A tiny microphone popped out of one shoe. A tap was loose on the other. But tap dancer Ayodele Casel performed with joy on stage Thursday night at the Annenberg’s Harold Prince Theater in a program that was streamed into audience members’ homes.
More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, “it feels so good to move my muscles!” Casel said in between pieces.
Her program was a trio with piano player and composer Annastasia Victory and singer-songwriter Crystal Monee Hall..
After an early career that was “me and a bunch of men,” Casel said in a post-show Q&A, she loves “sharing spaces with women, young women, amplifying our power.”
The show was just a half hour, but delightful — and at least as much music as dance. The live performance to an empty audience was expertly recorded from various angles — the Annenberg programs have found their footing in recent months — usually trying to capture all three women at once and sometimes focusing on Casel’s feet and legs rather than her whole body.
Casel has become one of the top tappers on the scene in recent years and will be featured, along with four other dancers, on a series of postage stamps honoring tap dance that the U.S. Postal Service plans to release July 8 during the New York City Tap Festival.
Watching her Annenberg show from “Zoomlandia,” as Casel called it, was definitely not as fun as being there. Tap often plays off the audience response and is best with crystal-clear sound. But Casel, Victory, and Hall did a good job riffing off each other, as they would with a live audience.
The program was a series of Victory and Hall compositions with a jazz, Latin, or bluesy flair. Sometimes Casel performed as a back-up percussionist, other times as a solo dancer. Her space was restricted to three dance boards, and she took up no more of the stage than either musician.
Sometimes her feet moved with the evanescent moves of a hummingbird. Other times she seemed to be stretching the limits between artist control and chaos.
“Everything today was improvised,” Casel said of her dance in the post-show Q&A.
That question has come up in audience Q&As with dancers from other genres after previous Annenberg virtual shows, and most have said their programs were almost entirely choreographed.
But tap has to be free. “A big part of tap dance is improvisational,” Casel said.
The show was delightful but too short. And as with all of the Annenberg virtual performances, the chance to purchase tickets had already passed by the time the live taping was over.
Tickets are no longer available. Buyers who purchased tickets by 7:30 p.m. Thursday from the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts can watch the performance on demand through Saturday.