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Dance Moms is an unscripted reality television program. The show follows a group of "Moms" and their daughters, the latter performing in the world of young competitive dance as instructed by the controversial Abby Lee Miller. The program is largely filmed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the Abby Lee Dance Company.Collins Avenue Productions, and broadcast by Lifetime Television. The first season debuted on July 13, 2011, followed by a second season beginning January 10th, 2012. A third season began on January 1st, 2013, followed by a fourth season beginning 365 days later, in 2014.
- Abby Lee Miller: Owner of the Abby Lee Dance Company which she started at age fourteen. Abby is known for her strong demands and harsh criticisms towards her dance students. In the frequent arguments with the Moms, she has been called "bossy", "mean", and a "bully."
- Gianna Martello: Gianna is assistant choreographer for Abby at the ALDC, and tends to avoid major controversies.
- Melissa Ziegler: Mother of Maddie and Mackenzie. Melissa frequently finds herself involved in arguments with the other Moms when they accuse Abby of favoritism towards her daughter Maddie. She is more likely to take Abby's side than the other mothers.
- Holly Frazier: Mother of Nia. With her doctorate in education from an Ivy League school, Holly had developed a reputation as calm and rational, but the fifth season has shown a Holly that's been more combative with Abby.
- Jill Vertes: Mother of Kendall, who joined Abby's studio at the beginning of Season Two. Growing hysterical at Abby's lack of favor towards her daughter, Jill abandoned the ALDC to join Cathy's rival studio, only to return to Abby's studio later, but in a mellower mood.
- Kira Girard: Mother of Kalani Hilliker. Kira joined the cast for a part of Season 4, eager to showcase her daughter's talent, but left due to various concerns. Kira re-joined Abby's studio at the beginning of Season 5. Her daughter had previously been a contestant on Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition.
- Jessalynn Siwa: Mother of JoJo. Jessalynn joined the cast in Season 5, eager to get her daughter a permanent spot on Abby's team. Like Kira and Kalani, Jess and her daughter had previously been contestants on AUDC.
- Cathy Nesbitt-Stein: Mother of Vivi-Anne, and owner of Candy Apple's Dance Center, located in Canton, Ohio. During the early episodes of Season One, she played a role similar to the other Moms, making the long drive to have Abby teach her daughter. Later, Cathy quit Abby Lee's studio to return to leading her own. The two studios are now rival enemies, with Cathy shown in especially hostile relationships with Abby and Christi.
- Jeanette Cota: Mother of Ava, and owner of Broadway Dance Academy in Michigan. Jeanette had long tried to get her daughter a place at the ALDC, eventually obtaining a spot in the fourth season. Unable to maintain a good relationship with Abby, she was kicked out. In the fifth season she returned, this time looking to defeat Abby using her own studio.
- Leslie Ackerman: Mother of Payton, Leslie appeared on the first episode of Season Two, and has made subsequent appearances. Leslie's loud shouting has generally alienated the other Moms.
- Christi Lukasiak (former cast): Mother of Chloe. Christi frequently fought with Abby, leading to frequent blow-ups, and an eventual departure following the end of Season 4.
- Kelly Hyland (former cast): Mother of Brooke and Paige. Kelly was one of Abby's first group of students when both were young, but quit to pursue cheerleading. In Season Four, her physical altercation with Abby led to court battles and tabloid headlines, as well as her family's departure from the show
- Maddie Ziegler: Melissa's older daughter. Abby considers Maddie her prize student. The other Moms have complained repeatedly to Abby that she gives Maddie special treatment, sometimes causing Maddie to respond apologetically or with distress. Maddie is considered strongest at lyrical and tap, although the latter is rarely televised.
- Mackenzie Ziegler: Melissa's younger daughter, and the youngest regularly-featured dancer. Mackenzie enjoyed limited success during Season One, but transformed into a highly successful dancer during Season Two. Her sense of humor has become regularly highlighted. Strongest at acro.
- Nia Frazier: Holly's daughter. Abby often has assigned her ethnic roles, saying those will be available as jobs for her later in the world of professional dance; Holly has complained of stereotyping. During Season Two, Nia was praised for her hard work, and given a scholarship to the ALDC as most improved dancer.
- Kendall Vertes: Jill's daughter. She was on probation in many episodes, due to her newcomer status in Season Two, and due to her mother's behavior; additionally, she bounced back and forth from Cathy's studio following her mother's decisions to defect (or "studio hop".) Impressed by Kendall's dancing towards the end of the season, Abby was left wondering how fast Kendall would zoom up the ranks of her fellow dancers.
- Kalani Hilliker: A strong dancer from Club Dance, Kalani first appeared in the second season of Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition, where she had been Abby's favorite contestant, but placed fourth in the final episode. Kalani joined the Junior Elite team in Season 4, but soon chose to return to her home studio. Offered a spot again at the start of Season 5, Kalani decided to return to the ALDC.
- JoJo Siwa: Another contestant from the second season of Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition, where she finished fifth. JoJo became a provisional member of Abby's team early in the fifth season, but has initially failed to convince a skeptical (and aggravated) Abby that she is a right fit for the team stylistically.
- Vivi-Anne Stein: Not as strong as the other dancers on the show, Vivi-Anne complained in Season One that she didn't want to be in show-business, and would rather play softball. Since Cathy withdrew her from Abby's studio, Vivi has not been heavily featured on the show, similar to the other Candy Apple's dancers.
- Ava Cota: Ava auditioned for the ALDC at the beginning of Season 3, but was considered a second choice behind Ally. Eventually earning a spot on the Select Ensemble team, she was forced out by Abby. She now competes on the show for her mother's studio.
- Chloe Lukasiak (former cast): Christi's older daughter. Abby has tried to promote a rivalry between her and Maddie, a theme also heavily echoed by the show's editing. Chloe is a strong dancer known for her turning abilities.
- Brooke Hyland (former cast): Kelly's older daughter, and the oldest regularly-featured dancer. Abby has called her a "brooding teenager." On the show, Brooke has complained that dance classes consume too much of her time, and considered quitting to become a cheerleader (like her mother did.) Extremely flexible, Brooke is especially strong in acro, but also has suffered back problems.
- Paige Hyland (former cast): Kelly's younger daughter. Abby criticized Paige as a gifted underachiever. Paige is kind and supportive, and has often been upset by the show's fighting and other stressful situations, with her mother calling her a "sensitive kid." Also considered strongest at acro.
For other Moms and dancers appearing on the show, see also:
Set in Pittsburgh’s renowned Abby Lee Dance Company, owned and operated by notoriously demanding and passionate instructor Abby Lee Miller, “Dance Moms” follows children’s early steps on the road to stardom, and their doting mothers who are there for every rehearsal, performance and bow … all under the discerning eye of Miller. Presenting a powerful cast of characters known to raise eyebrows, the series immerses itself in the highs and lows surrounding competition season to deliver an intriguing and dramatic look at the cast’s frantic pursuit of the ultimate National Dance title. The series is centered on the devoted Miller, who runs her school with an iron tap shoe as she instructs her young and talented students, while also dealing with over-the-top mothers who go to great lengths to help their children’s dreams come true. “Dance Moms” poses the tough questions many ask about what really goes on behind the scenes in the fast-growing and controversial art of competitive dance.
Constantly on edge from her strict discipline and at times harsh “my way or the highway” style of teaching, Miller's students and their mothers are pushed to the limit emotionally, physically, socially and, in some cases, financially as the students tirelessly rehearse every day for weekly dance competitions throughout the U.S. Some students and mothers in Miller’s universe buy in to her methods, while others crack under the pressure. Either way, “Dance Moms” uniquely captures this outrageous and dynamic interplay among teacher, student and parent as Miller commits herself to bring out the best in those students — and mothers — willing to dedicate themselves to be part of one of the best dance teams in the nation.
Origins and creation of the show
- Early in the show's conception, it was called Just Dance, with the idea of being a documentary, about five different girls from five different cities would compete, and then meet in a finals.
- According to executive producer Jeff Collins (as from his own perspective on what happened), the embryonic creation of the show began with a request by Lifetime's Gena McCarthy for a show similar to Bridezillas (with Collins's friend Rob Sharenow also at Lifetime.) Being a network for women, Collins was interested in a show featuring mother-daughter relationships. Bryan Stinson, Jeff's best friend (who had joined Collins Avenue), had already been tossing around the idea of a show like Dance Moms, along with John Corella, who in turn had been a longtime friend of Abby up to this time (Corella having once been Mr. Dance of America for Dance Masters.) Corella suggested Abby to the other producers, who in turn sent a camera to take footage at the studio, and Abby was filmed by either Christi or Kelly. Jeff liked the footage of Abby, particularly as shot from the unusual observation deck above, and the basic outline of the show was set.
- Christi has denied rumors that she created or pitched the show. According to Christi, sent in for a casting call at the same time as Melissa, and the casting director (Stinson) found their relationship interesting. Then he asked if she had a friend; and after Christi pointed to Kelly, he loved their relationship. Then he saw Abby and the way she looked and acted, and was intrigued by that. Christi has said that she was the one originally sending in information, and helping Collins Avenue find what they were seeking.
- Abby has stated that early plans were to make the show 85% about the moms, 10% the kids, and 5% the dancing, with Abby not even in the equation. She has said there was more interest after her fight with Minister Dawn was filmed, and that at West Coast Dance Explosion, she signed a contract as choreographer worth $1,500 per episode, for four years, with a four year option.
- According to Abby, the first dancers John Corella suggested to other producers were Paige, Maddie, Chloe, Mackenzie and Nia; Abby had considered Brooke too old when she had sent pictures to John. Chloe similarly relates that Brooke was selected following her sister.
- The cast expected only six episodes to be produced. After they were filmed, they were surprised when Lifetime ordered more.
- According to Abby, thirty families were initially interviewed, twenty-seven from Abby's studio, and Cathy was the first person to be cast.
- In an interview after the first season, Abby Lee Miller claimed that the production company interviewed "23 families to choose those mothers. The children were never auditioned." However, mom Christi Lukasiak claimed that Miller's statement was false. "The children absolutely auditioned, too. I have Chloe’s audition tapes saved on my computer." Abby later stated that the children merely sent in short videos that were "20 seconds of amazing," rather than the face-to-face interviews of the mothers.
Nearly every week on the show, Abby Lee Miller uses a pyramid system to show her dancers and their mothers who she feels previously performed the best, and who needs to improve. The pyramid has been known to change every week. The pyramid became a subject of controversy among viewers because of its perceived negative aspect. Abby Lee Miller said it was not her method, but it was developed by the producers of the show.
- ↑ Maddie was given the week off, and her picture was placed well off to the right at a height equal to the top of the pyramid.
- ↑ Chloe's picture was placed in the bottom row between Nia and Vivi-Anne. Abby told Chloe she was taking the week-off without a solo so she could work on her technique. Christi said she was shocked Chloe was placed at the bottom.
- ↑ In week 8, there was an additional fourth pyramid level at the top, with Brandon's photo
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- ↑ In week 1, Abby threw unrevealed pyramid photos into the trash due to the absence of Brooke and Paige, stating "no pyramid." Later she tells Chloe "You were at the top of the pyramid. You were the national winner." It has been logically speculated that Brooke and Mackenzie would have been placed in the middle, also winning with solos at Nationals.
- ↑ In week 2, pictures in the layout of the pyramid were shown, but the pyramid was not formally presented.
- ↑ In week 7, Chloe was placed on the bottom with 'suspended' written across her photo, which was eventually replaced by a picture of Brooke.
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|Maddie||Bottom||Bottom||Bottom||Middle||Top||Number 1||Top #1||Line||Middle||Top|
|Nia||Bottom||Bottom||Bottom||Bottom||Bottom||Number 6||Top #2||Line||Top||Bottom|
- ↑ In episode 23, there were two levels to the pyramid. From left to right, the top row was Kendall, Mackenzie, Sarah H.
- ↑ In episode 26, Abby presented her rankings in the form of a totem pole.
- ↑ In episode 27, there were two levels of the pyramid. Maddie was placed at the upper left, and Abby said she was on top.
- ↑ Dancers placed in a straight line. Order called: Mackenzie, Chloe, Nia, Kendall, Maddie. Abby says Maddie is at what she would call the top of the pyramid.
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- ↑ In episode 5, there was no presentation of a pyramid though the covered pictures can be seen.
- ↑ Abby removed JoJo's picture from the pyramid, while complimenting her new headshot.
- ↑ JoJo's photo was removed during a heated argument with Abby, and JoJo was kicked out of the room. JoJo later returned, and her photo restored to the pyramid
- ↑ Pyramid photos were handed out like awards. Abby said she would have placed Maddie atop with Kalani for their duet; but said Kalani was alone there, with Maddie absent and preparing for SNL
Top totals over time
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- S01-E08 counted only as a time at the top for Brandon (not Maddie)
- S02-E18 counted for Maddie as one time on top of the pyramid (not two)
- S04-E23 counted only for Kendall (not Sarah H. or Mackenzie)
- S04-E27 counted only as Maddie on top (not Nia)
- S04-E28 counted as a time at the top for Maddie
- S05-E14 both JoJo and Maddie were both said to be on top of the pyramid
Ratings and Reception
The 2011 series premiere drew slightly over 1 million viewers, a 70% increase over the previous time period average, including especially disproportionate increases among adult women. The final four episodes of the first season averaged 1.7 million total viewers, a further 70% increase.
The first episode of the second season attracted an audience of 2.5 million viewers. Overall, season two averaged a 69% increase over season one in adult viewership, including a 72% increase among women aged 18 to 49. Already with Lifetime's youngest audience, the median age of viewers further dropped to 32 years during the second season.
In 2012, Dance Moms was nominated for a Teen Choice Award in the Television/Reality category, losing to MTV's Punk'd.
In 2015, the show won for Favorite Reality Show at the Nickelodeon 28th Annual Kids' Choice Awards.
Overnight viewers through Season 5 episode "Showdown in Pittsburgh, Part 2"
This section currently exists in outline form, and is lacking example citations and links
- Verbal attacks on the children by Abby and rival mothers, including attacks on their personal characters
- Deceptive distortions of real people, with the production intent to turn them into stereotyped, exaggerated stock-characters in what is a program substantially infused with creative fiction.
- Enduring, life-long damage inflicted on the reputations of minors.
- Stress and workload. By Season 2, the young performers spent many hours in dance classes, rehearsals, extra filming, at competitions, as well as lengthy travel time. Shooting of the 28 episodes occurred in approximately 26 weeks of the year; this includes each girl generally learning one or two new dances per episode. Additionally, the girls frequently make other celebrity appearances, such as at commercial ticket events ("Master Classes" and "Meet-and-Greets").
- Performance pressure, particularly involving Abby's instruction techniques
Liana M. Nobile focuses on some of the initial points, in a passage from a paper entitled "The Kids Are Not Alright: An Open Call for Reforming the Protections Afforded to Reality Television’s Child Participants":
- Instead, hours and hours of footage are filmed and then edited down into episode—length segments, typically a half hour or an hour.172 The editors take the footage and create a story based on what they have captured on film, as opposed to prewriting a story in script form and then capturing it on film, as in a traditional entertainment medium.173 As such, the reality participant is unaware what footage will air or how it will be spliced together.174 This often leads to distorted portrayal of reality television participants, which is problematic because the person portrayed on television is supposed to be an accurate and “real” representation of the person in real life. Reality children must be protected from the harsh results of appearing on reality television shows.
- Portrayal on television may have long lasting effects on children, especially because of the way the internet enables embarrassing scenes from reality television to live on into perpetuity.175 Unlike children, adults are more likely able to fully comprehend the risks involved with being on a reality television show. Often, a child’s participation occurs once a parent or legal guardian agrees to the child’s participation on the child’s behalf.176
- According to Abby after Season 1, the girls were not being paid, because then they would be considered professionals. However, at the time of filming the early third season episode Out With the Old, In With the New, Abby claimed on Twitter that the moms were on strike to seek better pay and perks; Kelly later echoed this claim regarding the actual nature of the parking lot sit-in dispute. Kelly's 2014 lawsuit against Collins Avenue (link to pdf) includes a copy of changes in her Collins Avenue contract, including various forms of compensation to be paid to the Hylands as a group (including $6,935.00 per regular episode); a fraction of which was allotted directly to Paige and Brooke, at $1,050.00 to each dancer per regular episode in the third and fourth seasons. In 2015, Abby instead stated that all the girl dancers had been paid $1,000 per episode, from the first season until the fourth season; and the pay to the kids was raised to $2,000 per episode in the fifth season.
- The Pennsylvania 2012 Child Labor Act requires payment to child performers into a trust fund or scholarship, at 15% of the minor's parent's or guardian's total compensation.
- An article in Dance Studio Life gives the differing positions of many competition directors on when they consider child dancers appearing on television to be professionals.
- When possible, dances are often performed and filmed twice at competitions, with only one performance judged; although with editing, this can sometimes lead to strange angles. Repeat performances have been especially common with group dances since Season 3.
- In 2014, Abby's remaining four dancers from the first season averaged over one million followers on Instagram. Paige, Brooke and Kendall also had over one million followers apiece.
- It is Abby's stated opinion that it is the editors that have the true power in creating the show, and "not the cameraman, not the producers, not me, not the kids, not the moms. We shoot on three cameras, we shoot six days a week and there’s over 100 hours of footage."
- In 2014, Abby stated she was shocked when she discovered the show is airing in 110 countries, rather than the 30 she had previously believed.
A sister show is Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition, a panel-judged elimination contest series. Another related show by Lifetime and Collins Avenue is set to debut in June, 2014, entitled Abby's Studio Rescue.
A show called Ice Moms was going to be in production, but they never decided to produce it. It was going to be focusing on figure skaters and their demanding mothers.
In October 2012, Collins Avenue Productions and Lifetime announced preliminary work on yet another Dance Moms franchise, in addition to the two located in Pittsburgh and Miami; this project also seems an abandoned project.
Abby's Studio Rescue debuted on Lifetime, June 24th, 2014, and canceled after seven episodes were broadcast.
A British version of the show, Dance Mums, premiered in 2014 on Lifetime in the U.K., featuring Jennifer Ellison. The show was produced by ITV's "factual arm" Shiver, rather than Collins Avenue. A trial run was tried for broadcasts in the United States, but was soon abandoned. In 2015, the show was still scheduled for a second season for the United Kingdom.
- Primary external link page is found here.
- Official website Dance Moms at myLifetime.com - includes links to various video streams
- Facebook page
- YouTube channel
- Twitter page
- Afterbuzz YouTube recap and "aftershow" discussion program
- Tumblr blogs tagged "Dance Moms"
- Lori Acken's Dance Moms blog, featuring humorous episode recaps and other info
- We3KingsMusic YouTube channel for company supplying music to Dance Moms; with program video clips
- Bio/Sky/Virgin Dance Moms YouTube channel UK syndication networks
- tac theemt's YouTube fan channel
- Dance Moms at the Internet Movie Database
- Dance Moms on TVGuide.com
- Dance Moms Confessions (Tumblr)
- Caits Corner fanpages
- Collins Avenue Daily daily web-newspaper
- "The Terrifying Instagram World of the Tweenage Dance Moms Fans" (article);
and follow-up "Dance Moms Fans React in Totally Normal, Sane Way to Essay About Them"
- imdb list of credits for cast and crew (incomplete)
- Pennsylvania 2012 "Child Labor Act"
- Unconscionability and Reality Television Contracts; article relating to what is (and is not) permissible in agreements
- 5 Horrible Provisions You Might Find In A Reality Show Contract
- "Coaches who yell, and those who don't" (ESPN commentary article)
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