The New York Post calls the new Lifetime series Dance Moms a cross between Real Housewives and Toddlers & Tiaras. It centers on the Pittsburgh dance studio run by the Bela Karolyi of the little girls’ dance world, Abby Lee Miller. Abby Lee is portrayed as the antagonist of the show right from the start. The pushy, female version of Simon Cowell, Abby doesn’t miss a detail, telling her 7-12 year old students to stand up straight, to take off their nail polish and that they are to listen to her in the studio and not their own mothers. The only thing fascinating about the show is that the flaky stage mothers continually undermine Abby Lee like rebellious teenagers, yet they keep coming back for more, making them the real dunces of the show. My 9-year-old watched a bit of it with me and he said, “ I don’t know who the bad guys are- the dance teacher or the moms.”
The moms mimic Abby behind her back. Their little girls confess to the camera that Abby intimidates them. But in a weird way these mothers seem to be looking for boundaries as much for them as they look to Abby to teach their daughters to dance. It’s kind of like Abby Lee is the Super Nanny for them all.
When one Mom refuses to remove her daughter’s nail polish minutes before a stage competition because she just paid for the manicure, she snarls at Abby in front of all the children, “I’ll take it off if you give me the $20!” Abby calmly reaches for her purse to refund her. The Mom storms off to the hotel bar for a drink like an errant daughter running from her too strict mother.
The stage moms all visibly percolate throughout the first episode, ready to blow at any time. They react to Abby like she is their warden, but why do they sign up for more lessons? Is being taught by what they perceive as the best dance instructor worth any cost? As one woman threatens, “I pay your bills, Abby!” But why?
The little girls are the sad, supporting cast of characters. In the scenes we are supposed to be getting background on them the mothers are all like steam rollers and the girls look sullen, hardly thrilled to be doing what they all say they love. One little girl, Mia, holds up a rhinestone crown and says, “This is my crown. I had to buy it because I haven’t won one yet.” It’s supposed to show determination, but it broke my heart to watch her. The scene flashes to another mother saying, “Maddie is a perfectionist,” of her 8-year-old daughter. She is, or the mother is?
In the end, two of the moms finally do blow up at Abby. One is forcibly removed from the studio and the other threatens to quit her daughter from dance classes. It’s sad to think that the little daughters will probably take the same path as their moms someday- where beauty and control are the ultimate prizes to be obtained. And we all know both are fleeting.
Are we actually supposed to learn something by watching a bunch of middle-aged women living through their daughters? Is it supposed to make us all feel better about our own parenting? It’s a tired script we’ve seen time and again. Too bad these real life women are profiting from their poor behavior. I don’t plan to watch the show again. I get the picture already.
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