Official Story

This is the story about about a (still) very popular, long running, clean and wholesome, daily TV show that many savvy TV execs once deemed, "no one on the west coast would be remotely interested in watching."

DANCIN' ON AIR was a popular TV music dance reality lifestyle show broadcast live to 7 east coast states from October 12, 1981 to December 31, 1987 from Philadelphia 's WPHL Channel 17 studios, and on-location from places including Penn's Landing, Ocean City, Wildwood, Great Adventure, Dorney Park and Hershey Park. The show is credited with jumpstarting the careers of over 200 celebrities including Kelly Ripa, Madonna, Will Smith, Tom Verica and Dave Raymond, the original Philly Phanatic.

DANCIN' ON AIR was more than a TV dance show like American Bandstand, Dance Fever or Soul Train. It was a music, variety, lifestyle dance show. Produced from 1981-1987 by Michael Nise and his father, Frank, it was the forerunner of the national hit TV show, DANCE PARTY USA.

Initially, DANCIN' ON AIR was broadcast LIVE to 7 states. The show's creators / producers worked out of their Camden, NJ offices. When not taping on-location, the show's producer used several local TV studios for broadcast including Channel 17 and Channel 57, all located in Philadelphia.

Frank Nise was 70 years young when DANCIN' ON AIR first broadcast in 1981.

In 1985, Michael Nise began the process to syndicate DANCIN' ON AIR on the west coast. Nise met with little success, at first. Many TV execs rejected the opportunity saying that "no one on the west coast would be remotely interested in watching kids from Philadelphia dance." Many TV execs said the same thing to Dick Clark when Clark tried to move American Bandstand from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. But those TV execs were soon proven wrong when KDOC-TV, LA put DANCIN' ON AIR on the air in 1986. The show "no one on the west coast would be remotely interested in watching" doubled KDOC's ratings the 1st week.

DANCIN' ON AIR quickly zoomed to the top of KDOC's programming schedule according to KDOC's viewer and rating indicators. KDOC reported that it received more mail and more phone calls in response to DANCIN' ON AIR than to any other program on its schedule.

At KDOC, DANCIN' ON AIR became one of two programs on KDOC's entire schedule to draw a rating and at times was the station's number one program, drawing a higher rating than their local prime time, exciting, controversial and wider demographically based, "Wally George Show."

In a survey taken by KDOC in its Los Angeles market, audiences preferred DANCIN' ON AIR over a local production by an amazing 98%! And when KDOC's transmitter went out during a storm, people called the station asking if KDOC was still on the air. But more amazing, 71% of the callers weren't concerned about the station, they just wanted to know, "Where's DANCIN' ON AIR?"  

The then fledgling USA Network heard about KDOCsuccess with DANCIN' ON AIR in the LA market, and decided to give DANCIN' ON AIR and its producers a shot. The show was renamed DANCIN' USA, and was broadcast to 50 states, U.S. territories and parts of Canada.  Overnight, USA Network's ratings doubled with Dancin' USA. Shortly thereafter, the show was renamed, DANCE PARTY USA.

After DANCIN' ON AIR left KDOC for broadcast on the USA Network, KDOC continued to receive fan mail begging KDOC to put DANCIN' ON AIR back on the air again. Six months later, the LA Times printed a reference aboput thousands who expressed excitement about DANCIN' ON AIR's possible return to KDOC.

Pretty amazing for a show that  TV execs once deemed, "no one on the west coast would be remotely interested in watching."


Khalia Ali, daugther of boxer, Mohammud Ali, but who is best known for her self-help book, "Fighting Weight," was a regular dancer on DANCIN' ON AIR.


Kelly Ripa's first TV appearance was on DANCIN' ON AIR, not DANCE PARTY USA. The compilation tape of all her appearances on both shows, made by Kelly's mother and her, was Kelly's first audition tape. It was used to get her role on ALL MY CHILDREN.

Madonna's first TV appearance was on DANCIN' ON AIR in 1992 before she became famous. But it almost never happened. None of the kids wanted to stay and be a part of her performance. It was scheduled to be taped during the Christmas holidays. Erica Bell, aka Tinkebell, ne of Madonna's back-up dancers, wrote all over the TV station's bathroom walls with magic marker. More than a little upset with the then unknown Madonna and her entourage, the Channel 17's station management refused to air her appearance. After taping “Everybody,” Michael Nise said to Madonna, "Our show is seen by half a million kids. If you want your performance to air, over there's the cleaning closet. You have to clean up the mess you made in the station's bathroom." And she did. And the rest is Madonna history!


Tom Verica's first TV appearance was in 1981 on DANCIN' ON AIR.

DANCIN' ON AIR was started with $100,000 from a small group of investors that included Tonight Show bandleader, Doc Severinsen.  DANCIN' ON AIR earned its investor's a 128% ROI within the first 6 months.

DANCIN' ON AIR still holds the record for holding the national's largest cheerleading contest.


Duran Duran's performance of "Hungry Like A Wolf," and "Rio," on DANCIN' ON AIR was the group's first TV appearance in America. It happened early in the summer of 1982. Michael Nise remembers how shy the guys were, and how they kidded each other about how ridiculous they thought they looked on TV.

Jodi Letizia, another DANCIN' ON AIR dancer, appeared as Marie in the 1976 "Rocky" movie with Sylvester Stallone.

In 1982, DANCIN' ON AIR was the first TV show to broadcast live simulcast with a radio station, Power 99, Philadelphia.

DANCIN' ON AIR shared a weekly talk-radio show with DANCE PARTY USA entitled, TALKIN' ON AIR.

From 1981 - 1992, over 800,000 kids from all over the US and parts of Canada danced on DANCE PARTY USA and DANCIN' ON AIR.

Patrice Hawthorne of Peaches & Herb got her start on DANCIN' ON AIR



John Waters, writer and director of the 1988 version of HAIRSPRAY, visited the DANCIN' ON AIR and DANCE PARTY USA studio in anticipation of making the movie. While in Philadelphia, Waters told Philadelphia Magazine that he modeled the HAIRSPRAY'S ambience and mood on DANCIN' ON AIR and DANCE PARTY USA. Source Philadelphia Magazine

Later, art imitated life when the stars of HAIRSPRAY -- Ricki Lake, Michael St. Gerard, and Shawn Thompson -- appeared and danced on DANCE PARTY USA.

During 1986 and 1987, the same studio set was used for both DANCE PARTY USA and DANCIN' ON AIR. Both shows were taped / broadcasted live on the same days. As a result during  '86-'87, the audiences saw the same celebrities and kids dancing on DANCIN' ON AIR and DANCE PARTY USA. Some of these celebrities included Fresh Prince, Will Smith who on both DANCE PARTY USA and DANCIN' ON AIR. Will's first national TV appearance was on DANCE PARTY USA.

Both DANCIN' ON AIR and DANCE PARTY USA jumpstarted the careers of 600+ celebs, many who had their very 1st TV appearances on DANCIN' ON AIR or DANCE PARTY USA including Madonna, Will Smith, Duran Duran, Tommy Verica, Aly Larter, Rennie Harris and Kelly Ripa. The roster of stars reads like a "Who's Who" in the entertainment industry from the 50's through the 90's.


DANCIN' ON AIR debuted on WPHL-TV Philadelphia Channel 17 on October 12, 1981.  The show doubled WPHL-TV's ratings in only one day as it went from a 1.7 on October 14, 1981 (2 days after its premiere) to a 6.1 on February 17, 1982.  DANCIN' ON AIR  increased the station's ratings futher by 512 percent in the 4 P.M. to 5 P.M. time slot within the first five months.

• Including prime time, DANCIN' ON AIR was WPHL's sixth top rated program -- amazing, when the show had an exclusive, and an elusive, target audience.

• In November, 1986, DANCIN' ON AIR achieved the following an 8 rating in women 12-24 a 5 rating in persons 14-24, Ratings twice as high as any other station in women, 12-24 a teen (over 6 years) rating average of 10 against Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, Charlie's Angels, Magnum and Oprah. Received 1,000,000 written votes in a national cheerleading contest; probably a record for a regional television program.

DANCIN' ON AIR maintained a 3-5 rating average over 6 years.

OCT 12, 1981 - OCT 1982 EDDIE BRUCE, HOST
Trane   JULY 1985 - DEC 1986 CHRIS TRANE, HOST
Rossi   Springfield



10/12/81 McFadden and Whitehead how

10/13/81 Regular Show

10/14/81 Dovelles

10/15/81  Regular Show

10/16/81  Regular Show

11/6/81 Countdown Show

11/18/81 Willie Nelson Look alikes

11/26/81 Thanksgiving / Oldies Show

12/24/81 Christmas Eve/ Frankie Smith

12/25/81 Christmas Day / Countdown show

12/29/81 Bucks County Community College

12/31/81 New Years Eve #2

1/5/82 Hooters /All Girl Roll Call

1/11/82 Terry Dan

2/17//82 John & Donna Lip Sync

3/2/82 100th Show/Behind the scenes look

3/12/82 Bowser Show

4/1/82 Kids Show

5/10/82 Penn School for the Deaf

6/9/82 Big Band Show

6/10/82 Kids Show #2

9/6/82 Labor Day Show

9/16/82 Beach Party

9/17/82 Channel 17 Birthday

10/12/82 1st Anniversary Show

10/28/82 Frankie Avalon/Tom Dressen /50's Day

11/16/82 Lady B co-host / Salute to Philadelphia music radio

11/25/82 Thanksgiving show

12/1/82 Vanity 6

12/31/82 New Years's Eve Show

2/3/83 Block Party

2/10/83 Glen Calina/Vare Jr. High

2/23/83 Simulcast with Jeff Wyatt / S. Philly H.S.

3/9/83 Hoe Down / Brandywine H.S.

5/11/83 Jeff Wyatt Power 99

5/18/83 WMMR - John DeBella

7/25/83 Dorney Park

7/29/83 Dorney Park

8/13/83 Penns Landing

8/18/83 Wildwood

10/12/83 2nd Anniversary Show

10/31/83 Halloween

11/17/83 Good Show

11/24/83 Thanksgiving

12/30/83 Adult Show

12/31/83 New Years Eve Show, Reel #2

2/14/84 Valentines Day

4/5/84 New Edition

5/8/84 Great Adventure

6/7/84 Pretty Poison

6/28/84 Penns Landing

7/9/84 Great Adventure

7/17/84 Wildwood, Christy Springfield co-host

9/12/84 York Fair

10/10/84 Menudo

10/12/84 3rd Anniversary Show

10/18/84 New Edition/Connie Stevens

10/31/84 Halloween

11/20/84 Super Star

11/22/84 School Homecoming Party

12/24/84 Christmas

12/25/84 Kid's Show


12/31/84 Adult Show 1st S

12/13/84 New Years Eve Show

1/23/85 Charlie Wilson (Gap Band)

1/26/85 Winter Beach Party

2/14/85 Valentines Day

5/27/85 Hershey Park

5/31/85 Hershey Park

6/17/85 Great Adventure

6/21/85 Great Adventure / Brotherly Love

7/9/85 Dorney Park

7/15/85 Wildwood

7/17/85 Wildwood

8/15/85 Honor Roll, Vol. 1 & 2

8/29/85 Penns Landing/ Robert Hazard

9/25/85 Labor Day Special

9/30/85 1st show of Season - Chris Trane

10/10/85 4th Anniversary

10/23/85 The Jets

10/24/85 Prince Special

10/31/85 Halloween

11/6/85 Anniversary

11/28/85 Grady & Hurst and Hy Lit

12/4/85 Stephanie Mills

12/17/85 Generic Show

12/31/85 New Years Eve, Tape 1 & 2

1/15/86 Winter Beach Party

2/14/86 Valentines Day

2/15/86 Dance '86 finals

3/19/86 St. Patty's Day

4/22/86 Little Flower Remote

5/15/86 Anita Baker

5/16/86 Prom Show

6/10/86 5th Anniversary Show

6/21/86 Summer Beach Show


7/4/86 4th of July

7/8/86 Dorney Park

7/15/86 Wildwood

8/11/86 Penns Landing

8/22/86 Greatest Hits, Vol 3

8/28/86 Young Philadelphian's Show

8/29/86 Greatest Hits, Vol 4

9/1/86 Labor Day Special

10/9/86 Pre-Anniversary Show

10/16/86 Boss's Day

10/31/86 Halloween

11/12/86 School Color Day


11/26/86 Thanksgiving

11/28/86 Homecoming special/ Hy Lit

12/1/86 Regular Show

12/2/86 1st "4" rating in months

12/4/86 Regular Show

12/8/86 Bobby Brown

12/15/86 Nice 'n Wild

12/24/86 Christmas Show

12/25/86 Christmas Show

12/30/86 Regular Show

12/31/86 New Years Eve Special

1/1/87 New Year's Day

2/3/87 Regular Show

2/10/87 Valentine's Special


tshirts & more