Dance Moms episode 26 recap: “How” Does This Happen?

dance moms nia american indian Lori Acken

The Pitt Crew and, of course, its loyal Dance Moms Nation, is on its way to Nationals! dance moms tea and tamiWith only a few weeks left, it’s going to be an uphill battle for our girls to earn themselves spots in that final competition. Last week, one select team member, Ava, was weeded out while Jade earned herself brownie points with Abby by sticking with the Pitt Crew. This week, 9-year-old Tea will compete with the Elite Team to prove her chops.

Things have already gone crazy before pyramid even starts. After a brush in with our previously departed CWAY, Gia is able to convince Abby to put little Sarah back on the team. Sarah is cute as a button and definitely holds her own against the other girls, but her mom Christy is on thin ice with Abby. One weighted word out of her mouth will take mom and daughter out of the running for nationals and possibly out of the ALDC entirely. Er, again.

Pyramid takes a new shape this week, one which Abby calls a “totem pole”. The results are the same. Jade is absent, Nia, Mackenzie, and Kendall take the bottom followed by Tea and then Chloe, who creep by on their winning Select group number. Of course Maddie, the competition’s overall high scorer, takes the top. As Abs gets down to assigning routines, she’s quick to reveal that the 9-and-unders are in a fight to the death this week. Mackenzie, Sarah and Tea will dance solo routines and the two lowest scorers will be “definitively” taken out of the running for nationals.

Tea’s mother reveals that Ava will be at this weekend’s competition, but will now be dancing with her mother’s studio. Abby, of course, takes this as a challenge. Because of the age division (10-12) at the competition, Mackenzie and Tea (both 10) will both be competing against Ava (12), but Abby reminds Maddie (11) to bring a costume along “just in case.”

Then we get the week’s big bomb. This week’s group number, lead by Nia, will be an “ethnic” number (of course it will) which Abby reveals by holding up an offensive caricature of a Native American headdress.

Although I am happy Nia finally gets a chance to shine and the children can’t really be held accountable for the choices of the adults in their lives, nothing can excuse the kind of racist visuals used throughout this episode. Abby, the moms and all of the producers of this show (you, Jeff Collins) should know better. To save time and space, I will never again discuss how culturally appropriative and irresponsible the entire number is, but I strongly encourage you to discuss and tear it apart below in the comments. I hope this is a reminder to always be an active audience and a responsible reader.

As the group rehearsal gets under way, the moms discuss Jeanette’s choice to bring Ava to compete against the ALDC. They are all appalled by how inconsiderate this is and then act like they haven’t been pulling the same shenanigans on one another for the last four years. Even Tea’s mom, who just last week accused Loree of betraying the Select Team by dancing with the Pitt Crew, seems to think she’s done nothing wrong and is entitled to a week of nothing but her daughter’s flawless dancing.

The group rehearsal goes about as well for Nia, as Mom Loft talk went for Jeanette. Abby wants the girls to be Las Vegas Show-y and for Nia to be the team’s Cher. But Nia has always struggled with expressions during dance and having so much attention on her acting doesn’t seem to be improving things. This routine will make or break Nia’s chances at nationals and only time will tell how she handles the pressure.

dance moms nia

The solo routines go moderately better. Sarah’s lyrical number looks good, especially since she’ll be dancing in the younger age category, but she still struggles to get up to Abby’s acting standards. MackZ’s routine is “mature” and full of her tricks and gymnastics, but nothing less than her most ideal category is expected for a relative of Maddie.

Tea’s routine has the moms talking, however. Dancing in the Junior division is no easy thing, and they’re rightfully concerned that Tea’s Broadway piece is not going to be complex and competitive enough to hold its own against eleven- and twelve-year-olds.

Nia still doesn’t manage to impress Abby during the last group rehearsal which leads to a confrontation between Abby and Holly. Holls, ever the diplomat, tries to remain upbeat and encouraging, but nothing can stop the negativity train that is Abby, and Nia’s chance at a national title keeps shrinking.

As the Pitt Crew boards the bus for their Michigan competition, Sarah struggles to let go of her mother. CWAY has been banished far from the other moms to the front of the bus, but Sarah is expected to sit with her teammates. Her solo, entitled On My Own, is clearly a message from Abby about being more independent, but as the youngest girl on the bus, Sarah is hesitant to leave her mother’s side and starts crying under the pressure. Abby snaps and demands not to have any more crybabies on her team. The girls and the other moms encourage Sarah to sit in the back, and she eventually settles down with her teammates.

As the moms prep the dressing room, they discuss the day’s solos. Tea’s mom is more confident of her daughter’s solo now, but even Melissa is uncertain either girls’ solos can compete against a number Ava has probably been dancing all season.

The group number goes on first. It’s a physically demanding piece and the girls handle it well, looking clean and in sync. More importantly, Nia finally locks down her character and her facial expressions are on point the entire dance. Even Abby has to admit she looks moms nia american indian

After the group number, our tiny soloists prepare to dance. Sarah will be in the Petite division and she nails her simple but effective choreography. The musical choice, a clip of a quiet, classical arietta, is also a refreshing change from Abby’s normal off-brand pop and certainly gives her an edge in a less mature division. Tea’s choreography does not have the same advantage. The dance is childish and the song is overdrawn; combined with some technical errors, Tea’s chances at beating out the more mature Ava are seriously lowered. That girl can definitely work a ponytail, though.

Mackenzie’s number is more mature and competitive, but although she delivers on sass, it’s still hard to measure up against a dancer nearly three years her senior and Abby looks nervous.

dance moms ava jeanette cAva takes the stage and, apparently made of nothing but muscle and a rib cage, blows both ALDC routines out of the water and a floundering Abby immediately has Maddie suit up and step in. Maddie does what Maddie does and dances flawlessly on stage, but the moms quickly circle Melissa.

Since Maddie and Ava are clearly going to top the competition, the other moms are understandably concerned that Melissa has just cost Mackenzie and Tea any chances they had at a national title. The question has been brewing for a while now: What will Melissa do when Mackenzie and Maddie can compete against each other? And today the answer has finally been made clear: Maddie’s success comes before everyone else. Even her own sister.

Awards stack up pretty much as expected. Sarah takes the gold in the Petite division and outscores both Tea and Mackenzie. Tea pulls a respectable fifth place (considering her choreography and competition) while Mackenzie takes third, justifying Abby’s backstabbing decision. Ava gets second and Maddie, of course, is the top scorer in Junior and the overall competition. The group number takes first, as expected.

Backstage, everyone waits for the final word on the which young dancer will go to nationals, but even though Sarah had the highest score, Abby still remains unclear on her plans. To be fair, she although she said the lowest scores would be cut “definitively,” she never said the highest score would get a routine either. Nia receives some praise for her performance, but Abby is still unimpressed with how long it took her to get into character. Maybe Maddie will be unexpectedly allowed to dance all the categories and then Abby will finally be happy with the Elite Team.

Based on this week’s performance, who do you think is going to nationals? Was Melissa a total jerkface to let her daughters compete against each other or is a little sibling rivalry healthy? And just “How” do you think the A+E execs let that supposedly “tribal dance” through? Have we all traveled back to 1950s Disney?

New episodes of Dance Moms premiere Tuesdays at 9/8 CT on Lifetime.


  1. I agree with all of the comments about how shockingly thin Ava is. I could not concentrate on her dance because I was so appalled at seeing a living skeleton dance. All I could think of was how well she would fit into a Mexican “Day of the Dead” dance, where people dress up in black costumes with white skeletons painted on them. Ava would not need a costume. Somebody, please get Ava the help she needs!

  2. Seriously? Obviously Maddie was put in to beat AVA not to be actually looked at against her fellow team members in her age group. How was that not plain as day? It was so the TEAM would be number 1, Abby wants WINS FOR THE TEAM! How better to do that than with Maddie? Abbey means business and says time and time again she is there to win and train future pro dancers, that’s exactly what she is doing. The other moms coming at Melissa is WEAK! If they don’t want their kid compared to maddie, get them more training so they’re as good as her don’t take it out in Maddie and her mom. That kid is AMAZING and had natural talent. Haters throw rocks at things that shine, and Maddie is shining! Before you all say it; YES I have kids (4) 2 of which are competitive gymnasts. Yes they compete against each other, and yes I tell them if they want to win work harder than your sibling. Both of my daughter want to go to the Olympics, and they get it’s a HARD world. Americans are turning into a bunch of entitled pansis who thinks everyone gets a turn and every kid deserves a trophy. News flash THATS NOT THE REAL WORLD.

  3. I can’t believe that Maddie got to compete. Shame on Melissa. Let’s fax it Abby and Melissa had this PLANNED! Sarah, Tea, and McKenzie ARE VERY TALENTED DANCERS AND THEY ALL COULD HAVE BEATEN
    AVA! Maddie had NO REASON to have a solo. But I don’t think McKenzie was shocked. I guess she’s used to being second place. And NO child should feel like that. I’m not a mom. I’m 13. But I know that my mom would never compare me to my 2 younger siblings.

    Secondly, Ava is TOO SKINNY! Abby was right for once. Ava’ s arms are enormous. Jeanette instead of worrying about beating Abby, you need to worry about your child. She’s 12 years old. The appropriate weight for 12 year-olds is at least 93 pounds.

  4. Ava is grotesque looking. She is all skin and bones and should not be on a national television show, rather she should be in a treatment facility for anorexia. I cannot believe the producers allow her to be on the show. It is inappropriate and sends the wrong message to young girls all over the country. And her mother who is obviously not getting her help is pathetic. Producers, please take Ava off the show until she gets the psychological help she needs to get better !

    • It’s a bit too late for her she lost basically all her muscle in her arms and you can’t get muscle tissue back once your body takes it to use for energy

    • I completely agree with you.yes, some girls are naturally thin, but Ava is far from “naturally thin.” It is virtually impossible to be this thin unless you a. Have an eating disorder or b. “Have a super tiny appetite and don’t eat much”, I which case I would make her eat more. I dealt with a eating disorder when I ws about her age and I was NEVER that thin, and having her on the show shouldn’t b allowed because it’s very triggering to girls who may have be body image. Ava, please get help if you have a eating disorder, and even if you don’t, PLEASE EAT MORE AND GAIN SOME WEIGHT FOR YOUR HEALTH!

  5. Look on the bright side – at least the dance didn’t feature child cowboys killing all the child indians.

  6. News flash everyone. Its a TV show. Yes the girls dance, yes the moms have drama, amd yes the teacher is a bitch. Thats how life works. The producers just add a little sprinkle of drama here and there to make it more interesting for viewers. Of course Maddie’s solo was planned from the begining. But saying it wasn’t added more drama to the show. Welcome to Hollywood.

    And I actually quite liked the dance. Just because you think it was “racist” doesn’t mean that it was. It was an artist taking a subject and displaying it in a way she saw fit. Its dance. Its art. It may be controversial, but its a story.

    • It was racist. That’s not an opinion, that’s a fact. Obviously the cast and crew of this show are irresponsible, ignorant, and racist, and so are you.
      You have a responsibility to educate yourself, and there are resources freely available. Try starting with

    • It was racist. It’s a fact. There’s an infinite number of non-racist ways to choreograph and design a dance. They should have picked any one of them. I also blame the competition organizers though – if a team puts a group of white kids in blackface up on stage, they’d either be thrown off, assigned a zero score, or would finish last place. They should have done the same.

    • I liked the dance, too. Yes, it was a portrayal of the stereotypes that have been around for a long time, but I believe it was meant to honor the Native American Culture, not to maliciously belittle it or make fun of it. Perhaps this is an opportunity for patience and education, not merely shouting “Racist!”, which will only serve to divide. Let’s build a bridge, instead.

  7. Can we discuss the BS editing. Abby says this week group is up first, followed by solos. Then (as the show progressed) when the girls go back to the dressing room to prep for solos, Maddie was already in hair and makeup for hers before Tia, Sarah and Mackenzie come out in their costumes. Then at awards the Mackenzie and Maddie magically had the face paint back on and were in the group costume? Do the editors/writers think we are all stupid?! Maddie’s solo was planned from the beginning and the group was after the solos.
    On another note, Ava is scary skinny. I’ve never seen a kid who’s ribcage showed that much. You could even see it from the back along with every vertebrae.

  8. Melissa is an absolutely HORRIBLE mother!!! Abby is an evil, vindictive, hateful, spiteful vile human being, but Melissa is those 2 girls’ mother! She can say “No, I’m not allowing this,” but she doesn’t. She makes me sick because she doesn’t protect her girls and look out for BOTH of them the way any decent mother would!

    I agree Debra– where the hell is Kurt? Don’t you care about your daughters? Obviously only Melissa cares about fame. She makes me sick! At least Christi and Kelly love their kids and stick up for them and protect them. Can’t say the same for Melissa that’s for sure!!

  9. I have no idea where Abby figures that Nia doesn’t use her face when she’s featured in a group routine, every single time she’s given the “lead”, she knocks it out of the park. Look at all the times she’s been featured, and even her musical theatre/character solos have been over the top for facials. Sure she’s not as elegant and technical as some of the other girls, but she can carry her own when given the chance.

    • I agree! ALDC is not a KIDDI school for dance. Abby says it each week that she is teaching the kids to become professional dancers. If you know anything about the dance world you know that it is ruthless and requires young people who are well rounded and strong. The choreographers are relentless and don’t take no stuff, they are task masters and if you are not prepared for the challenge, you better go into another business. Melissa know what her kids are in for if they become dancers. Obviously the other parents don’t know and their kids are in the wrong school if they want fairness. In the real world only the strong and the best will survive. Instead of learning how to do it right, they cry, Christie is not doing her daughter any favors by crying and complaining every week. You ladies are aware that Abby is teaching young kids to become professionals? If that is the case you better look at the professional world of dance because they eat the young kids up and spit them out and if they go into an audition crying, they will not get the job. Christie you need to take your child somewhere else, Abby runs the show and if Chloe does not do a good job she will not get the part in the professional world.

      • Not sure what your reply has to do with the comment I made, but nice try Abby or Abby’s minions, whoever you are LOL.

  10. Ladies I am lost in the rush to belittle Abby and Melissa. With Ava having 2-3 more experience than our 3 entries you knew that Abby would not consider Ava score. Maddie’s late entry was only done to insure an ALDC victory and not to eliminate our 3 youngest dancers. While very, very young and inexperienced Sarah H. shows great potential for group. Her dancing skill will increase over time and I believe she has a face that can tell a story. Tea is a nice dancer and does great in the group numbers. While MacZ has had success in the cutie domain it is time for her to blossom into a great dancer/performer. Again, she does exceptional work in the group numbers, has a great dancers foundation, but needs to blend those with internal confidence, dancing for joy, and desire to be the best. You know what is coming next – JUST LIKE MADDIE.

  11. The main thing I took away from this episode, was that little Sarah is very impressive. That surprised me in all honesty. However, it didn’t surprise me at all that Melissa would put Maddie above Mackenzie. I don’t think it surprised Mackenzie either.

    • Sarah was adorable and a great little dancer, but please for frick sake get her away from her mother, even if it’s accompanied by kicking and screaming!!!! That poor child has been so coddled and sheltered, she doesn’t know how to do anything by herself, CWAY is going to do more damage to that little girl than Abby ever could.

      • She’s 9!!!! Her behavior is not at all unusual for that age. I’ve been working with children for 25 years, and am a mother of 2. There was absolutely nothing unusual about a child that age having anxiety about being on a bus full of people she barely knows, and a monster that terrifies her, and being forced to separate from the one person she feels safe around.

        • Not being able to sit with other kids her age 12 feet away from her mother is NOT normal!! I would be willing to bet money that CWAY still makes Sarah sleep in the bed with her at night too, she has no faith in her daughter or willingness to instill just a tiny bit of independence in her.

          • Sarah is more sheltered than other kids her age. In the episode where she got kicked out, Christy said that Sarah is home schooled and has never actually been away from her mother for more than a very short period of time. Not like Maddie and Mackenzie who were pulled from public school for a dance career; home schooled from the very beginning. One of the main arguments people have against home schooling is that it eliminates the social interaction with other children, which definitely seems to have affected Sarah.

          • DM, yeah I remember hearing CWAY say that in the previous episode, it’s too bad, Sarah is clearly going to suffer for the over-protectiveness of her mom.

  12. Nia was not actually the lead. Nia wore that horrid headdress and stayed in back on a big drum. tacky and tasteless there miller. of course maddie was in front.
    melissa. I cannot say one kind thing about that whore so I won’t.

    Kurt? Where are you??? Does custody cross your mind??

    • I agree. The totem pole, headdress, costumes, makeup, and drum were tasteless. It showed the stereotypical racist version of Native American culture that is produced and propagated in the US. It was racist and very disrepectful.

      • If it had been done in a way that celebrated the uniqueness of the Native American culture, that would have been one thing, but for Abby to say she got inspiration from a Cher concert, that’s all kinds of crazy. I’ve seen Cher perform live as well, and that was in no way shape or form anything like what Cher does on stage.

      • You’re absolutely right. There’s no way this is OK, and every adult involved in making the show should be ashamed.

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