Today is your day, Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition fans. Season 2 is underway with 11 new dancers competing for $100,000, a scholarship to the Young Dancers Program at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York, and, as we in the Dance Moms nation know, a good shot at being a guest Candy Apple in DM seasons to come even if you’re not the winner.
The first pair we meet are Jessalynn and JoJo, 9, from Nebraska. JoJo says she’s not excited to meet Abby Lee — SHE’S ABSOLUTELY DYING TO! A little more energy, there, JoJo.
Eleven-year-old Brianna Haire lookalike Haley, 11, and her lion-maned mom Melanie are from Connecticut.
Melanie admits right off the cuff that she and her kid are less than popular with a lot of other dance moms. Ladies and gentlemen, meet your new Kristie Ray.
Next up is 12-year-old Arizona beauty Kalani. Her mom is Kira, who says she and her little ballet aficionado butt heads a lot. Kalani demonstrates her sassy mouth.
California native Tiffany says her 13-year-old daughter Ally gets a lot of attention because she is bi-racial, tall and striking. Therefore, people expect more of her because she looks like a professional dancer more than adorable pipsqueaks like JoJo.
I smell me a rivalry a’brewin’.
According to her mom, Sharon, Sarina, 12, is the reigning Junior Miss USA, though I can’t quite find any evidence of that on the interwebs. Can anybody help me out with that? In any case, the pair is also from California.
Before we meet the rest of the competitors, the dancers are joined on the show’s snazzy new stage by Abby Lee, who is sporting a ton of makeup, freshly whitened teeth and the half-order of mall bangs we met in last night’s episode of Dance Moms. Cheeeeese!
McKaylee, 13 and her emotional, dance-studio-owning mom Shari (who seems to have cribbed her hairdo from Jill Vertes) are hoping to escape the limited opportunities in Nebraska.
This week’s theme will be “Fame.” Because Abby says they must all want to be famous or they wouldn’t be here.
Jessalynn says it’s not just about want — it’s her very life mission to make JoJo a star. And JoJo, who sports an adorable lisp that makes her seem way younger than her 9 years, knows just what that requires:
Now you know.
Also, says JoJo, you could get, like, 300 pairs of shoes with the prize money. Where do you shop for shoes, Miss JoJo? I could get 2,000, at least. Or 1,000 plus a nice, new closet to put them in. Or 50,000 hair bows.
Anyway, since it’s the first day competition, Abby will not be testing one particular skill. Instead, she wants to get a feel for everything the dancers can do — beginning right now. Jessalynn, who is wearing one hell of a zebra-print peplum trench, tells JoJo to diva walk her sparkly pink arse right into the middle of the stage and own it, which blows Tiffany’s mind. Tiffany clearly has cute issues.
“Let the lovers love and the haters hate,” chirps Jessalynn, never losing her smile. One of these ladies is going to give me enormous problems. I just can’t decide which just yet.
Supervising choreographer Tessandra Chavez will teach the audition challenge combo. Kalani — who reminds me of a dark-haired, dark-eyed version of Hadley Walts — is an early standout, which worries McKaylee.
We get a superfast peek at Trinity, 12, and her mom Tina, who are from Washington. State or D.C., I do not know. But Washington. Tina says Trinity is a powerhouse with five siblings who never backs down from a challenge.
“JoJo with the Bowbow” is the first one Abby yanks. Then Chloe, whom we haven’t actually met yet. Ally. The twin boys, whom we also haven’t met. Sarina. Gianna and McKaylee.
It’s Trinity versus Kalani for the win. Kalani’s foot costs her the win. Kira says Trinity is a tumbler, not a dancer, so that’s a bunch of hooey.
This week’s stage performances will pay homage to Michael Jackson, Gene Kelly, Beyoncé and Madonna. Because she won the skills challenge, Trinity gets to pick her two partners in the Beyoncé dance. She picks Chloe and Ally. Tiffany says of course she picked Ally. Big hair. Put a ring on it. It’s go time.
Tiffany is on my nerves. Your kid does not have a siren on her head. She doesn’t stand out as much as you think, lady. Careful that the person who is doing the most stereotyping doesn’t end up being you.
Trinity says the reason she picked her partners is that she likes the way they move and she thinks they will all dance well together.
JoJo — whose ponytail is pulled so tight that she looks momentarily bald — and Travis will be doing the Gene Kelly duet, choreographed by Tarua Hall. They’re cute together and seem to be enjoying themselves.
This is Sheryl, Travis and Tyler’s mom. She reminds me of someone, but I can’t put my finger on whom, exactly. Christi Lukasiak, a little, but that’s not it. Oh, wait. I got it. Darva Conger, the Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire lady. Man, I really have to check my reality TV habit. I really do.
Anyway, they’re all from Rhode Island, and Sharon says the boys are each other’s toughest competition. She doesn’t say if they have any idea who Gene Kelly is, though Dance Moms fans know that Abby seems to believe that every child comes out of the womb loving him.
While the children practice their dances, the mothers get together in the Kristie Ray/Yvette Walts Memorial Rhinestoning Room of Contentiousness, where Tiffany and Jessalynn promptly get into it about who’s the biggest circus. Tiffany says people like Jess and JoJo are what she likes least about the dance world. “I thought we were rhinestoning,” warbles Sharon gently.
Chloe’s mom Angela says her girl is a Christian and not used to gyrating or dropping it like it’s hot, a la the Beyoncé trio, which is being choreographed by someone who looks a little like Ricky Palomino, though we don’t find out for sure who he actually is.
Travis’ twin Tyler, Haley and Sarina will be doing the Michael Jackson trio choreographed by Anthony Burrell, who has been sprung from his prison time at Candy Apples.
The girls are having trouble catching on to Anthony’s shoe-slapping moves and the moms don’t especially love his tone or his “that’s not it” brand of instruction.
Abby arrives in the room and tells Haley she has to lose her fear and her deer in the headlights look or she’ll be eaten alive in this competition. Don’t worry, honey. Brianna started out like this, too, and she wound up winning. I don’t think you will wind up winning, but anyway ….
Tessandra will also be choreographing the Madonna duet, which will be performed by Kalani, Gianna and McKaylee. Gianna’s mom, Cindy, says that even though Gianna, 13, is the best dancer at her home studio in Pennsylvania, she’s not used to having to learn a routine in a mere two days. Plus the girl is too worried about the talent of the children around her.
Come competition day, Haley is wrecked. Ally loves the deluxe accommodations. JoJo decorates her vanity with — you guessed it — hair bows. Chloe and Angela pray. And we finally get our first look at Kevin Manno, who is apparently relegated to performance day only now. Aw! Kevin!
We also get our first look at the judges panel, which features Rachelle Rak swapped in for Pussycat Dolls creator Robin Antin. I’m oh-so-good with that. And relieved to see that Richy Jackson is his vest-wearing, finger-waving self. You, my Richy Squirrel, I have missed.
Rachelle says she wants a dancer with technique AND sass, befitting of her nickname. Plus, they better be able to tell a story. I suspect I am going to like Miss Rak a great deal. God, I hope so.
The Madonna trio goes first. For the first few moments, it’s in-your-face awesome.
Then Gianna seems to lag on the choreo a little. Then she outright falls on her butt.
In keeping with her role at the judging panel from last year, Abby points out the flaws in everyone’s technique. Richy says Gianna’s ability to sell her performance makes up for her bouncing on her boomboom. Then he tells Kalani not to hold back, because her partners sure weren’t. Rachelle wants McKaylee to lighten her turns. But, she says, they all have the potential to be little Broadway divas. Yay! She’s like the best parts of Robin, only lucid!
Backstage, Gianna cries.
Next up are Ally, Chloe and Trinity and their Beyoncé trio, which was actually choreographed by a camera-shy guy named Matt Cady, who is the founder of a dance crew called Fanny Pak. The girls are barefoot and scantily clad with Beyoncé-rrific hair.
I take back what I said, Tiffany. Ally is definitely the standout in the dance.
The judges have mostly nice words for everyone, but Richy says that, despite her position of control from winning the challenge, Trinity let the others outperform her. Abby jumps on the bandwagon, only louder.
Next up is JoJo and Travis and their Gene Kelly duet. Sharon — I’m going to have me a time keeping Sharon, Shari and Sheryl straight — says she’s worried about Travis and his better technique being run down by the personality train that is JoJo BowBow. Or in this case JoJo ChapeauPeau. The judges smile and smile as the children dance.
Sure enough. The judges are all over JoJo — who shall be our new Asia — and her natural sass. “Oh, you haven’t seen the half of it,” cracks the kid. That makes Rachelle warn her that sometimes less can be more, which elicits cheers all around from the green room. Abby chimes in that cute is not enough to stay in the competition.
Jessalynn smiles and smiles.
Backstage, Tiffany can’t wait to call out her enemy, tacking on that her daughter looked phenomenal in red. JoJo turns around, shakes her bum at Ally’s mum and says that at least Abby’s comments were about her dancing not her costume.
Well, not really, toots. They were about your, shall we say, extremely outgoing personality. Hoooooo-weeeeee. This is going to be a season, right here, if these three are any indication.
Sarina says Haley is a hot mess and her lack of confidence could ruin their trio. We don’t actually get to see the foot-slapping and honestly what we do see is kind of lackluster. I can’t decide if Anthony did the best he could with what he had to work with, or if Cathy Stein is right and dude sometimes isn’t capable of that. In any case, everybody looks pretty worried about judging.
Rightly so. The judges are about this dance. Haley lost her confidence. Tyler lost his expression. Sarina goofed up pretty much everything. Haley whimpers that she really wants to stay here, but I don’t believe her. I think her mother really wants to stay and Haley fears she will be the reason that doesn’t happen.
Time for judges’ deliberations. Rachelle defends Gianna’s tumble, saying if you’re going to be great, you have to risk failure sometimes. Ally is striking, but her feet need work. Despite her grace, Kalani is pigeon-toed. Abby wants to sew JoJo’s mouth shut. Richy would add duct tape, just to be sure. “Are you saying she should go home because of her mouth?” he baits Abby. “No!” howls Rachelle. “Yes!” hollers Abby. I personally think I can handle two, maybe three more episodes of her Shirley-Temple-Meets-Toddler-With-Tiara shtick and then I’m going to want to hurt myself.
McKaylee is just so-so. The boys are so-so, but Abby likes Tyler best of the two. Sarina, eh. And Trinity also did not live up to her potential. Everyone agrees that Haley is everything that should not be on the stage. We have consensus on who is going home.
Back onstage, Tyler, Chloe, JoJo, McKaylee, Travis, Kalani and Ally are all asked to step forward. They’re safe. That leaves Trinity, Haley, Sarina and Gianna in danger of elimination.
Abby asks Trinity to step forward. She calls the girl out on dropping the ball so badly from the skills challenge to the performance challenge, but says that she is good enough to stay another day.
Kevin asks the moms join the other three onstage. Abby points out the biggest flaw in each of the trio. Sharon steps up for Sarina and lists a litany of Anthony’s flaws, but Abby will have none of that. Not professional to blame your problems on the choreographer. Everyone who watches Dance Moms knows that’s one of Ms. Miller’s biggest peeves, ain’t that right, Jill?
Abby tells Gianna that the Madonna trio was the best dance they saw this evening, which is enough to save her. Though all three of the judges agreed that Haley is a potential disaster waiting to happen, Sarina gets sent home for being the only dancer to forget her choreography. I can’t help but wonder if her mother helped hasten her departure. Ever the pageant queen, Sarina handles her exit with grace. Sharon says she doesn’t want to hang around a group like this anyway. Certainly not in the Rhinestone Room.
Despite their survival, Haley and Gianna still look shaken.
On next week’s Gaga-themed episode, the Lady herself sends a videotaped message, Tiffany keeps up her schoolyard bully rep, and Abby’s got her hurrrr in some pop cans.
So what say you, AUDC fans? Who do you like best in the new cast? Who do you like least? Got any early predictions on who will be crowned Ultimate? Do you love Rachelle or miss kooky Robin? Sound off in the comments section below.
New episodes of Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition air Tuesday nights at 9/8CT on Lifetime.