Meet Our Artistic Director

Michele Koerts-Fester, Director

Michele Fester

Michele graduated from Point Park University in 1989 with a BA in Dance. During her time at Point Park she trained with world renowned teachers and choreographers. Michele performed all four years with the Point Park Dance Department at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. She performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony at Heinz Hall and at the opening of the Benedum Center. She also did Summer Stock Theatre, performing in several musicals in Morgantown West Virginia.

In the summer of 1989, Michele’s dream came true. She opened the doors of Michele’s Dance Center. Over the past 31 years, Michele has trained thousands of dancers. Many of these dancers have gone on to college dance programs and professional careers.The goal for all of Michele’s students is to gain poise and confidence while having fun. All students also gain valuable experience being in front of an audience at the annual recital.

Michele loves teaching dance to all ability levels from our youngest dancers through our adult students. She also loves to choreograph for her Company dancers. Her students have won many awards at the regional and national levels. Michele has won many choreography awards and creative concept awards. The most memorable award was when MDC was awarded the “Class Act”” award. One of Michele’s favorite events was working for the Wizard of Ahhs as choreographer and stage manager for the Santa Spectacular shows in Pittsburgh, Akron and Canton Ohio.

Our Exceptional Staff

Brena Price, Instructor

Brena Price

Brena began her dance training right here at Michele’s Dance Center at the age of nine.  She went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in both Dance and Psychology from Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA.  Throughout her college years, Brena attended a summer intensive with the Paul Taylor Dance Company in New York City and earned a full scholarship to the International Summer Dance Intensive at Point Park University.  After graduating she spent two summers performing at Hershey Park in Hershey, PA and toured internationally with Sesame Street Live through Vee Corporation in 2006-2007 and again in 2009-2010.  Following tour, she earned a Master of Science in Counseling Psychology through Chatham University and currently works as a School Counselor at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School in Midland, PA.  Brena continues to dance in worship services and community performances whenever possible and also enjoys singing in the praise band at her church.  She is honored and thrilled to be a part of the teaching staff and Michele’s Dance Center where it truly feels like home.

Sarah Navarro, Instructor

Sara Navarro

Sarah began dancing at age 5 in the Pittsburgh area and continued throughout high school. During high school she attended multiple different intensive programs, studied at Broadway Dance Center in New York City with Frank Hatchett, was a member of her school’s dance team, was the dance captain in her school’s spring musicals, participated in 2 productions with Pittsburgh Musical Theater, and attended Point Park University’s Pre Professional Program her senior year. She went on to study dance at The University of North Carolina Greensboro where she studied for a year and a half before accepting a performing job at The Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. She performed at Disney World for almost 3 years in various parades and shows, including the High School Musical show, Block Party Parade, and was chosen to perform at many different special events. In 2010 she returned home to the Pittsburgh area and began teaching at Michele’s. In 2014 Sarah became a certified yoga instructor through Yoga Alliance and currently teaches at two Pittsburgh area yoga studios. She loves how dance and yoga compliment each other. In 2018 Sarah became the Director of Social Media for Michele’s where she creates content and maintains the studio’s presence across multiple platforms including Facebook and Instagram. She is grateful to be a part of Michele’s and greatly enjoys sharing her knowledge and love of dance with her students!

Alison Vitale, Instructor

Alison Vitale

Alison Vitale is a contemporary dance artist based in Pittsburgh, PA. In 2018, she received a BFA degree in Dance Performance and Choreography from Slippery Rock University. Vitale has performed in Lindsay Viatori’s “Over Exposed,” concert at the New Hazlett Theater and work by Teena Marie Custer at the August Wilson Center. Vitale was casted in a dance film produced by Marta Renzi, “Plant, Plow, Reap,” that has continuously been shown nationally and internationally around the world. Vitale is also the co-artistic director alongside of Maddison Manolis for their female duet, MVment. Mvment has performed their own work at Texas Woman’s University, the gala stage at The American College Dance Association, Gibney Dance, Koresh Artist Showcase, DUMBO Dance Festival, Koresh Come Together Festival, Pittsburgh’s NACHMO Dance Festival, Kun-Yang Lin InHale/ExHale series, Dumbo Dance SoloDuo Showcase, newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival, Cleveland Dance Festival, SRU Faculty Concert, and more. MVment was the 2019 artist residents for the FORGE Summer Dance Intensive. Currently, MVment is in the process of curating an evening-length work and teaching weekly classes at FireWall Dance.

Tai Papariella, Instructor

Tai Papriella

Tai began her dance career at Michele’s Dance Center at the age of 3 and continued until she graduated from high school. Tai went to Penn State where she majored in elementary education and minored in dance. She joined Penn State’s Tapestry Dance Company, a tap dance company, performing and choreographing with Tapestry throughout college. Tai was also a member of the modern dance company, ETCH Dance Co. After graduating from Penn State, Tai began working as a kindergarten teacher and lived in the DC Metro area for a few years, taking tap classes from Baakari Wilder and even performing with him. While there, she helped to choreograph her school’s musicals. Tai then briefly lived in Texas and taught tap at a local dance studio. She moved back to Pittsburgh in 2015 as a fourth grade teacher and in 2016 began teaching tap, jazz, and ballet at MDC! Tai’s step son Max likes walking around the basement in his tap shoes. She and her husband Justin welcomed their son, Octavian, this past July.

Emily Teare, Instructor

Emily Teare

Emily began dancing at the age of 3 and was a student and company member at MDC from the age of 5-18.  She has studied ballet, tap, jazz, pointe, and modern.  During her junior and senior years in high school, Emily participated in Point Park University’s Pre-Professional Dance Program.  She also took part in their Summer Dance Program for 3 years.  Emily attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Early Childhood and Special Education.  While attending college, Emily was a member of the IUP Dance and Theater Company, which performed for local schools and community events.  She currently is a Special Education teacher at a cyber charter school.  In her free time, Emily enjoys reading, traveling to the beach, and spending time with family and friends.  This is Emily’s 5th year as a staff member at MDC.  She is excited to continue to watch her students grow and to instill in them a love of dance.

Jessica Dunckel, Instructor &
Director of Communications

Jussica Dunckel

Jessica was a student at Michele’s Dance Center since she was 4 years old and joined the MDC Company soon after. At MDC, Jess studied tap, jazz, ballet, acro, lyrical, contemporary and pointe. While in high school, Jess performed for Macy’s as a principal dancer alongside Amanda Myers to promote many store openings in the tri-state area and was a member of the Pine-Richland Dance Team. At the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Jess earned her BA in Psychology and participated in the UT Dance Company and took college level dance classes. Jess holds a MA in Higher Education and Student Personnel from the University of Mississippi. After moving back to Pittsburgh in 2015, Jess joined the MDC staff and began teaching stretch classes, jazz and tap. In 2020, Jess stepped in as the Director of Communications and continued teaching. Jess is excited for her 2 year old, Annabella, to start dancing this year at MDC!

Maddison Manolis

Maddison Manolis is a Pittsburgh based performing artist, dancer, choreographer, and Hatha yoga instructor. She received a dual degree from Slippery Rock University with a BFA in Dance, specializing in Performance and Choreography as well as a BA in Communications. Manolis has worked with choreographers such as, Bill T. Jones, Jenna Riegel, Staycee Pearl, Ursula Payne, Teena Marie Custer, Lindsay Fisher-Viatori, Jennifer Keller, Jaya Mani, and Matthew Shaffer. She has been seen twice at the 92nd Y Museum for Dancing Through College and Beyond as well as at the American College Dance Association, performing work choreographed by herself and others. She has been a guest artist for Staycee Pearl Dance Project, performing Pearl’s work at the August Wilson Theater and at the Ailey Citigroup Theater. In addition, she was cast in a dance film produced by Marta Renzi, “Plant, Plow, Reap,” that has been shown nationally and internationally around the world. Manolis  is also the co-artistic director alongside Alison Vitale for their female duet, MVment. Mvment has performed their own work at Texas Woman’s University, the gala stage at The American College Dance Association, Gibney Dance, Koresh Artist Showcase, DUMBO Dance Festival, Koresh Come Together Festival, Pittsburgh’s NACHMO Dance Festival, Kun-Yang Lin InHale/ExHale series, Dumbo Dance SoloDuo Showcase, new Moves Contemporary Dance Festival, Cleveland Dance Festival, Millennium Dance Complex Showcase, SRU Faculty and Guest Artist Concert, and more. MVment was the 2019 artist residents for the FORGE Summer Dance Intensive. Currently, MVment is in the process of curating an evening-length work.

Ashley Wickert 

Miss Ashley began teaching at Michele’s Dance Center in 2007 however her connections to Michele and MDC date back to 1990. Ashley began dancing at the age of three, and after moving to Pittsburgh, she found Michele’s Dance Center and has been with Miss Michele ever since. While at MDC, Ashley studied all forms of dance including, ballet, jazz, tap, modern, lyrical, contemporary, and pointe as a member of the MDC Company. After graduating high school, Ashley went on to earn her Bachelor’s of Science degree in Mathematics and her Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Dance from Mercyhurst University in Erie, PA. It was here that Ashley developed a love of being “backstage” and focused her attention on the art of teaching, choreographing, and developing programs for the Dance Department. During her years at Mercyhurst, not only did she perform in numerous ballet and modern productions, but she also co-chartered and served as President of Nu Delta Alpha, a National Honors Society for the Dance Arts, co-chaired and choreographed for the department’s Liturgical Dance Ensemble, and served as the open class instructor for students within the department. Upon graduation, Ashley earned her M.Ed in Secondary Math Education from the University of Pittsburgh where she now teaches in the Fox Chapel Area School District. During this time, she has choreographed for Avonworth School District’s productions of Anything Goes, Camelot, Beauty and the Beast, and Into the Woods. Miss Ashley is honored to call Michele’s Dance Center home for over 30 years!

Miranda Nichols

Originally from New Castle, PA, Miranda Nichols is a Teaching Artist and professional dancer living in Pittsburgh. Most recently, Miranda was a company member with West Virginia Dance Company in Beckley, West Virginia. Other credits include In Defence of Gravity, Some Assembly Required, and I AM JONAH with Attack Theatre, and Fame Notions with choreographer Gillian Walsh. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance with a dual major in English Literature from Marymount Manhattan College.

Josselyn Fester

Josselyn Fester is the daughter of Miss Michele. Josselyn started dancing at Michele’s Dance Center when she was 2 years old. She joined the MDC Company at age 5 and continued through her senior year of high school. She is currently pursuing a BSBA degree in marketing at Slippery Rock University. Josselyn’s true passion lies within the choreographic aspect of dance. After a successful first year of choreographing, Josselyn will continue to choreograph for upcoming competition seasons.

Hannah Feldhues

Hannah Feldhues graduated from Elon University with a double major in Arts Administration and Marketing Analytics with a minor in Dance. Over the years, she has worked on 7 choreography projects including an undergraduate research dance piece titled “Aoibhneas”. She has also had the opportunities to teach at Center Stage on Main and Studio 1 in Alamance County, NC. She has been dancing since she started tap at three years old and is very grateful for all the opportunities she has had throughout her life in the performing arts. She danced at Michele’s for nine years and is happy to be returning to the studio doing what she loves. 

Shelley Thomas

Shelley started dancing at Michele’s Dance Center at the age of 2 and joined the MDC company at the age of 9. After her time at Michele’s, Shelley attended Kent State University as an educational studies major and earned a double minor in Human Development and Family Studies and Dance. As a part of Kent State’s professional level dance program, Shelley participated in 4 dance concerts which included pieces in the styles of modern, jazz, contemporary and musical theater. As a first year staff member, Shelley hopes to take her love for teaching and working with children to her fullest potential. She is excited to get back on her feet and to see where this experience takes her.

Amanda Myers

Amanda was a student at Michele’s Dance Center from the age of 11 until she graduated. While in high school, Amanda attended Point Park University’s Pre-Professional program and received a full scholarship to participate in the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts. Amanda performed in the Nutcracker on Broadway in New York City; was a featured entertainer for the Miss Pittsburgh, Miss Philadelphia, and Miss Pennsylvania pageants; and performed for Macy’s as a principal dancer and dance captain promoting many of their store openings in the tri-state area. She studied dance at Point Park University where she received her BA under the direction of Susan Stowe. Amanda has worked professionally with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and at Disney Worldwide Services Inc. as a Radio Disney Dancer/Team Captain and Assistant Choreographer. Amanda has taught in the Pittsburgh area since 2006 and her choreography has received many top overall and choreography awards. Amanda is excited to be back for her 10th season at Michele’s Dance Center and share her creative talent with MDC students.