Dance Moms recap: Studio Black and Blue

Lori Acken

I don’t even know what to say about this episode, Dance Moms faithful. I don’t even know how to try to fish out something good. I do know there’s a boatload of us trying hard to tell ourselves that the show’s worst moments are scripted and everyone does a big ol’ group hug at the end of the day and laughs about the ruse.

But these girls are not actresses. And their tears and their stressed-out faces are so horribly, clearly real. And on full display in each and every episode this season with precious little to diffuse that.

I want to continue to write about Dance Moms to support the little dancers. I do not want to support what is beginning to feel seriously abusive. Children being asked to choose dance over education. The ambition of adults over the feelings of their friends. A teacher who berates them (in a fashion not easily understood by adults, much less children their age) over the wishes and instruction of their parents.

A teacher who trumps a little girl’s tears with crocodile tears of her own.

Maybe I’m taking all of this too seriously. But it’s awfully hard not to. I miss the show being even an eeny, teeny bit about dance. But since I watched it, here is what I saw.

We start out by learning that last week’s Sugar and Spice duet got second after all. And we all know what second is. Dance Troupe Challenge does not post results on its website [UPDATE: yes, it does. Thanks, DM!], so I can’t confirm the authenticity of any of this, but it certainly seems a tad odd.

Either way, Maddie and Kendall are apparently at fault for the judges’ bad math and their teacher’s bad instruction — and Abby’s first in line to let them know that. Kendall tears up, which causes Chloe to sneak over to give her a squeeze and a whispered encouragement in her ear.

Apparently reading my mind, Abby gets to explaining away the bad instruction part. They shouldn’t need her to point out everything that is wrong. They should see it. So their mothers should actually be cutting the checks for dance instruction to the girls? Good to know.

In an aside, Abby says she’s not going to waste her time on mediocre dancers. She wants to worry about the kid who wants to be a star. Or more aptly, the kid that someone else made a star who is off being a star instead of in Pittsburgh, being an Abby Lee Dancer. Which would get everyone else here admonished. See also, Maddie’s trip to Atlanta to film Drop Dead Diva not so long ago.

Pyramid time.

Bottom of the bottom is Kendall. Apparently news of the disgraced duet wasn’t as shocking to Abby as we’ve been led to believe, because it’s reflected in the pyramid, even though Abby ostensibly came into the studio fresh from receiving it.

I am sure of it after we see that Maddie is next. “All for one; one for all,” Abby tells her. Since when? If Sophia is represented here, I’m going to choke. Hard.

Next is Nia. The feet aren’t getting any better.

Row two begins with Paige for placing in the Top 5 — an accomplishment for her.

Then Chloe. Abby says she stood out in the group dance, but the group dance wasn’t stellar. And that’s apparently the fault of  Christi’s failure to be honest with her, the kid Abby just admitted stood out in a dance whose choreography Christi had zip to do with.  I don’t even believe this feeble stab at buck-passing makes any sense to Abby.

Top of the top is our little Bust-a-Head Baby, Mackie. Which earns her a solo AND her spot in the group dance. And not just any spot. A featured spot. Here’s one good thing about this episode.

We’re heading to another in10sity Dance competition — this week in Woodbridge, Va. A pair of the scabs — Kaeli and Bella — will be there, too, representing their formidable studio Studio Bleu. In10sity does post their results, but after I could find no sign of Woodbridge, anywhere, I hit up Google and found this. Make of it what you will.

To further Chloe’s punishment, Abby says the group dance will be acrobatic and start with her doing a standing back tuck, because her mother said once upon a time that she could do one. Or was getting there. Apparently Abby has done this just to call Christi out as a liar. And to deny Chloe a solo. At least she will be spared a broken neck, so there’s that.

The group routine will be called Arabian Nights. Abby says it has it all, including authentic belly-dancing hands. Kelly says that could be trouble for noodle-arms Paige, in addition to no-back-tuck Chloe.

Up in the Mom Loft, Jill is doing what Jill does best and riling up Melissa. Mrs. Vertes wants to know if Mrs. Gisoni thinks Mackie’s sudden spotlight is upsetting to Maddie. Melissa says it causes Maddie stress, more so than jealousy. Dr. Holly chides that Melissa needs to get herself a dose of Christi’s spunk and call the bully teacher out. Melissa says she’ll talk to Abby after class. She does. Actually she doesn’t talk. She stands, blinking and sputtering, in the hurricane that is Abby’s indignation. No solo for Maddie, who cries with frustration as she walks to the car.

To make sure everyone is up to snuff in the Arabian Night, Abby schedules an extra acro practice. Abby reduces Chloe to tears. Upstairs, Melissa cries, as well. Then Mackenzie dings her arm and whimpers, too. A fine day at the ALDC.

With one day left to practice, Chloe gets her solo back. Abby tells her that if her mother hadn’t been so mouthy, they could have practiced it to perfection over many, many days. Not hardly. That solo would likely have gone to Maddie if Melissa would have stayed silent up in the loft. This is just another occasion for Chloe to fall victim to Abby’s vindictiveness.


Chloe’s dance will be called Hunted. Or maybe Haunted. Abby’s diction is not what it could be today. In either case, it seems appropriate for poor Chloe. Abby says it will be scary and dark — thus the girl should think of her mother for inspiration. After a little of this and a little of that, Abby demands perfection of Chloe at tomorrow’s competition, then promptly leaves her practice to seek out Maddie

In what could be a new low point for the show, after reducing Maddie to tears by again denying her request for a solo someday soon, then telling the little girl that she betrayed Abby’s love by obeying her own parents, Abby attempts some sobbing of her own.

Here is what Maddie looks like in the exchange.

Here is the unloved Abby.

Any questions?

Come competition day, Mackenzie looks nervous and Melissa says it’s because she’s competing with 8- and 9-year-olds, even though her solo is announced as 8 and under. In either case, the kid is clearly feeling the pressure of her newly big-girl roles. She gets off to a strong start on her solo, blanks a little in the middle and improvises the end. Because we linger longest on her weakest moment, it’s hard to tell how much that impacted the overall impression of the dance, but I’m guessing it’s not good. Backstage Mackenzie rightly still gives herself a passing grade, but Abby begs to differ.

Then it’s Chloe’s turn. While we walk her to the stage, we encounter the girls of Studio Bleu and their moms. Abby greets them enthusiastically then asks the girls to tell her dancers how old they are. Given that they’re well past the age of holding up their fingers to proudly declare themselves This Many, it seems like a pretty weird question. Or maybe not.

Bella pipes up first.

Abby cocks her head. Wasn’t Bella ten just a few weeks back?

Oh. Recent birthday, shrugs Marcia. Children dance in all different age groups. You know how it is.

Bella doesn’t, though.

Sure. If you’re, you know, twelve. When the Pitt Crew calls this oddness out, Kaeli’s mom Gloria accuses them of picking on the kids. Oh honey. When this group is picking on your kids, you will surely know it.

Whatever division this is, 10-11-12-year old Bella goes first. Abby says she wasn’t as good as Abby thought she would be. Chloe just might have a shot.

Next is Kaeli, who has wisely remained mum about her age and everything else. This is a lovely dancer. Her muscles are beautiful. Her lines and expressions even more so. Her turns are splendid. And her elegant, expressive choreography maximizes all of it. Reminds me of back in the day when Chloe and Maddie were allowed to be lovely, elegant dancers, too.

I think Abby has I-didn’t-buy-ers remorse.

Chloe’s turn. Please do well, Chloe. Please.

Meh. The choreography looks like slap-dash and the babushka Chloe wears on her head is distracting and seems left over from last week’s immigration dance. Even Christi says her girl didn’t seem connected to the piece. Who can blame her? There wasn’t too much with which to connect — and Christ is honest about that with Abby. Because we all know Abby values honesty.

Wait. No, she doesn’t. She flips. Says Christi  and Melissa spoiled their children’s promising futures because of their allegiance to the Hylands. Melissa tells Abby she’s made mistakes, too, which causes Abby to go off on her in an intensely personal fashion that isn’t worth repeating. Whatever the contracts are that keep these women here, they must be some serious doozies.

Abby torms out of the room, leaving Christi to step in and run the group dance. For once, that ends like this. Another good thing in this episode.

Studio Bleu goes first. The dance is called Autumn Leaves, but the music is about a crying little fish. Either way, it’s pretty and moving and performed very well.


Abby recognizes that her group is in trouble. Not for lack of effort on their part. From what I see, they are perfectly in sync, everyone’s acro is up to snuff and they do the best they can with what they’ve been given to work with.


Awards time. Given that they were the headliners at this thing, it doesn’t go too well.

Mac gets third in her division.
Bella gets fourth, Chloe gets second [Thanks, Dani!] and Kaeli gets a well-deserved first in theirs.
Group gets fourth. Holly says she can’t remember the last time that happened and neither can I. Studio Bleu gets first.

Abby says she was humbled by the experience. So the silver lining is that we learned the wonderful lesson that we have to build each other up and work together if we’re going to return to our former glory, right? No. Just … no.

Next week: Cathy begins assembling her all-male team, Christi brings a four-legged friend to the studio, and Jill is immigrating home.

So what say you, Dance Moms faithful? What brings you back each week? Do you still have hope that the Pitt Crew will be allowed to return to its winning ways — or do you fear that they’re now the cast of a television show more than a competitive dance squad? Do I worry way, way too much? Sound off in the comments section below.

New episodes of Dance Moms air Tuesday at 9/8CT on Lifetime.


  1. The main part that I attempt to watch is always the beautiful girls dancing. My daughter was an excellent dancer and performed on the stage numerous times. She danced with the best dance companies in California. She was treated beautifully and was corrected definitely when she made errors but never ever the way Abby treats her dancers. I would never had exposed an individual like Abby to my daughter. She absolutely loved dancing until sadly the day she passed away. It was her number one love in her life.
    And I miss seeing her dance with her complete heart and soul. I agree with these other individual comments – one I would not hesitate to get my child into another studio and definitely not Cathys; two these poor girls will have Abby’s degrading comments haunt them for the rest of their lives; three Abby should be reported as child abuse (if she loves children like she sometimes states she wants their best, I cannot believe it. She has a problem and I would not doubt that she needs psych care for her obvious attitude and problems that definitely haunt her. Otherwise, hopefully she would not treat the children or the mothers that way she does. Plus, Abby is getting paid to abuse these young children – she should pay them for the abuse if they want it. I would never accept it. Also, Chloe take the scholarship and be taught by teachers who really really know what they are doing. I can see in your eyes and actions your true love of dancing and I pray it will not be never be taken away from you from Abby.

  2. My husband I started watching Dance Moms because we enjoyed seeing these very talented girls dance. Even when they are competing aganst each other, they are friends and stick together. It is terrible to see Abby take out her anger and frustration on these young girls – it is beyond providing correction and discipline, the words she uses are aimed at the heart and they hit their mark. I don’t know if it is worse to watch Abby heap on the abuse or watch the Moms let it happen and know they pay to bring their kids to it every day. These are incredibly talented beautiful girls and I pray they will keep their passion for dance.

  3. I did ballet for 17 years with professional clubs and choreographers who have more credit to their names than Abby. Never once have I ever seen anyone in that industry treat anyone – child or adult – so badly. There’s no denying the talent at ALDC, imagine if it was in a positive environment! I’m not talking koombahya style, just respect. My teachers used to respect us kids who held down school, grades and more hours in the studio than should legally be allowed and it was mutual and it made us WANT to put in the hard yards!

  4. I’m missing the days where the big drama came from inappropriate costumes and Cathy’s hilarious insanity. Abby’s horrible on a completely different level if she thinks that turning what’s supposed to be a fun after school activity into abusive torture is the only way to “succeed” or make it in the business. The sad part is that it’s only going to get worse as the girls get older and have higher expectations from Abby. The choreography for “Arabian Nights” was not worthy of first place, even I know that.
    I’m actually excited to see that Ohio sign next week. I used to groan at Cathy’s annoying voice, but the show could use some comic relief. Hopefully Abby won’t use the all-boys team as an excuse to scream at the girls if they lose to them. The tears they cry come from anxiety that little girls, or anyone for that matter, should not be feeling on a daily basis. You know this show’s taking a terrible turn when Lori Acken, of all people, loses her snarky humour. I’m giving this show one more chance, but if next week’s episode has more screaming about very personal things completely unrelated to dance, I’m done.

  5. I watched Dance Moms for the first time in March 2012. The very first episode I watched was the one where they were in Florida for the Dance Explosions competition. Watching the girls dance with the umbrellas and little hairpieces, smiling and laughing in the ocean with Abby, and seeing the original trio for the first time is what drew me in. The girls auditioning for a music video, performing a dance with girls from the Senior ALDC company, and dancing for Joffrey scouts were some of my highlights from episodes past. Up until a couple of episodes ago, my reaction to the drama between Abby and the moms was that it had seriously been staged; I honestly can’t tell anymore. It seems as if Abby is a lot more involved in the mama drama this season, and is willing to hurt the poor dancers feelings in attempts to ultimately attack the moms. I guess i’m just disappointed in Abby. When I met her in Toronto in November, she seemed so professional, and really knew what she was talking about. She gave advice to dancers, dance parents, and prospective new dance studio owners. The Abby i’m seeing on TV nowadays is not the Abby Lee Miller I met 3 months ago. What brings me back is my hope that things will change back to how they used to be- more dancing, mild mama drama, and lots of wins. The girls, moms, and Abby have to work cohesively as one big team in order to pull off a win. Abby’s current unpredictability is not helping the dancers, and the pressure she has been putting on them is doing nothing other then stressing them out. Maybe by meeting Sophia, Kaeli and Bella Abby has come to the realization that there are better dance studios then hers out there. Perhaps she’s trying to step up her game, and doesn’t know how to do it other then by pushing the moms and daughters to their absolute limits. TV really does something to people. Notice how when the girls enter dance competitions this season, they get standing ovations as they walk to their dressing rooms. Abby seems to think it’s their winning streak, but as viewers we all know it’s because of Dance Moms. No offense to them, but if Dance Moms hadn’t started I doubt they’d be getting the reaction they get now when they simply enter a competition. Abby wants the girls to be famous for their dancing and skills, not because of their moms and a TV show (which Abby Lee herself started). Abby needs to finish what she created. She either needs to be committed to these girls, and if she’s not, they shouldn’t have to be committed to working with her. Yes, they did ditch Abby to stand up for the Hylands. But now they’re ALL back, and all vying for Abby’s attention. Maddie by far has the best relationship with Abby, and the fact that Abby threw her in the gutter last night by pushing her aside and denying her the chance to make up for her mistakes definitely shows how much this season differs from the last two. I agree Lori- it is becoming abusive. I am worried too. I honestly don’t know what is and isn’t real anymore. I love the girls, love the moms, and I do respect Abby as a dance instructor. But Abby isn’t acting like a dance teacher- she’s almost acting as if she’s the girls’ mother. Making up for the fact that she doesn’t have children and her beloved dog passed away not too long ago… Abby tells the girls to save their tears for their pillow and then cries. Practice what you preach, Abby! Here’s hoping and praying to a calmer season ahead!

  6. Last night was the first time I considered turning this show off for good. It was extremely disturbing to watch these innocent children being emotionally abused by Abby. What distresses me even more is their parents who are ALLOWING it! The psychological distress these children repeatedly endure is heartbreaking. Maybe the network will pay attention when the viewers stop watching. Good bye Dance Moms!

  7. I seems to me that, since this is the last season and their contracts will be done, I think they are looking for ways to start a new show with new kids. Suddenly studio blu is in the picture. I am guessing this is what is happening. At any rate, your opinions are spot on. I don’t think this studio will ever be able to go back to the way it was. Miller has crushed all the kids, broken everyone’s trust, too much name calling and insults, tearing down the kids,,, it cannot be repaired. Lifetime had a good thing and now they are destroyng it. I HOPE ALDC closes down for lack of more kids to abuse, and our loved children and moms go to a real studio. Miller suddenly “forgot” that each of these children have a specialty and not all do acro. And trying to turn little Mackensie ino Maddie was wrong. That place needs to be shut down.

  8. Great recap! This was a particularly brutal episode to watch. I have 3 kids myself, and as a mom I can’t see how they do this to their kids. Especially Melissa. Abby seems strangely obsessed with Maddie in an almost creepy way. I don’t know if she wants to adopt her, or to become her, but either way it’s odd. Telling her she should have defied her mother and making her feel guilty for not doing so.. Who says that? She’s 10! Anyway, if some crazy woman was in there talking to my baby and manipulating them by making them feel as if she did something wrong (by not leaving the car to run into the dance studio) I would have gone in there, taken my kid away from that, probably would look into some therapy for the damage that had already been done, then go somewhere else. I’m sure with the emotional abuse that is televised they could get out of this contract if they really wanted to. I don’t think they want to! They should think first about their kids, in my opinion, and not the money and fame. It’s only temporary (money and fame for them). Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox. I really, really adore these girls, which makes it even that more difficult to watch.

    I’m not a fan of Jill at all, but I did agree with her when she told Melissa that she needed to not worry about Maddie’s make-up and take care of her and not let Abby speak to her that way. For me to side with Jill is a miracle, because I can’t really stand her, but she was right about that. Melissa needs to think first of her children- not Abby, not fame, not money, not her boyfriend, but her kids (and not only Maddie, but Mackenzie too). Okay, enough already. sorry!

    Lastly, Chloe placed 2nd, not 3rd. She was 1st runner-up, and showed she was 2nd, which I thought was great! Kaeli was awesome and I would have been proud to come 2nd to her..

  9. I was sickened by last night’s show. Abby was obviously abused in this way as a child and now thinks it is only natural to pass it on to her students. The fact that she still lives with what must have been her very abusive mother is telling. There is absolutely NO excuse for her to treat these girls this way. Poor Chloe. She is so naturally gifted and such a beautiful dancer and Abby is bound and determined to beat her down. I don’t know why the heck her Mom didn’t let her take that Joffrey scholarship (that Maddie didn’t win, if you recall). Oh, I must mention here, that when they re-ran the episode where Chloe won the scholarship, they totally cut out the part where Maddie threw a tantrum that she didn’t win. Now here is Abby, defecating all over her ‘star’ dancer and trying to make Mackie into a Maddie. Didn’t she just say last night, ‘Maddie could do this dance when she was 8″? And I agree with Jill that Melissa shouldn’t be afraid to hurt her kid’s feelings when Abby did such a great job of it. That scene between Abby and Maddie was sickening. That Abby would cry over the ‘betrayal’ of Maddie when it clearly wasn’t Maddie’s fault. I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t allowed to make my own decisions at 11 years old…were you? Of course Abby would say “Yes” because apparently she had no adult supervision and nobody told her what to do from the age of 6 and on. I pray that Sophie doesn’t come back. That her mother has enough sense to know that she doesn’t need Abby Lee for anything, let alone dance training. Sheesh. Now they have to bring Cathy back to try to keep all those people from switching channels. My husband kept hollering at me, “Why are you watching this?? Why doesn’t child protective services step in?” I know why. Cuz the parents willing take the kids there. Child protective services should call out these mothers! I pray that Chloe and Brooke won’t be discouraged from persuing dance. They are two of the most naturally gifted dancers. Maddie has the drive and needs to get a better teacher soon befor her ‘Abby-ism’s’ destroy her from ever being an accomplished dancer. My heart bled for Chloe last night. Abby so set her up, then blamed her for all the failings. Hey ABBY! IT WAS YOUR FAULT FOR NEVER LETTING THEM PRACTICE ENOUGH AND DESTROYING THEIR CONFIDENCE BEFORE ALMOST EVERY SINGLE PERFORMANCE! Then she wonders why none of the dancer’s run up to hug her anymore…cuz she’s turned into a monster. I keep watching to watch these beautiful girls dance, but last night I almost couldn’t wait long enough for them to get to it and then was so sickened by Abby setting them up to fail that it ruined the whole episode. *sigh*

    • I totally agree with you. Abby seems to have “lost it” this year. Why these moms keep allowing their daughters to be abused day after day is sick. Abby Lee Miller is NOT a dance god. When she shows the girls any steps, she reminds me of a water buffalo doing a shuffle. If any of the dance moms read this, PLEASE, get your girl(s) out of that studio! Chloe is, in my opinion, the best dancer with the best shot at having a successful career in dance.She needs to take advantage of her scholarship so she can learn from a true dance teacher! Maddie’s good but, as soon as she’s not #1, she falls apart. It’s not Maddie’s fault either. She’s never been taught how to lose gracefully. All of these girls are damaged in one way or another. Forget dance! Moms, get your daughters away from that crazy woman! Abby will kill their spirits & they’ll stop danceing.

  10. Your recap is spot on with how I felt about this episode. There is NO defending Abby Lee Miller and the damage being done to these girls will last them a lifetime, no network-pun intended. Every time those beautiful and talented girls dance for the rest of their lives, Abby’s voice will be in there telling them they are replaceable losers….I think I’m done with this show.

  11. I asked myself about halfway through last nights episode what I was thinking turning this on… I too miss the days when the show more about life at a dance studio and we got to see more dancing!

    Is this why Dance Moms Miami did so poorly? Because the instructors loved their dancers and taught them to dance? The only drama was with the mama’s (sorta) with a little Myra thrown in and every now and then a blow up from an instructor. Once in a while is normal. Taken out of context happens from time to time. But this show is flat out ridiculous. I want every single one of those girls to find a new place to dance. With someone who truly loves them and respects them and their parents. Please.

  12. My 13 year old attends a professional ballet school, instructed by former professional ballet dancers who are warm, loving and always put my daughter’s needs above everything else. As a result she has grown in to a gifted performer who loves to dance and loves her journey of growing and improving as a dancer.

    Having only seen Dance Moms a few times – and unfortunately this most recent episode – I find everything about this show and Abby Lane’s behavior to be abusive. Seeing these mothers subject their talented daughters to such verbal abuse and constant belittlement to be offensive.

    I do hope that this show is a set-up and the drama to be staged – if not, Lifetime needs to set up an account for these girls to pay for counseling.

  13. Yea, I’m done. What used to be a fun show, watching the girls learn and interact, has become painful to watch. Seriously, No one! No one! would allow anyone to treat their children that way or would talk to each other that way. I pray it is totally scripted, but believe those little girls are NOT acting. Shame on Lifetime, shame on the mothers for putting their own fame and fortune above those children.

  14. I watched the premiere of the season and have only read recaps since then. Those tears aren’t being faked and I just can’t justify watching the show anymore. I read the recaps continuously hoping to be proved wrong.

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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.