Does anyone else besides me remember how we were feeling when we reached the eleventh episode of Season 1? The Maddie-versus-Chloe showdown had reached a fever pitch, with the two duking it out onstage in a stunner of a Black Swan duet, battling for solo supremacy, and about to face off in the competition of their lives. No, not Nationals. Noooo, not for a spot in the Joffrey ballet school. Not even for the top of the all-hallowed pyramid.
Nay, they were throwing down for a spot in a music video for a girl named Lux!
Turns out we were talking about boobs back then, too — just not Kelly’s. And Melissa was having hubby drama, as well — except it concerned a former, not a future. There was even some brief theater about whether Maddie and Mac might be yanked from Abby Lee’s.
But my point is, we were still primarily focused on the girls. And the dancing. And compared to this season, the mama/Abby drama our tiny dancers had endured seemed dazzling tame. It was amusing to talk about, but it did not overshadow the fact that the girls were dancing in winning form and making legitimate strides toward their future, and we were able to focus on rooting for them — not for the grown-ups to Just. Shut. Up. Well, not much, anyway. Because even their scheming was directed at getting the girls ahead — not on getting boobs to match their ass, dragging their kids hundreds of miles a week for the sake of having a dance teacher who will kiss it, or suing everyone in sight for the crime of idle gossip.
To their credit, the producers must have realized that as next week’s Season 2 finale approaches, we don’t have much in the way of suspense or anything to root for. The Chloe/Maddie rivalry has been lukewarm at best. The big-picture weight of each competition is virtually non-existent. Cathy is comic foil instead of legitimate nemesis. And the Melissa’s Marriage story line is downright embarrassing.
So tonight the girls are battling not to make their mothers hush up and mind Abby Lee, but for the chance to audition for a Joffrey ballet scout. But first we must take care of a whole bunch of business.
We don’t learn anything new in the pyramid, except that Chloe has earned the very bottom spot for being one of the most advanced dancers and because there is no “I” in “team.” There is a “me.” “Me” being Abby Lee. We know that, Abby. If it was based on performance, the thing might actually make some sense — never mind the part where Chloe is perhaps the least selfish dancer in a group of seriously unselfish dancers.
There is also a “me” in performance, and it turns out that Abby will be choreographing a whopping five of them for the team’s trip to Energy Dance in Michigan, at which said Joffrey scout will be hiding in plain sight in the audience. Turns out, one row behind the Dance Moms!
Allow me to get this week’s Dance Moms Fashion Moment out of the way early, since it has come along right off the bat. Again, our winner is Kelly, who continues her purple fashion passion and has come to class in purple stretch pants and a matching floral half-muumuu (a matching floral muu?)
Speaking of Kelly, turns out her quest for C cups is also the inspiration for this week’s group dance, which will be called Nip & Tuck and will be about loving your body just the way it is. The girls looked completely grossed out.
There will also be two trios this week — an acrobatic one featuring MacKenzie, Nia and Paige, and a contemporary lyrical one featuring Maddie, Chloe and Brooke. Kelly voices legitimate concern that Paige is feeling downgraded, since she keeps losing her longtime spot dancing trios with Maddie and Chloe. Everyone wonders about having two halves of the same team — one clearly more experienced than the other — competing against each other in such an important setting. Especially since Abby will likely be devoting more time to the lyrical routine. Which can’t be much, since she’s going to have to choreograph and teach five numbers in five days. So they best get crackin’.
While the girls learn to dance like they will never ever have plastic surgery in their whole entire lives — or at least talk about it, anyway, from the way Paige places her finger to her lips — the moms retreat to the Mom Loft to discuss their dream tweaks. Melissa would love to get liposuction, which her girls know all about. Kelly wants those aforementioned C-cups back as reimbursement from her husband for having their kids (“I gave him three children; he should give me two boobs,” reasons she. “Then if I like it, I’ll get my ass sucked out.” Bad mental images! Baaaad ones! ) Melissa eats it up. Holly is silent. But Christi, God love her, taps her perfectly classic Polish nose and announces, “I know everybody wants me to do my nose, but I wear this thing like a badge of honor.” And it’s Christi for the win! Especially since she points out that none of the girls has an issue with body image, so why plant the seeds. It’s Christi for the win times two.
Downstairs, Nia, Paige and Big Mac are practicing what looks to be a terrifically fun trio — can it be we’re wrong about this favoritism thing?? — until Nia leaps directly into the path of the camera and Holly leaps to her feet and runs for her girl, who is sobbing and clutching her foot. Assessing the damage in the dressing room, Abby is surprisingly kind. Well, briefly.
Dear Nia. Please give up on the idea of trios. They seem to want to kill you. Nonetheless, the doctor tells her that she has a stress fracture, but if she tapes her toes, she can dance. Except without tricks. Good luck explaining that to Abby Lee.
(Hold the phone. We have another Dance Moms Fashion Moment on our hands. Holly is wearing the big chunky necklace that is the unofficial adult uniform at the studio, but hers looks like stars infiltrated a trio of snowballs and blew up. I am dazzled. Plus a little scared.)
Maddie’s solo is about hearing voices inside her head. I’ll just take a minute and get some coffee while you guys make up your own jokes about how they couldn’t be much more destructive than the voices outside her head.
Speaking of which, after spending several minutes telling us about how Maddie dances with her face and if she was getting paid for this she’d get a raise, Abby goes to town on Chloe for what she claims is the girl trying to contribute her own ideas to the choreography. If this doesn’t demonstrate a passion for dance, I don’t know what does, but Abby just wants her to knock it off and do the always-second-to-Maddie moves that she is given. She tells the clearly contemplative girl to go get a drink while she has Maddie perform her raise-getting moves for the senior dance company so they can see how a little 9-year-old girl is kicking their collective, not-sucked-out, ass.
I personally would love to see how many of the assembled seniors could go out there and immediately do the same choreography, chapter and verse, in response. And I wonder how much more energy Ms. Miller intends to devote to inadvertently making us believe that she has tutored just one supremely talented dancer out of her entire student body.
Upstairs, the blatant favoritism has become more than the moms can take. Christi calls out Melissa for not objecting to Abby allowing Maddie to dance on Chloe’s time (and Christi’s dime.) Kelly wonders why she doesn’t see that Abby is fostering an environment for every kid in the place to resent her eldest. Girl fight! Melissa looks like she hears voices in her head … and that they are telling her to ditch these meanies and go chew Abby’s ear while she should be coaching the group. Atta gril! That’ll salve the wound!
“I don’t want to dance here anymore,” she tells Maddie. Maddie does want to dance here any more, lady, and she’s the one who’s dancing.
“Bite my <bleep>,” she tells Christi and Kelly, who’ve come to request that she complete their conversation.
Melissa has left the building. It’s up to Abby to figure out how her kids will get home.
At lyrical trio practice, Abby suddenly notices that something is up with Maddie and she’s not sure what it is. How about that her beloved teacher is attempting to make her the nemesis of every kid in the school? Or that her mom has driven off without her? Or that she is about to dance three dances for a scout from one of the premier dance companies on the planet? Anybody care to take ten and ask the kid what’s on her mind right now?
At long last, we are boarding the bus for Michigan, where Bus Driver refuses to deviate from his route to pick up Broadway Baby at Abby’s house. I admire his sudden chutzpah. And as I profoundly doubt that Broadway Baby wants to ride a bus to Michigan, anyway, I bet she admires his chutzpah too. I just hope there’s a Broadway Babysitter.
In an obvious bid to break up the mean girl alliance, Melissa has purchased a present for Kelly. In fact, she’s so excited about said present — a black bra in Kelly’s pre-surgical size — that she whips it out of its gift bag and flings it at its recipient. Christi finds Melissa whack-a-doodle-doo.
And here we are at a high school in Highland, Michigan, where a visibly frazzled Maddie will go first. The girl has mastered the art of the usual competition, but the pressure of performing to Joffrey standards is clearly — and understandably — taking its toll. And all the adults in her life are too busy squabbling to address it before it can drive her to tears.
As Maddie takes the stage, we get another Alan Smithee moment when we are shown Talent Scout from the Joffrey ballet in the audience. Dude could kinda be Jean-Claude Van Damme’s clean cut baby brother, which will commence to distract me for the rest of the episode.
Maddie’s performance — accompanied by a haunting song about needless fighting — is a stunner, which is made all the more poignant by a long shot of a clearly enchanted MacKenzie sitting on Brooke’s lap and watching her big sister dance. It chokes me up. It chokes me up worse when I watch the playback. This, people. This should be what the show is about.
For their trio, Maddie, Chloe and Paige are wearing the same head dealie I wore for my first wedding, except mine was white instead of red. Also, I am not sure that that red goes so well with the orchid/magenta of the rest of their outfits, but as I’ve said before … me and fashion = peas and maple syrup. It’s a girlie, whimsical performance that Abby calls elegant. The announcer says it’s cute.
Next up is Nia, Paige and Mackie in cargo capris and sparkly bra tops. Several glorious things here. Paige is clearly the most adept at the choreography. But most importantly — and despite the collective concern about her losing her spot in the primary trio — the girl is unabashedly enjoying being out front and freed from the enormous shadow cast by Chloe and Maddie. Her performance is absolutely jubilant. And despite an injury that would have most adults wobbling about like Weebles, Nia lands every dazzling trick without so much as a flinch. And Miss Mac — at long last — got to perform a whole entire dance and did so adorably. They dang-near float back to the dressing room …
…where Abby brushes them off in favor of putting Brooke in what looks like a human version of the rack.
Despite Christi and Maddie’s warm support, Chloe — the most ballet-oriented dancer in the Pitt Crew — is also appears to be struggling under the weight of performing to Joffrey standards. In a virtual repeat of last years next-to-last episode, her lovely performance is interrupted by ominous music and, sure enough, she blanks on her choreography. I said it last time; I’ll say it again. Chloe is the sacrificial lamb of Ep 11.
“We worked for this and you just blow it?” howls Abby Lee, who has seems to have forgotten that it was Maddie dancing for a decent part of Chloe’s practice time. <sigh> Mercifully, to Chloe’s face, her teacher is kind and compliments her for soldiering on.
As the girls line up to rehearse the group number, their mothers’ collective fear that Abby has spread herself and her time and her choreography too thin comes to fruition. The girls look tense and out of sync — which is made all the worse by the fact that they have creepy black marker lines drawn on their perfect faces to simulate pre-surgical markings. It is, at best, disturbing, and, at worst, just this shy of offensive. Or maybe not so shy.
Instead of their usual bouncy-flouncy entrance, the girls — dressed in nude booty shorts and bejeweled bra tops — begin “Nip & Tuck” by marching lockstep to the middle of the stage, faces frozen, then lying prone on the floor. Melissa is sucked in. Lori is disturbed. Joffrey guy, remains to be seen.
Though Abby dismissed Cathy’s ill-fated clown routine from last week as dark and creepy, she clearly had a case of dark-and-creepy envy, because this dance is bizarro. Beautifully performed and without a doubt mature — but perhaps a little too mature, you ask me.
Maddie takes the solo division. Chloe doesn’t place. The lyrical contemporary trio takes that top spot. The acro doesn’t place. Abby blames Mac, for being seven. The group doesn’t place. Abby blames the girls for not wising up and working as a team, even as she divides them into favored duos and forgotten trios and obvious winners and assured losers. the room falls silent.
Then salvation appears in the form of Jean-Claude Van Joffrey, who is actually Brian McSween, a former Joffrey dancer who is now Associate Director at its school. He invites the entire Pitt Crew to an open audition in New York, with the grand prize being a full scholarship to its summer program. Not to diminish the girls’ accomplishments for the merest hint of one second, but McSween clearly said “open audition,” so they could show up whether he invited them or not.
And so could Cathy-Jean.
Next week on “Abbygeddon,” it’s Ab’s party and she’ll cry if she wants to.
Catch the 90-minute Season 2 finale of Dance Moms Tuesday, April 3 at 9pm ET/8 CT, immediately followed by the season premiere of Dance Moms: Miami.