New York Times: At the Joyce, Embracing Tap and Awe
By Gia Kourlas
3 September 2019
When Aaron Mattocks became director of programming at the Joyce Theater in 2018, he didn’t have an agenda. He didn’t even have a list of artists he wanted to push. But he knew one thing: “I have no idea what this place needs except change,” he said. “I’m going to shut up and listen, and I’m going to shut up and watch.”
In retrospect, it was a good plan. A couple of weeks into his new job, Mr. Mattocks, 39, attended a discussion about decolonizing curatorial approaches. It was there that he saw, for the first time, the tap dancer Ayodele Casel. “She stood up and said, ‘I’m going to say this: Tap is a black form,’” Mr. Mattocks said. “I wrote down her name.”
Ms. Casel, who is African-American and Puerto Rican, spoke about how tap dancers were being displaced from performance and rehearsal spaces in New York City. “Obviously, I know that tap is open to everybody,” Ms. Casel, 44, said recently. “But I wanted to remind people that this is our tradition, and we shouldn’t be pushed out.”
Mr. Mattocks took note. Under his watch, Ms. Casel — a spectacular tap artist who has been working in the field for more than 20 years — finally has an evening of her own at the Joyce, the dance-dedicated theater that is one of the city’s most important spaces for the art form. In September, she will collaborate with Arturo O’Farrill on a program focusing on Afro-Latin jazz culture. To say that it’s about time is an understatement.
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