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on February 5, 2014
Reality shows are scripted. This is the "reality" of reality shows. That they have writers. That things are often not spontaneous. I used to work in television, so it's really easy for me to spot the scripted things here. Like how Jill was clearly assigned the role of the instigator and Melissa is more than game to play up the whole "doormat" thing for a storyline. But what cannot be faked is genuine emotion, which this show has a lot of. But how do you get real emotion out of a scripted mess?

I'll explain.

The problem with playing yourself on TV is that eventually, even if you know most of the stuff is made up, you will become what you're pretending to be. You can play the game for a season or two, but it happens every time. Mostly because the public (and your producers) will pretty much demand this (or you will get fired for being boring). Even scripted moments of "fake" insults will eventually cut too close, go too far in the pursuit of drama and make the hurt and rage real. Because reality stars are not "actors" even though they are required to "act" in a role where they are playing themselves. So when the line is so blurred between "real" you and "TV" you, it's only natural that after a while you stop "playing" at being a jerk and you actually become one.

The "real" from this show comes from a place of pent up, historical rage between a bunch of noodle-nosed stage moms living through their kids (both for real and for pretend) and a megalomaniac dance teacher who has found the fame and wealth she always desired in a reality TV. I've watched every season, every episode and it's been fascinating to see Abby go from a strict, kind of ridiculous, but ultimately well-meaning dance teacher to complete psycho for the sake of the cameras. It was riveting to watch that moment around season two when she began to forget and lose focus of who the "real" Abby Lee is, versus the massive control-freak, borderline abusive Abby Lee who is an employee of Lifetime Television. Season two's "Abbygeddom" and the episode where rival dance teacher Cathy hits her with her purse are the two key moments when Abby's real and fake world's collapse in on themselves and she actually ceases to be able to function out of a mixture of rage and shame. You can see her in those moments actually questioning who and what she's become here. But rather than dealing with it in any kind of honest way, she retreats and double-downs on the well-crafted lie the producers created for her.

This was most evident in her relationship with "rival" dance teacher Cathy, as things went from a goofy, made up competition where they were still friendly in real life, to both of them finally, legitimately hating each other because the play fighting went to far. Abby's "accidental" water tossing that caused Cathy to "escalate" to hitting Abby with her purse, is the moment when it "got too real" for Abby. Abby, for all her bully bluster, is actually not tough. She wants to be liked. She wants friends. She wants respect. This is why instead of escalating with Cathy, Abby had a meltdown and called her geriatric mother sobbing and hyper-ventilating. "TV Abby Lee" should have retaliated in kind or made more drama. But the "real" Abby Lee showed up and just wanted it all to go away. Even though Abby knew what Cathy was doing and saying was for the sake of the cameras and a check, at some point the insults and slights became real and IT WASN'T FUNNY ANYMORE.

And you can also say this of the moms, who Abby was shoehorned into dealing with because the network signed them first -- obviously based on how game they were to play up the whole weirdo stage mom thing. I don't know if any of these women (save Holly) were ever normal, but in the course of the first two seasons two-thirds of them turned into legitimate nutjobs. By season four, everyone (except Holly) is drunk off their own fame and ego and are raging mad about things that actually doesn't make much sense to the viewer because Lifetime carefully edits out the references to the fact they all got famous on this TV show. The moms and Abby can't say, "The rage got real when I forgot that the pyramid was just for the show and Abby called my kid a sneak on national television when she was still in the room, so I lost it because that's against the rules. Chloe's not supposed to hear your cruelest insults." They can't say, well, in season one I was pretending to be mad and was cool with all of this and even my kid was cool with it, until the day we weren't and by then we were all stuck in a contract, forced to deal with one another. *cough, cough* Kelly.

The best examples of this destructive, reductive situation is the saga of Kelly, Christie and Abby. Of how Christie and Abby (obviously) never liked each other and are just in this for the show and that of Kelly, who used to dance for Abby and has known her since they were kids. All their fighting is never really about what's actually happening on the show, but about stuff that might have happened a decade ago in the case of Kelly or five years ago in the case of Christie. They always seem a little too mad, too quick to anger, too brutal in their put downs for this to be all for show after a certain point. At some point in season three it all went too far and I honestly believe Kelly did legitimately try to leave -- she always seemed on the verge of a complete mental breakdown with the hyperventilating and Abby's digs about her being an alcoholic -- but that Lifetime contract and not wanting her kids to miss out on potential paydays down the road kept her in it. (Of course now that she's physically assaulted Abby off-camera in real life, that should give some indication that things got "too" real between them to a point of no return a long time ago.)

So that psychological game, of looking for the nuggets of real in what's largely a piece of screaming, comedic fiction is what has kept me invested in the show. Plus I really like all the girls who dance on "Dance Moms." Maddy, who reminds me the most of myself, drives me bonkers because I just want to shake her like I wish I could have shook myself back then and scream "OMG! STOP TAKING EVERYTHING SO SERIOUSLY!" Chloe, who seriously should not be on this show and should be studying ballet, and Nia, who I feel gets treated like the dang "diversity hire" despite having the most raw potential, are my actual favorites. Maddy, again, reminds me of how I felt about piano and art as a kid. I loved it ... until the day I didn't because I was burnt out at 12. I'm not saying she's going to walk away from this before she turns 13, but let's just say, I wouldn't be shocked.

The kids, while in on some of it, are clearly not in on everything and much of their filmed reactions are real. This is the real reason why I felt Christie was screaming and crying "What are we doing to our kids!" early on in season four. I refuse to believe that was about Abby and was more about what the mothers have chose to subject their children to for the sake of drama on a reality show.

As for what is obviously fake with the kids is the in-studio interview stuff and quite a bit of obvious editing on the routines, competition performances and award ceremonies. The only kid I ever "believe" isn't reading from a script is Chloe and that's more of a testament to the fact I think Chloe's by far the best at a natural line reading. Maddy and Mackenzie always give the most canned "enthusiasm" to their readings, but I never believe they aren't reciting lines.

Personally, I feel that in the case of the children this show is a form of child abuse. I realize that I'm part of that abuse for watching, but I squarely blame the parents, producers and Abby Miller for not doing a better job of limiting their exposure to stupidity. Like, I think the kids know much of it is for show, but they're still kids and kids aren't as able to tell the difference between a fake fight and a real one once the crap hits the fan. When the parents lose control, typically, they try to remove the kids from the situation, but there's been plenty of unnecessary "kids being exposed to TERRIBLE BEHAVIOR" to go around. Like, I thought it was messed up when Maddy and Mackenzie (and also Paige and Chloe) have had to endure over-hearing the other moms or Abby trash their parents. Even if your mom tells you her friends are only crapping on her for the sake of the show, as a little kid, you don't really let that go. For show or not, someone talks about my mom, I'm not going to get over it.

So, again, cue Christi sobbing "What are we doing to our children?" Yeah, it'll be interesting to see how these very cute, smart, talented sweet children turn out when their moms and dads have leveraged these things about you for the sake of exposure and fame. I'm hoping that in 10 years they'll all be well-adjusted college students. I'm hoping the moms aren't wasting the money they're getting paid to do the show. (The kids can't be paid, otherwise they'd be ineligible of competing in dance competitions, the heart of the show. That's why all the ringers they bring in, like Sophia and Asia, keep leaving. Ultimately, they can make more money as professionals and don't really "need" the show, other than for some brief advertising.)

So, all that said. I'm enjoying this season, even though it appears Abby has finally gone off the deep end and bought her own hype. I'm ready to see where this all is going to go. Hopefully it doesn't end with Kelly poisoning the woman's food over Brooke being at the bottom of the pyramid again.
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on January 6, 2014
I LOVE Dance Moms. If you ever took Dance as a child, love Dance & Drama, you will LOVE Dance Moms if you haven't seen it before. If you have, well then I know you will LOVE this season. More Drama, More Dancing! I love it so much! The girls are so sweet and cute, love their dances.. Brings me back to my dancing days :) Every season gets better and better, & I'm sure this season will be the same!
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on August 8, 2014
Well, I can finally say it and mean it--I am officially done watching this show. I have been watching since S.1 and some things have kind of irritated me, but not enough to stop watching. I always love watching the dances at the end of the episodes, so I would often sit through the bulls*** to see them dance. But now...I just watched the new episode of S.4 (5?, not sure) and was so disgusted I could not even finish the episode and know I will save the money not watching this show anymore. I grew up a competitive gymnast and had strict coaches, so Abby's yelling at the kids to do their best--fine. It doesn't bother me. The fact that she is playing psychological games with these girls, that could have a long-lasting impact (especially with poor Chloe, who I hope realizes she is a phenomenal dancer) makes me actually sick to my stomach. My hope is that in five years nobody will remember Abby Lee Miller. Really, really disgusting behavior from an adult to children (or teens, whatever).
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on February 16, 2016
I love to see the girls dance and always use this to teach my teens that life isn't fair and who you meet is so important for your future. Some people just love you but some just want you down while pretending to be your friend. A good life lesson from watching this show (at least this is what I told my husband when I prescribe to this show)
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on May 20, 2015
I LOVE the girls dancing on Dance Moms!! But the constant bickering between Abby and the Moms is starting to wear on my nerves. I was thrilled to see Kelly and Christi leave the show, thinking, silly me, that we would see more of the girls, and less friction between the Moms, but I'm definitely disappointed in Jess and Holly. I'm sure much of this is "made for tv drama" , with the producers encouraging the Moms and Abby, or scripting the Moms. I think a person holding a doctor's degree would behave better, particularly on TV. I have stopped my younger children from watching the show, not because Abby yells, but because of the way Holly, now Jess are behaving, their daughters are reflecting their Mother's attitudes, and behaviors. Having a strong personality can be beneficial, but Nia, who has always been the weak link with her dancing skills, is starting to reflect her mother's mouth. Education doesn't do that Mrs. holly, disrespect, bad attitude, and thinking a piece of paper has made you better than the other Moms. IMO, Jess and Jo-Jo need to leave, followed closely by Holly and Nia. I record the show for myself, and have found myself fast forwarding to the competition dances, then deleting the show. I have talked to people who love the girls, and are appalled at the Moms, and they, too, have either stopped watching the show, or record, and edit the show. At this rate it won't be many more seasons before this show is cancelled.

All of this said, the girls are beautiful, with Maddie, Kalani, Kendall, and Kennzie growing into more beautiful dancers with each year, they are all a joy to watch. But, the scripting for the girls is becoming more evident with each passing season. The DVD's should have a PG-13, or R rating for the mothers mouths. I thought the foul language left with Kelly and Christi, but Kira needs to lose the bad language, it isn't appropriate for young children who could be bleeping, and covering her mouth with a little box does little more than get most children's attention.
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on May 18, 2015
1 star for Abbey. 5 stars for those poor kids who have to put up with her sociopathic, bullying behavior. I am interested in seeing the progress of the dancers, especially Chloe, who is a beautiful elegant dancer, who could be so much more if she got half the love, attention and approval that Maddie gets. I'm not sure I can continue to watch this constant slaughter of the children. And it doesn't help that all of the moms have volatile personnalities....with the exception of Holly. Of course this is all fueled by Abbey's constant criticisms.

I think that Abbey sees Maddie as the child she never had ....what would she do if Melissa took her kids somewhere else? I think she would fall apart. Her attachment to Maddie is unhealthy and disruptive to everyone on the team.
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on October 22, 2015
I only watch this show because my 13YO does. Okay, I only watch this show for its dancing. Alright, I admit: I only watch this show because like a bloody multiple-car crash on the highway... I can't look away.

I don't understand why this bully of a dance teacher is allowed to talk to and treat children the way she does. Oh right: the moms let her. Everyone is totally awful in the show except for, of course, the kids. Then again, if I remember anything from my competitive gymnastics days, this sort of competition at this tender ages turns kids into monsters themselves. And hey, with this caliber of adults modeling such horrific, bullying, aggressive and often inhumane behavior, what more can we expect?

Still, I worry about the girls who look like deer in the headlights, resigned to their fate: Mackenzie and Chloe. As talented dancers with zealot mothers, I often wonder what will become of them. I can only imagine the PTSD these kids suffer every night after practices, rehearsals and shows.
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on December 4, 2015
Addictive. Hard to believe these are real people. The dancing is stunning, but the are so many moments where you will laugh and say "I would never do THAT" about some of the moms. Very entertaining!
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on December 22, 2013
I enjoyed this review and thought the next season seems hopeful. I wish they would do away with the Moms and just have the girls dance. I give those girls great credit for learning to dance under those circumstances I would have a nervous breakdown.
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on October 10, 2014
If Chloe is off this team...I will never watch this show again. That kid is amazingly talented....we don't watch this show for Abby...we watch IN SPITE of her. We watch this show for the talented children who inspire and fascinate through the art of dance. Abby is a monster in some of the things she says about and in front of little kids. I can't believe any of these parents continue to allow the verbal and mental abuse toward their kids!!! Abby is talented...but that doesn't excuse the horrific abuse she loads onto those kids. My heart broke for poor sweet Chloe and her mom at the end of this episode. I mean it! No Chloe...I am done with this show. I won't support that kind of wrong. Abby owes this family an apology. That just might restore my faith in that of now, it is completely gone. SMH. Keep your head up and dance shoes on are beautiful and amazing! You have MANY fans, and I am one.
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