I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive Mallory Walker for getting me hooked on Dance Moms. I started watching the first season on Amazon Prime one day after she mentioned the show to me and now, many seasons in, I still keep tuning in to the perfectly choreographed trainwreck. At first I watched out of a morbid curiosity, having been a dancer myself and wondering how much more outrageous this Abby Lee Miller character could be than my own instructor who liked to call me “left feet” (as in having two of them) and would scream to high heaven if I missed a step (which I did frequently). Over time, I somehow became invested in the ALDC circus despite the many reasons I should find the show appalling: both the scripted and unscripted feuds, grown women going utterly water-throwing and purse-swinging bonkers over competitions, and small children being pitted against each other in what might as well be dances to the death given how serious they all take this stuff. Yet, I’m embarrassed to say those are the very same things that keep me watching.
If you’ve yet to check out an episode of Dance Moms (disclaimer: I feel like I should tell you not to watch given how addictive it can be), let me elaborate a bit more about what makes the show so insane and at the same time so fabulous.
Let’s start by discussing Abby Lee Miller. Abby is the owner of Abby Lee Dance Company and the “choreographer” for the competition teams. Quotes on choreographer because depending on the episode/dance she sometimes has little to do with choreography beyond the creative vision of the number. But none of that is what’s interesting about her. No, what makes Abby interesting to watch is her complete lack of filter and unflinching ability to stare down a crying child. To say her teaching method is “tough love” is like saying the Kardashians have had a little work done.
At the same time, Abby really does want the kids to do well and win, if not for their own sake then for her reputation’s. The titular dance moms love to accuse her of sabotaging their kids so they don’t win, and there are times it seems like she doesn’t put as much effort into one kid’s dance as another’s, but I think Abby Lee cares way too much about her brand to ever set up a kid to lose on purpose. Abby wants all the kids to come in first all the time because as she says, if you’re second place…
Speaking of the dance moms, their craziness doesn’t end with theories of dance sabotage. Oh no, their flamboyance makes up some of the most entertaining moments of the show, especially in the early seasons when much of the drama surrounded the idea that Abby favors Maddie Ziegler above the other girls (spoiler alert: she did and does).
Every week Abbie set Maddie up with the best choreography and an opportunity to use the “Maddie Face” to win over the judges and, early on, every week the dance moms fought about it. Seeing adults get so irate and at times jealous over a child is hilarious, even if you do occasionally feel bad for them, knowing they only want their kids to win like Maddie.
Problem is, most of the other kids are lacking one of the many facets that make Maddie a showstopper (no offense kids) and no amount of extra secret private lessons or gifts to Abby would make a difference when it comes to that. But of course they don’t see it that way and instead fight about it all the time, kids be damned.
It’s sad when the kids overhear it, and it can even be uncomfortable to watch. But when they’re fighting on their own it can be laugh out loud funny. Their spats can range from calling each other every name in the book, often with bleeping required and finger pointing like this:
To passive aggressive moments of awesomeness like this:
And when they’re not fighting with each other, they’re fighting with Abby…
…who isn’t much better about setting a good example for the kids.
It’s not just the fighting that makes the dance moms such eyeball bait. Their scripted get-togethers and non-dance related convos often create great “what am I watching” moments that really leave you asking yourself, “Do they not know this is going to televised?”
In case you’re wondering, there is in fact dancing on Dance Moms, and if you love dance or ever suffered through a class with a teacher like Abby, they really are the best parts of the show.
The kids are talented and their camaraderie is adorable.
Even if some of them aren’t really as into as others…
And some are a little too intense.
The whole show is a big bunch of crazy, with a sprinkle of dancing and a lot of drama.
Yes, in many ways Dance Moms is horrific and I absolutely love it.