"Dance Moms" premiered on Lifetime in 2011, and the second half of season six started airing two weeks ago. The girls are currently filming Season 7 at the Abby Lee Dance Company (ALDC) LA location, where they have filmed since late 2014/season five. The show originally served as many purposes: publicity for the ALDC, a platform for the dancers to become famous, and as a "Housewives" type of show inside of a dance studio. Not only have the girls and their mothers gained national attention, but their coach/main choreographer and owner of the ALDC, Abby Lee Miller, has captured the headlines over the years.
Miller has been criticized for her strict and sometimes overboard teaching methods, which include having the girls learning a new group dance, as well as individually-picked solos/duets/trios each week and going to a different competition each weekend. While this has probably prepared each girl tremendously well for working under pressure and picking up choreography quickly, it has raised eyebrows. On top of that, comments or actions that Miller has made against her students and their mothers have been considered harassment, such as an incident where she threw a chair in the direction of team member Paige Hyland during an argument with her mother Kelly, causing Paige to run out of the room in fear. At the end of season 4, dancer Chloe Lukasiak and her mother Christi left not only the show, but also Miller's studio after she insulted a medical condition of Chloe's during a Nationals competition that aired on television.
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With all the high-intensity drama that occurs inside of the ALDC, one would think that the show's ratings would be skyrocketing and that the popularity would be great. However, now almost into their seventh season, "Dance Moms" has become one thing: boring.
The premise of the show is simple: at the beginning of each week, Miller, the girls and their mothers go over the pyramid, in which each girl is ranked based on the previous week. While most times their placement of the pyramid is based on their performances during rehearsals and the competition, their mother's behavior may cause their child to be lower on the pyramid, even if the child did not do anything wrong. The pyramid is usually the source for much drama, as the mothers usually take it more personally than their daughters. Then, Abby assigns dances for the upcoming competition. This can also cause drama, especially if a mother feels that her daughter is not receiving the proper attention they feel she deserves. Rehearsals go on during the week, and during this time the mothers usually fight with one another, or with Abby. Sometimes the arguments get so bad that the mothers take their children home for the day, or even Abby leaves. Then, the competition happens. What I will say is that these girls are amazing performers; they have great technique and clearly work very hard. I enjoy watching the dances; a couple of them have moved me to tears. Backstage, drama usually ensues, whether it's between the mothers and Abby, or a rival team that comes into the dressing room to start with Abby. Once awards are announced, if the team doesn't get a clean sweep, chaos can ensue. As Abby says, "Second is the first to lose." Ouch!
Then, it repeats. The format of the show has virtually stayed the same, although the tone of the show has changed. In the first couple of seasons, the focus was solely on the original members of the junior elite team, all of whom had trained with Abby for years and was actual members of the studio. Starting in season three, Abby began to solicit dancers who were not members of her studio, some coming all the way from Los Angeles to be a member of the team. In Season 4, Abby introduced the "Select Team," a group of girls from other studios and their desperate mothers, the latter of whom were very eager to replace the original girls (spoiler: Abby kicked all of them out after Nationals). In Season 5, there was a huge gap on the team with three original members having left: Chloe and Christi left, and Kelly and her two daughters, Brooke and Paige, left in the beginning of Season 4 after Kelly got into a physical altercation with Abby. After the season, the dance competitions were proved by many sources to be staged by the producers, also taking away from the quality of the show: production invites studios to dance alongside the "girls from Dance Moms." It's not explicitly stated, but it's clear the producers care about the show, not Miller's studio in itself.
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Season 5 was when the show really stopped being about the originals and instead about these mothers who were so desperate for their daughters to be on a television show. Kalani Hilliker and her mother Kira, who were on the spin-off show "Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition," briefly joined the team during Season 4 before officially staying on the following season. While Kalani is an amazing dancer and a definite asset to the team, Hilliker is from Arizona and has trained at Club Dance. Kira has publicly stated that she hates being on "Dance Moms" and would much rather be with her fiancée and other two children, but she does it because not only does Kalani love Abby and the team, but Kira also wants Kalani to be famous. Kalani only trains at the ALDC when the show is filming, at any other points in the year she's at her original studio. Brynn Rumfallo, who guest appeared on Season 5 and became an official member of the team in the following season, is also a member of Club Dance and has a similar situation to Kalani. Jojo Siwa, who also participated on "Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition," became an official member of the team during season 5 and does not train with Miller's studio outside of filming. These new girls' mothers typically start issues with the original mothers, claiming that their children will take the spots of the originals. Once again, all hell breaks loose.
Aside from the addition of these new members who seem to really only be there for the show and not to actually train under Miller, there are other issues with the show that has made it stale. The first one is that at a certain point, one can only watch 40-year-old housewives yell at each other for so long. I even start feeling sorry for Miller, like how can you deal with these harpies? I would lose my mind. A lot of the mothers cannot handle when Miller is actually critiquing their children's dancing and confuse it with bullying. Telling a child to make sure that their foot is not sickled is not tearing a child down. However, making a personal insult towards a child or riding them to the point where they break down in tears or hastily leave the room is bullying. And if the mothers hate being at the studio so much, why don't they leave the show? Kelly Hyland was very open about how getting out of Lifetime's contract was awful, but I can't understand why these moms would keep bringing their kids back to the ALDC if it is making them and their children miserable. Oh right: they want their kid to be famous. And sometimes, that can really affect one's judgment of what is right and wrong.
The second big issue is that the original members of the ALDC team are moving on. Brooke Hyland is now a freshman at Ohio University and has recently joined a sorority; Paige Hyland is currently in high school while modeling for Sherri Hill and participating in New York Fashion Week; and Chloe Lukasiak is a star on her own. Lukasiak now trains with Studio 19 in Pittsburgh, won the 2015 Teen Choice Award for "Best Dancer" and is acting in movies. Both Paige and Chloe have popular YouTube channels, and Chloe has been a proponent of anti-bullying, especially in dance studios. Asia Monet Ray, who joined the team during Season 3, has landed amazing acting roles: she had a recurring role as Sydney Simpson, O.J. Simpson's daughter on "American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson" and had a role on a two-part episode in Season 12 of "Grey's Anatomy." Mackenzie Ziegler, who left in the middle of Season 6, is working on a new music album and has landed acting roles, including a part on "Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn" last year.
The superstar of Dance Moms, Maddie Ziegler, left the show alongside her sister, and for good reasons. At a certain point, Maddie didn't need the show anymore. She isn't "Maddie from Dance Moms," she's practically a phenomenon. She has had stellar performances in five of Sia's music videos, danced at the Grammy's, Ellen, Jimmy Kimmel, and Saturday Night Live, just finished judging for "So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation," is releasing a fashion line and book series, will be joining Sia on tour this fall, is acting in movies ("The Book of Henry" premieres next July), and recently won the 2016 Teen Choice Award for "Best Dancer." Ziegler also won a People's Choice Award in 2015 under the category "Seriously Popular," beating out Kylie Jenner and Ruby Rose. Ziegler is a complete powerhouse and an incredibly influential dancer.
Nia Frazier is the last original member on the show, and Kendall Vertes is also a long-lasting member (she and mother Jill joined the ALDC in Season 2, and Kendall actually trains at the ALDC). Kendall has recently done a lot of modeling, and is currently managed by Miller. In a recent episode, Jill revealed that Abby has done nothing for Kendall as a manager and has been mum on releasing an album that Kendall recorded over the summer. Nia originally received criticism from Miller for not letting her manage her career, but it seems to have paid off: Nia has released two music videos and is working on new music, is acting in movies, takes classes at Debbie Allen's Dance Academy and has worked with Misty Copeland, was in a dance video that the one and only Queen B reposted, and performed in an off-Broadway show over the summer, "Trip of Love." Nia is on a roll, and in my personal opinion, she has completely outgrown the show and should consider moving on to focus on more professional dance jobs (i.e., follow in the footsteps of her former teammate Ziegler).
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Lastly, Miller's legal issues have propelled her into more controversy over the past year. She was indicted on 20 counts for bankruptcy fraud, and recently pled guilty to international fraud. She will be sentenced in December, and could face up to 24 to 30 months in prison. Why the mothers who are still on the show continue to want themselves and their children associated with this woman when she is an admitted criminal is shocking.
The point is, there are many issues with "Dance Moms." There's Miller's attitude toward her students and their parents, as well as her legal issues, the mothers' behavior, the direction the show has been going for the past couple of years, and the loss of many original team members. The current team members have amazing, incredible talent and deserve so much more than this trainwreck of a show; they should move on to better things and really allow their talent to shine.
"Dance Moms" airs every Tuesday on "Lifetime."
Watch the trailer for Part 2 of Season 6 below:
Reach staff writer Adrianne Ramsey here.