by Ayodele Casel

...and how I don't like the displacement of tap and percussive dancers in NYC since it was torn down...for apparently no good reason.

It was here that I realized I wanted to be a tap dancer for the rest of my life. In 1995, I stood in amazement as Baakari Wilder laced his shoes while simultaneously laying down subtle rhythms during our very first workout session (more aptly named- a private lesson). 

It was here that I, and countless other tap and flamenco dancers (student or professional), could walk up those well worn stairs and rent a room to practice until our legs wore out and a few hours after that...and it was $8-$13/hour. 

It was here where I would meet Gregory Hines to dance for an hour whenever he came to visit NYC, however briefly.

It was here, where after a particularly challenging time in my life, I found my way back to the dance through sharing all I knew about it with then 9 year old aspiring tap dancer, Warren Craft. 

You came to Fazil's NOT to be discovered by the casting agency holding auditions down the hall, but to work tirelessly and diligently on your craft, your skill AND as a TAP dancer you were able to do that on a WOOD floor. You weren't banned, castigated, or made to feel irrelevant and/or inferior for DANCING... in a dance studio. The only reason you couldn't rent a room was if there wasn't space available not because there was a Yoga, or acting, or ballet, or music class, or meeting, or an audition for that matter underneath or surrounding your designated room. You certainly weren't banned for wanting to tap dance in a studio with a wood floor.

In a 1989 New York Times article Jennifer Dunning wrote:

"A Broadway chorus boy named Jimmy Cagney once climbed its stairs to attend tap classes in the studios. Paul Draper and Eleanor Powell rehearsed there, and so did the Condos Brothers and the Nicholas Brothers, Jose Greco and Carmen Amaya, and the hoofers from several Broadway shows. Hanya Holm taught modern dance in one studio; Honi Coles taught Dick Cavett to tap in another. Alvin Ailey worked with his first, small company at what is now Fazil's Dance Center. And memories of the studio gave Gregory Hines the idea for Sonny's, the dance studio that is home to the old hoofers in the film ''Tap.'' "

I've been working professionally as a tap dancer for almost two decades. I consider myself to be a conscientious and respectful human being, artist, and professional. The fact that a note next to my name and the names of other tap dancers at prominent NYC rehearsal studio Ripley Grier reads: "CANNOT book studio with wood floor" is reprehensible to me. At RG, a marley floor is my only option as I was told a previous tap dancer who rented allegedly got shoe polish on the floor. It seems like a minor infraction to me considering that it IS a rehearsal studio with all sorts of traffic on its floors throughout the day but according to RG the appropriate punishment for ALL tap artists is marley. Why would I spend $25+ an hour to hear a muffled and flat version of whatever I am working on? Absolutely not. 

I am aware that there are other options. In fact, I happen to love Chelsea Studios and its wide, expansive wood floor rooms. They are also very friendly and accommodating. I will choose to spend my money there or any other place that recognizes a professional or simply a paying customer who just wants to shut the door to a rented room and dance (responsibly, of course). 

Ayodele Casel 
NYC 2013