The arts academy has attracted students from Moon and Seneca Valley. Currently the program has 12 dancers enrolled and six waiting to come in, Nickel said.
“It’s growing,” said Nickel, a former principal dancer for the Pittsburgh Ballet and Dallas Ballet, master teacher and choreographer, and artistic director. “It takes time to build.”
Parents and students also spoke highly of the program.
One student said she moved to Ambridge mid-school year and was excited to join the program that she otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford.
Another read a statement to the school board that Nickel boosted her confidence and showed her what it meant to study dance. She now plans to minor in dance in college.
Students in 11th and 12th grades are able to earn an associate of arts degree through the Community College of Beaver County when they graduate high school. One graduate has earned the specialized degree and plans to go to Seton Hill University this fall. There are three additional seniors who this year, he said. He believes the program could also benefit the junior high by having seniors go twice a week to meet their internship requirements.
Board member Mary Jo Kehoe said she saw the both summer performances as well as The Nutcracker.
“I was very impressed with the dance program. I even thought there were a couple of numbers that reminded me actually of a professional New York dance company,” she said.
School board member Roger Kowal, who cast the only “no” vote, said he just doesn’t feel the program is profitable.
“I would rather put money into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs benefitting all students in Ambridge,” he said.
Nickel said the Performing Arts Academy is not just a dance school, but a dance education program. He said he believes the program can work.
“I know I’m part-time," Nickel said, "but all of this wouldn’t have been done if I didn’t have the dedication of helping these dancers. But that’s what I do.”