Passion for Dance Podcast - Ep. 59 - Advice from Passionate Dance Educators Joe Nickel & Michelle Tolson

Ep. 59 – Advice from Passionate Dance Educators Joe Nickel & Michelle Tolson

Why our dancers need our help more than ever…

Today's episode features two special guests, who are both professionally accomplished and exceptional dance educators.  As I say in the episode, sometimes you just click with people right away because you are grounded in the same philosophy and approach to life, which is why I clicked so quickly with Joe and Michelle.

In today’s conversation, we talk about our passion for dance and teaching, why we believe dancers can't take a compliment and need support from us now more than ever, and how we can help our students define success and get through the hard times. 

Here are some highlights:

  • [7m 35s] What does “passion” mean to you? What if students don’t share that passion?
  • [15m 05s] Has your passion dropped throughout your career?
  • [18m 55s] The social media impact
  • [28m 20s] Our love for dance can have a dark side, how do we help our students when our athletes love dance but it doesn’t love them back
  • [35m 25s] advice for dance educators who want to connect with your dancers

Mentioned in today’s show:

Thrive Dance Experience


Joe and Michelle’s Dance Podcast


Michelle Tolson

Michelle tolson

MICHELLE TOLSON has been a teacher and choreographer for over thirty years. She has taught throughout the East coast and California and her students have won many regional and national titles. Michelle is also a pageant coach and has had students compete in the Miss New Hampshire, Miss Massachusetts and Miss New York programs, preliminaries to the Miss America Pageant. Michelle is a former Miss New Hampshire herself, and competed in Miss America in 1996. She is also a former Radio City Rockette where she performed at Radio City Music Hall for six years. While there she performed in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, on the Today Show and the Isaac Mizrahi show. A former professor at Wagner College, she currently teaches at AMDA, The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in NYC. She is a founding Thrive Dance Experience Faculty teacher as well as a founding Mentor for The Academy. She continues to choreograph and teach throughout the northeast. Michelle has been judging for 20 years and tours the country as a master teacher and adjudicator. Michelle is the Performing Arts Director as well as the Head of Dance at Camp Vega. She is also their Communications and Marketing Director. In her spare time she is the co-host for the podcast JAM Joe and Michelle’s Dance Podcast, which can be heard wherever you stream your favorite podcasts.

Joe Nickel

joe nickel

Joe Nickel has been professionally working in the entertainment industry since 2005 as a dancer, educator, and choreographer. From 2006-2011, he traveled performing around the world with Norwegian Cruise Lines and with CD Entertainment in Shanghai, China. During the Fall of 2011 through 2012, He directed shows for NCL Productions (Now Norwegian Creative Studios).

Joe has been featured dancing in national commercials for various companies such as Value City Furniture (choreographer/dancer), Norwegian Cruise Lines (dancer), and Kings Island (dancer).  In 2013, he was also featured performing alongside Chelsea Kane, Jane Seymour, and Adrienne Bailon in ABC Family's movie, “Lovestruck: The Musical” under the choreographic direction of Michael Rooney. Joe recently danced in Netflix’s new series “Archive 81” due to air in January 2022.

Since being back in Pittsburgh, Joe has been nominated three times for a Gene Kelly Award for “Best Choreography” and won in 2013 for his work on “All Shook Up!” at PHSH. He has had the honor to stage performances at the CLO Cabaret Theatre, Benedum Center, and Byham Theatre.

In 2019, Joe created Thrive Dance Experience, an educational dance convention that company partners with industry professionals to teach a variety of styles to dancers of all ages. Thrive has recently expanded to holding events in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and North Carolina.

Joe is currently an Adjunct Faculty at Seton Hill University. In addition to teaching in their dance department, He has choreographed their 2022 Sping Musical, “Head over Heels” along with creating his original piece’s, “Simply Falling in Love” and “History Repeating” for their dance concerts.

As an advocate of the arts, Joe uses his training and experience to continue to work with local talent and produce entertaining shows for all types of audiences. He currently collaborates with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s “Emerging Patrons” Board and is a Board Member of PaDEO (PA Dance Eduction Organization). Joe enjoys mentoring young dancers to use dance performance as a vehicle of expression and purpose. When not traveling, Joe resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania continuing to enhance the ever-growing arts and entertainment community.

Did you enjoy today’s episode? 

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Be sure to snap a screenshot and tag me on instagram @dr.chelsea.pierotti as you’re listening this week.

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