Liz Tells Frank What Happened In “Dance Moms”

Dear Frank,

Today, by reader request, I shall tell you about something that I bet you wish you had never even heard of. There is this show on Lifetime, a show I’d always thought of as The Moms Who Scream At Each Other Right After “Project Runway”. But this show is actually called Dance Moms. And Frank, WHAT THE FUCK.

Going into this, I assumed that Dance Moms is like Millionaire Matchmaker but even more awful, because there are human children involved. FRANK, I AM A FUCKING PSYCHIC. I watched the first two episodes of this current season, which is about all I could manage without going on a murder spree. At least with Matchmaker, you know that everyone involved is a legal adult, which is not the case with Dance Moms. And as a result YIKES.

Dance Moms “documents” a dance team of young girls, taught and led by this crazy lady named Abby Lee, who spends a lot of time screaming at the girls and their mothers and, I don’t know, God? God is suspiciously quiet in response, but the moms occasionally shout back. And then there’s a road trip to some competition, and then the girls dance, and then there’s some more shouting. If you’re saying to yourself “This sounds like Sparkle Motion without any of the dark comedy or Mary McDonnell,” you would be completely correct! (Who knew Donnie Darko was a documentary?)

Each episode opens with “the pyramid,” a meeting in which the girls’ headshots are taped up on a mirror and ranked according to Abby Lee’s very limited approval. This is essentially a meaningless exercise with minimal consequence — except, of course, to make the girls feel bad about themselves, and to give the moms something to scream about.

In the first episode I watched, there’s this one mom who can’t be at this fucking pyramid thing and also can’t make it to a competition that weekend, and so Abby Lee gives her a ton of shit about how she clearly doesn’t care about her daughter’s success at fucking DANCING, and also she takes it out on the little girl, and it makes me (the daughter of two working parents) SO GODDAMN ANGRY. Like, holy shit, how dare this bitch imply that this mom doesn’t love her daughter because she has a life outside of her daughter’s fucking DANCE CAREER. Are you fucking KIDDING?

I mean, the lady in question doesn’t do herself any favors by saying to Abby Lee “You’re intimidated by me because I have a doctorate.” Frank, if I have kids, remind me to discourage any attempt to develop hobbies that might bring me into contact with people like this.

“Wouldn’t you rather play Portal or watch Doctor Who?” I’ll say.

“Yes, mother, quite right,” Chris Pine Jr. will reply. (My future children will apparently speak with British accents.)

Also, there were a lot of commercials for "This Means War" on Hulu Plus today.

Later, Abby Lee’s rehearsing that little girl’s solo, and says “I don’t want any trouble with your mother. This is not an ethnic dance.” Yeah, the only black girl in the troupe just happens to be doing a “tropical” routine. Sure. Sure. Ugh, so awful. The girl does great in the competition, but next week, she remains on the second tier of the pyramid — ENTIRELY BECAUSE OF THE FACT HER MOTHER COULDN’T COME THE PREVIOUS WEEKEND. WHAT THE FUCK, FRANK.

Also, why are these EIGHT YEAR OLDS AUDITIONING IN BRAS AND SHORT-SHORTS? AND PERFORMING IN LESS THAN HALF OF A SWIMSUIT? WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE? 1.3 million people watched the last episode of this show — what percentage are pedophiles? (Please don’t answer that question.)

I'm pretty sure posting this screenshot puts me on an FBI watchlist.

Oh, Abby Lee just made another girl cry. “I can’t figure out why I bring these girls to this school,” one of the dance moms says. GOOD QUESTION, LADY. I actually don’t hate a lot of these moms — at least one or two of them seem to have a bit of a sense of humor — but the fact remains that they are willingly involved in this enterprise.

Apparently last season one of the girls quit the group, so in the first episode they have to have auditions for a new dancer, and all the other girls have to re-audition, and one of the girls gets cut for being too tall. This inspires yet another scene where grown women scream horrible things at each other about the dance careers of pre-teen girls.

The new mom asks “Why does it go so far”? Um, lady, do you SEE the cameras and producers following you guys around right now? Come on. Honestly, Showgirls feels less exploitive at times.

Here are some other things Abby Lee said that I wrote down while watching this show:

“All of you are too old to be cute. Even Mackenzie.” (Mackenzie is 6.)

“This girl Kendall is getting the biggest break she’s ever going to get in her entire life.” (What the fuck kind of life does she think Kendall is going to have?)

“Is it good enough for me? No. Is it ever going to be good enough for me? Probably not.” She says this like it’s a point of pride, and not the sign of some deep and disturbing personality flaws. MORE LIKE CRABBY LEE, AM I RIGHT?

I suppose the big thing about this for me is that yeah, these little girls are all pretty good dancers, and it’s fun to put on costumes and win trophies for dancing, and I’m sure that learning to deal with an evil tyrant is good life experience.

But in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t fucking matter. Maybe one or two of those girls, max, will grow up to become professional dancers — for the rest, this is the very beginning of their lives, and as they get older it’s more than likely that they will discover that as much as they might love dancing, they love other things even more. Like, say, designing computer software, or performing surgery, or writing bitchy things on the Internet.

True story, Frank. True story.


About Liz Shannon Miller

Liz Shannon Miller is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor, and has been talking about television on the Internet since the very beginnings of the Internet. She is currently Senior TV Editor at Collider, and her work has also been published by the New York Times, Vulture, Variety, the AV Club, the Hollywood Reporter, IGN, The Verge, and Thought Catalog. She is also a produced playwright, a host of podcasts, and a repository of "X-Files" trivia.

Posted on January 31, 2012, in Some Spoilers, TV and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I can’t let myself watch Dance Moms because I know I will never stop.

  2. As a semi-professional dancer, I can’t tell you how much I hate this show. I haven’t even watched it all the way through (just seen clips, previews, and now your LTF), and with good reason. My dance studio life as a kid was amazing, it was such a huge part of my childhood… Not to get all serious here, but I have a facial birth defect that really affected my self esteem, and my family, my dance teachers, and my dance friends were what got me through a difficult childhood full of surgeries, bullying, and self-consciousness issues. I grew up to be the confident, beautiful (and, obviously, modest) person that I am because, as they say in A Chorus Line, “everyone is beautiful at the ballet.”

    It hurts my heart to see such a wonderful thing reduced to this self-esteem-destroying, competition whoring, shallow, and degrading experience. Ugh, Liz. UUGGH, I say.

  3. As Liz’s mom all I can say is that I did not pick that costume. It had two forms, one of which was where the tutu was around the waist and not pinned to the back and both were used in the recital but somehow this was the version that was used for the photos.

    Oh, and whoever came up with the premise of Dance Moms needs serious mental help.

  4. I hear on you that show making you want to go on a murder spree. I wish there was some way I could just quietly put Abby Lee out of commission–at least semi-permanently. And there’s something pretty off about any parent who would pay to have their kid put through that.

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