Look out tiara-tot mamas, here come Lifetime’s “Dance Moms”

By Lori Acken

The DVD screener for Lifetime’s Dance Moms, debuting July 13, is a curiosity. Not just what it contains, but what’s actually printed on the disc itself. To the top is militant but much sought after Pittsburgh dance teacher Abby Lee Miller and the quote, “If you want your daughter to be a star, you have to go through me.” To the bottom, three of the young girls Miller mentors (and often, in the opinion of this non-dance mom, bullies) in black wigs, bare midriffs and boas.

So where are the Dance Moms? Oh they’re on here alright.

There’s brown-bobbed Melissa — with daughters Mackenzie and Maddie, an Abby Lee Dance Studio all-star — who announces with a Cheshire Cat grin  that her obsession with her daughters’ dance training ended her marriage, but her new boyfriend is clearly aboard, “because he signs the checks.”

Slightly crazy-eyed Kelly, a one-time dancer herself, sports the complexly-angled and tri-lighted hairdo of a pampered suburban Mrs. and is mother to willowy Paige and rebellious Brooke. Well, rebellious in that Brookie doesn’t really care if she wins a first place trophy and thinks she’d really rather try competitive cheerleading. Despite Mom also showing off  childhood cheering photos, she reacts a little something like the girl just announced she’d like to leave school and try long-haul trucking.

Blonde booze fan Christi — with her smiley girl Chloe — confides that she pays Abby Lee $16,000 a year to teach her daughter to dance and, hence, “I find myself sometimes putting dance before school.”  With Kelly in tow, she also puts a trip to the hotel bar before gluing rick-rack and jewels to the dancers’ homemade, cone-shaped hats just minutes before a competition. Abby hunts them down, but  saves her wrath for a more scathing moment.

Tastefully dressed overachiever Holly is the most civilized and rational of the group, but even she says she refuses to let Ms. Miller treat her and dancing daughter Nia like doormats and is determined to see Nia achieve the status of a featured dancer.

Then there’s Easter/bunny/carrot (“because they go so well with bunnies”)-loving Cathy who believes these things: a) that “pink is a way of life” and b) if her 6 year-old daughter Vivi ever comes to her and says she’d rather play softball than dance, Cathy’ll probably slit her wrists.

Her words, not mine.

Cathy is also the owner of Candy Apple’s Dance Center, and though she believes the time has come for her “to be the mother and let someone else be the teacher” where Viv is concerned, you can tell instantly that she’d be perfectly content being the teacher to Abby Lee. Who cottons to that idea like Cathy might to a heaping bowl of bunny stew.

We also get what I truly hope is our first and last glimpse at a mother known as Minister Dawn, who — all evidence to the contrary — actually is a minister and, thus, unleashes a holy fit, including a few choice quotes from Jesus, unto Abby Lee when her daughter Reagan is not allowed to dance for showing up in incorrect attire. Encouraging the cameras to follow along, Minister Dawn preaches — loudly — to her daughter’s teacher on what seems like a tour of the entire building, until Miller is forced to borrow a student’s cell (which the kid seems to magically pull out of her leotard) and call the cops.

Though the children in Dance Moms are older, it’s easy to feel as badly for them as I do for TLC’s tiara-chasing toddlers whose mothers spend their college money parading them across stage after stage looking like 30-year-old makeup counter ladies from the neck up and  gift-store baby dolls from the neck down, all for the sake of being able to call their preschoolers “Beauty Queens” and fill china cabinets with trophies bigger than their twerps. The Dancing kids clearly enjoy the actual art of dancing and chummily refuse to to see one another as the rivals their parents do — but they don’t have an ally in the joint when they’re having the sort of kid moments preteens will have under excruciating pressure.

As for the mothers (and even Miller. herself), these ladies have clearly seen a reality show or two or ten and know how to craft themselves into camera-worthy characters. They’re The Real Housewives of Dance Class. Which, to me, is the series’ biggest problem. They’ve already claimed their individual roles and, thus, seem like characters, not moms with their girls’ best interests at heart, and their arguments are vicious to the scripty/stagy point of being disingenuine. Begging the casting question “Which came first? The mothers or the girls?”

And we know perfectly well that Abby Lee Miller is collecting a pretty penny from these women, and the publicity of a reality show for her business is golden — but does she truly take this much lip from these women? And feel that comfortable dressing them down as well?

I dunno. Like I said — not a dance mom, capitalized, italicized, televised or otherwise. But if I was, I sure wouldn’t be one like these.

Which, I guess, is probably the point.

Photos: Lifetime


  1. I know how everybody says they would never want to be treated the way Abby is treating the children and moms, but it is actually fake. In a reality TV show a problem might occur where the director will actually take scene after scene telling the “Actors” on the TV show to make it better. SOOOOO some of the stuff that you see on TV (like most of it) is FAKE!

  2. @Curious Starquest will disqualify any routine that doesn’t meet their family values standard with regards to music,costumes and dance routine ,they all knew this.if there wasn’t any drama nobody would tune in ,right? as far as the costume no,i wouldn’t.the dance for that age was too racy.but there are was for students to dance that way without it being over the top.dance is an art ,plenty of provactive dance on broadway but it’s how it’s staged with the dancers is what can make it look dirty.

  3. I just have a quick question for any dance mom. I am watching the second episode where they are doing the “Electricity” routine and i was wondering would you allow your daughter to wear a costume like that? Im not trying to suggest anything or insult anyone im just curious to know your opinion. Personally if i had a daughter i dont think i would allow her to wear that but thats just me. It just seemed too much.

  4. i was @ Mohegan Sun for StarPower Nationals when this was filmed,what a circus!. my dtr has been competing since she was 6 ,she’s 13 now, and we run into studios/moms like this…rude,obnoxious,my kid is better than yours attitude.let me tell you these little girls looked beaten down when the camera was not on but click and on with the lights and they were in full on star mode.i also feel it wasn’t fair to the other studios competing,like they new who was going to win all along.also the alcohol consumption was indeed noticed by several of us “real dance moms”they had the filming staff fetching them cocktails during awards ceremonies

  5. Does this reflect the values of Dance Master’s of America?
    Is Abby Lee Miller’s studio and antics really what DMA wants to reflect? There are crazy dance moms and inappropriate crazy studio owners–they should not be celebrated and rewarded.

    Perhaps Miller has gone too far and parents have woken up and her “business” isn’t what it used to be so she has moved onto Reality TV for the big bucks. Her kids aren’t all that –her training isn’t all that either. They are “legends” in there own minds!

  6. dear Jesse & Taylor. Maybe “we”didn’t know what was going on at your studio, but the whole world will after tonight, right?. “We” are not the ones who’s studio decided to make the rest of the dance competetive world out to be a bunch of psyco’s & crazies. Your studio did that, with Abbie Lee at the elm. Don’t blame “us” for being judgemental when its your studio putting it out there. After Toddlers and tiarra’s, what teacher or studio owner in their right mind would allow a tv show to be launched knowing it was going to trash competitive dance.This studio is a member of Dance Masters of America. Their membership should be withdrawn for unbecoming conduct.

  7. @Lookinthemirror what are you talking about? This studio is not located in an economically depressed area. It’s your standard middle class suburb. I live in the neighboring town and have for my entire life. Many of the students also come from another neighboring town that is actually very upper class. Not sure what the basis is for your comment or what it has to do with anything. The students here are from all walks of life and the tuition is in the ballpark of $16K per year, so these people can afford it obviously. A little put-off by your comments.

  8. This studio is located in an economically depressed area which, unfortunately, says something about the type of mother that would act like you see on this show.
    I wouldn’t think that these mothers could understand the very small odds of their son/daughter making it ” big time” as a professional dancer – most end up on cruise ships or taking their tops off in Vegas.
    That said, this teacher has some choreography talent and there is good dance education to be found. The parents need to use the studio for this purpose and understand that this particular teacher is not someone you would invite to your child’s college graduation.

  9. After seeing the commercial preview, I instantly recognized Ms. Abby. I saw her and her dancers at several competitions through my years of dancing and now teaching dance. Ms. Abby is a tough cookie, but highly respected by those who know her through a more professional basis. I teach young children and have stage moms who are crazy and some that do not care. I have a son and I consider myself a pretty crazy sports mom. Only because I want my son to be the best will I push and hire the best coaches, go to the best schools and have the best equipment. The same thing with stage moms. I am not a stern dance teacher by any means, I am quite the push over, but my kids love me and that means more than any gold medal or overall high score won… However, the woman does something right, so look at her credentials and winning students before judging her, please?

  10. ahhh…the world of dance….what to say…..We have been involved in competitive dance for 2 years. We fought doing it (especially my husband) but it is what my daughter loved.

    Having said that I must say I was amazed and startled at our first competition. Amazed at the talent and startled by the competitive moms which breed catty girls. I have not seen the show but am certain there are aspects that are true. It is not just one studio with crazy moms.

    We switched studios after the first year to get away from crazy and guess what? Crazy again (although a bit less and definately more bearable….no one has taken part of a costume off my daughter yet!). I think it is just like any other competitive sport there will always be crazy parents. The only unique thing about competitive dance is that it is so female dominated and on a bad hormone day (and let’s face it the whole studio likely ‘cycles’ together!!) it can be truely explosive.

    The key thing is to stay grounded and think about what is important for your family/daughter. It is very easy to get caught up in it all. We always try to decide how much we are willing to do and stick to it regardless of pressure.

    My daughter still loves to dance!! And I love watching her!

  11. I have been in the competitive dance world for many years and to all those up in arms saying this is going to show the worst, give me a break! At every competition and convention we’ve gone to there are studios just like this with rude, hateful students; rude, hateful mothers who think they are so much better than everyone else, and rude, hateful teachers and studio owners.

    Everyone is just ticked off because FINALLY someone is shedding light on something besides the horror of kiddie pageants. There are just as many whackos in dance as there are in sports and pageants. There is always one who takes it too far and is obsessed with it and that is what you are about to see.

  12. Having been a past “Dance Mom”, I can tell you that most dance mothers choose to support a venue that give our kids a sense of sense worth as well as a place to strive to be the best they could be. Abby Miller is a whore in the worst sense, in that she pimps her students to boost her own ego. My girls were good at dance and we used competition as an opportunity to boost their own self esteem. Most dance parents do the same. This woman uses dance as a way to boost her own ego at the expense of the children to whom she has supposedly become an advocate.

  13. I danced for Abby for 12 years…I have to be honest, if I would have seen this preview without any first-hand knowledge of this studio, teacher, and mothers, I too would think this is all staged. Um, no. To put some questions to rest – yes, Abby is every bit as abusive as she appears (possibly worse). The mothers (at least back in my day, which was 20 years ago) were even more competitive and crazy, just a LOT less mascara.

    I hope that this show doesn’t give the world of competitive dance a bad name, because I KNOW this is not how it is with every studio…..although, I beg you to find another studio as successful as this one. I don’t condone her behavior and to this day I don’t know why I subjected myself to something I dreaded 4 hours a day, 3-4 times a week, for 12 years….but she is an amazing choreographer, demands perfection, and produces professional dancers, end of story. You want it, you got it. If your kid has an even an ounce of talent, she will give them opportunities like no other, just be prepared for a lot of tears, emotional distress, and an eating disorder or two on the road to stardom.

    So, from someone who does know first hand, this is one of the first reality shows I actually see as being real – I mean THIS PARTICULAR STUDIO, though. This is not the world of competitive dance.

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About Lori Acken 1195 Articles
Lori just hasn't been the same since "thirtysomething" and "Northern Exposure" went off the air.