation & Original Tap House.Recent projects : Classical Theatre of Harlem's The First Noel (Associate Choreographer), Ayodele Casel's While I Have The Floor, & Jesus Christ SuperStar -  In Concert, (Producer), ldina Menzel 2017 World Tour (Creative Director), and City Center Encores! Off- Center production of Really Rosie (Assistant Choreographer). Torya is a public relations professional with more than 15 years of experience in the areas of dance and theater. She is a member of Brooklyn Dance Festival's Advisory Board and City Center's Artist Board (2014-2017).

One of the three members of tall poPpy, inc., Darren Biggart was a founding producer of the Encores! Off- Center series at New York City Center. He is now working in Production & Innovation at Siena Music, developing and producing new projects in and around NYC. Darren is also a Creative Director of the non-profit A BroaderWay. Recently, he co­ directed ldina Menzel's world tour (spring/summer 2017). He earned his BFA in Musical Theatre at the University of Michigan, and has performed on tour (ELF), Off-Broadway (Prospect Theatre Co, NYMF Lincoln Center) and at regional theaters throughout the country.

Persons with disabilities are encouraged to participate in all Harvard Dance Center programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact the Dance Office at 617-495-8683 in advance of your participation or visit. The Smith Campus Center is accessible for individuals using wheelchairs.