Teachers' Tools: Up Close With Nicole Pierce

Nicole Pierce records all of her combinations in a notebook.

A final recital stood between Nicole Pierce and a master’s degree in classical piano, when she decided to abandon school and return to the dance studio. In her youth, Pierce had trained seriously in ballet and later modern, but she shifted her focus to music in her early 20s. After six-hour days at the piano, she would long to move freely across the studio floor. In the end, dance won. “It was like the clouds parted, and I realized this is where I’m supposed to be,” she says. “I feel like I can express myself more through dancing and training dancers, and less through studying Chopin.”

Not surprisingly, musicality pervades Pierce’s teaching. In her advanced modern classes at Green Street Studios in Cambridge, Massachusetts, she takes advantage of the live accompanist, who drums, sings and plays guitar. An eight-count phrase of her quirky, ballet-influenced movement can become brain-bending when danced to 3/4, then 7/4 time. And sometimes she teaches a

combination with no set counts and students have to feel their way, taking cues from each other and the music.

Pierce also believes in  embracing straightforward musicality, which

offers dancers predictability and consistency. “It’s almost gotten a bad rap, like being musical is not cool,” she says. “Everyone’s using music to contrast movement or bring a mood with an ambient background tone, but I think sometimes it’s really nice to just dance to music.” DT

A classically trained musician, Pierce teaches private piano lessons when she’s not in the studio.







“I am queen of baggy sweats!” (Weissman Designs for Dance shown)








Pierce enjoys knitting socks, hats, mittens and legwarmers. “I find it very relaxing and peaceful.”







Man cannot live by bread alone, but Pierce insists she couldn’t live without bread.

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