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 was also at the Starpower Nationals where this show was filmed. I am a former competitive dancer and this was my daughter’s first year. Yes, the regular dance moms are wearing jeans,T-shirts and flip-flops! We are truly concerned with making sure our children have the best experience at competition, winning a trophy or medal is just a bonus.
    When the film crew wasn’t running into people they were blocking our view of the stage. What a circus! I really hope they do not cast the shadow on the dance world they have put on the pageant world.

  2. I’m disappointed in Lifetime for picking this show up. Lifetime is supposed to be ‘for’ women. This should be on a channel that is just for crap TV. I’m not only NOT watching this show that is abusive to kids, I’m asking my cable company if they can remove Lifetime from my subscription.

  3. All of these moms should be ashamed of themselves, Pittsburgh and the east suburbs will probably hate all of you after this is seen!! And to the brown bobbed Melissa maybe you should keep out of married mens lives or you wouldn’t be divorced, blame dance all you want, cheater!!

  4. I saw first hand how horrible all of the women and children on this show really are. Sure the camera highlights the negative because that is what the viewing audience wants to see, but these women are truly disgusting creatures who behave as if they where their Childs sibling rather than parent. I really did not want my child anywhere near those people when the cameras where on. The fact that someone was pointing a csmera at them added that little spark they needed to explode into a scubas bitch.

  5. My daughters danced at this studio for 2 years and what you see is the toned down version of Abby Lee! She’s much worse when the cameras turn off.

  6. As a professional actor/dancer/model/choreographer/teacher for over 25 years I am grateful to all of my wonderful encouraging talented teachers. I agree with the Dance Moms; the dance world, even the competitive dance world is just not like what is being depicted in this show. Reality TV needs to be over the top in order to get viewership. Everyone knows this by now. A teacher who calls a student names as Abbey did needs their Mom to stand up for them and that is exactly what The Minister Dance Mom did. Abbey has a reputation for bullying her students. Whether you are a minister or not, a mother will always protect her children. It seems to me, the whole scene was a set up in order to get drama.
    I will say, in order to become a professional performer you absolutely do not need an an abusive teacher in your life. The best teachers are loving, kind, patient, tough and encouraging. All they ask of their students is to be disciplined and work hard.
    A dancers life is tough; stay strong gals and always go for your dreams!

  7. I think you are highlighting a select few moms, my daughter is now 13 and has been competing for many years, never have I seen anything like this.

  8. How embarrasing for these women. You have to ask yourself if they have any real intelligence or wisdom concerning life and what is important for their children. It is clear after watching them parade around so ridiculously that they have NO IDEA(and they need to take a few acting classes as well). To put yourself and your child in this type of NEGATIVE light for a “moment” of fame has to be one of the most shameful and embarrasing things a mother could do. What is even more sad is their kids are actually talented. But this will end anyone ever taking them serioulsy AT ALL as far as their career goes. Who the hell would want to work with them OR their daughters!!?? Way to go moms!
    My daughter was a competitive dancer for 16 years and has gone on to major in dance in college. Dance was/is her passion and her life and has kept her focused and grounded. No amount of money or promise made by a hollywood producer could ever convince me to be a part of a project that sheds such a negative light and distortional view of a dancers life like this. Shame on them….and you can bet I WONT be tuning in.

  9. This is jesse and taylor ( two students of abby lee) these are people that we love, and no one knows what goes on at our studio,so stop acting like you do………..we know youll be watching… 😉 its a tv show chill out, be the adults you claim to be,……. Go Abby Lee!!!

  10. I’d be stupid to pay that wicked witch of the west 16K I’d get a book on dance moves before I send one of my nieces to that evil place.

  11. I was there when they were at StarPower Nationals at Mohegan Sun. I actually remember Chloe’s lyrical solo-she is one talented girl, but I never thought her parents would be paying $16,000! I also saw many more of their solos, and also got run over by their camera crew. They are amazing dancers, but the fights were planned, and everything was staged. This is so far from reality-if you walk around the dance competitions, the average dance mom-who may be crazy-is wearing normal clothes and is not perfectly made up. They probably won’t emphasize how hard it is to win. With that said, I am looking foward to seeing the show.

  12. Iv’e seen previews of this yesterday evening, and Iv’e been more angrier than a fire breathing dragon, good thing this dance owner lives in in PIttsburgh and thank goodness I’m a male and not in her studio, she would not want to tangle with me, to me shes Satan’s female henchman!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. to answer your question “does she truly take this much lip from these women? And feel that comfortable dressing them down as well?” Yes and Yes

    My daughter went to this school and I can tell you that just from the bit I have seen in the trailer, its not so far fetched. She does say crazy things like that and the moms are just as crazy.

    She does produce stars though, many of her students have gone on to broadway, Disney, and Vegas. The moms want their girls to go there so they take the crap she dishes out.

    My daughter and I still joke to this day when we go to a show and see a girl with a fly away hair or a headpiece that falls off and comment to each other “Abby would DIE if she saw that!”

  14. I have been a dancer for sixteen years, I have seen everything and everything. I have been to many competitions with this studio, this show will be nothing but a joke and ANYTHING but REALITY. It is a disgrace to the dance world and anyone who participates in it should be downright ashamed of themselves. This is RIDICULOUS… Get real, Abby Lee isn’t the only person that can develop a great dancer. In fact, there are many studios out there that are in my opinion just as good if not better than Abby Lee!!! Absolutely unbelievable. So many more things I would love to say but I am a classy woman…. Anyone participating in this show including Abby should be absolutely ashamed… Look at what a great example she’s creating for these kids!!!!!! There is so much more to the dance world… Love, friendship, families… Much more. Yes you hit bumps in the road once in awhile but absolutely nothing like what this show will represent.. Unbelievable…

  15. So Far From Reality. We were at the national competition this past week where this show was filming. The moms were dressed up, made up, and bejeweled to their teeth unlike the rest of the 99.9% of us moms, in our shorts, sweats, jeans & sandals. And they changed clothes more often than their girls changed costumes! It was also interesting that their superstar dancers were dancing in the lower-level of the competition, for less experienced, less able dancers. The little girls were not especially friendly to dancers from other studios and were sometimes downright rude……

  16. I do not feel sorry for the reputation these “crazy” moms are going to obtain from agreeing to take part in this show! They signed up for this, and if they have seen their fair share of reality shows they knew they were going to be exploiting their children and personal lives!

    It may be a false indication of who these ladies and kids are but clearly they didn’t care about that and chose to subject their children to nation wide ridicule! This is a terrible representation of the “competitive dance” world, and in my opinion…parenting! I feel sorry for these beautiful, talented young dancers!

  17. Sad. I am a dance mom of 18 plus years. I have seen and experienced these types of moms and teachers. I would NEVER let anyone treat me or my children this way. There are so many more things in life, that are so much more important! First thing< What does the child want", Its not about you MOMS, its about the children….And happiness is success! Wake up before your children resent you for the rest of your life for not letting them spread their wings in the directions they would like!!

  18. This particular dance teacher is extremely abusive towards children and their parents.Children need to learn to share, cheer each other, be a good sports and be a good friend. This teacher teaches none of them. The mothers are being sucked into forcing their children to become a vicious creature rather than a loving individuals. In a grand scheme of things, winning a national title / competition is not that important but being a kind and caring human being who can enjoy life / art is.

  19. the mothers are ugly horrible people… what a joke to take something that REAL people are sooo passionate about and put a horrible spin on it is ridiculous. i feel sorry for the men that feel like they have to put up with these witches… cause they r nasty human beings that dont deserve happiness. if you were there than you know that they are nothing more than fake people hiding behind their gucci bags, and fancy shoes n clothes… i am a dance mom of one girl, but i feel as if the whole team belongs to me, we all are a great team and no make up or fancy material is ever needed to prove how beautiful any of us are. if you were to pass any of us on the street you would know that.. who has time for all that glamor crap? especially if we are doing RIGHT by our children by giving them lots of love and life…. good luck to the snobs and snootys of that dance place i wish you no harm however i do not wish you any luck in your future as far as dancing goes….

  20. I actually attended a competition where this circus was being filmed. As a dance mom to two girls as well as a dance teacher, I was utterly appalled at the ridiculous and shameful spin this show will place on the competitive dance industry. Blindsided and somewhat in awe at first, it didn’t take long to see the farce this show will represent. The over-made up moms, with their staged dressing rooms, and over dramatic daughters made me sick. The film crew shoving cameras in our faces, asking us to sign releases to have children featured on the show in who knows what manner caused serious backlash. That wasn’t what our team was there for… We didn’t come to have a joke made of dance. We came to support our children in doing what they love to do…dance. As moms we wear sweatshirts, jeans and sneakers…most of the time no make-up…its hard but rewarding work. We are a family…every child is like our own.
    Mostly I feel sorry for the daughters of those women. They were exactly as you described..the Real Housewives of Dance. They were more focused on themselves. Fighting with each other, bragging to one another…it was sick. I hope they see how ridiculous and selfish they look and are being. I hope they realize they are being horrible mothers.

Comments are closed.

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