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.
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.
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.