Reflections on Lifetime TV’s “Dance Moms”

Plumb Performing Arts Center CITY LIGHTS Musical Theatre Mini Number performed April 2011 at the New York City Dance Academy Regional Competition in Dallas

Plumb Performing Arts Center CITY LIGHTS Musical Theatre Mini Number performed April 2011 at the New York City Dance Academy Regional Competition in Dallas

Lisa Plumb, owner of Plumb Performing Arts Center in Scottsdale, has plenty to share on the topic of Lifetime’s new “reality TV” series titled “Dance Moms,” which airs on Wednesday nights.

“Dance Moms” features a brash, bellicose dance teacher who has long owned and operated a dance studio in Pittsburgh. Also the dancers who train there — and their mothers. They like to watch. And snip.

Plumb Performing Arts Center dancer competing in Dallas in April 2011

Plumb says she runs “a tight ship,” but finds the “Dance Moms” studio “a bit extreme.” It’s rare in real life, for example, for girls to learn competition routines with as little time as they appear to be given in “Dance Moms.”

For Abby Lee Miller, owner of Abby Lee Dance Company, it’s all about winning. But Plumb says dance competitions offer plenty of benefits for those who don’t win. Gaining experience in performance and showmanship, setting and working toward goals, networking with professionals and peers — and more.

Plumb recognizes some moms do take dance competitions to an “extreme.” Still, she suggests a more balanced approach. It’s possible, reflects Plumb, to couple a “no-nonsense style” with a “loving and nurturing” environment.

It’s this approach, adds Plumb, that leads to “well-trained dancers that end up getting the most jobs,” because they’ve “learned to deal with not always winning and rejection — which can be applied to any other aspect of life.”

Dorie Reiter and Jordan Pelliteri of Plumb Performing Arts Center perform in Dallas in April 2011

“The moms that keep it in perspective,” observes Plumb, “have the kids that ultimately in the long run do the best whether they are professional dancers or doctors.” Makes sense when you picture your surgeon struggling to operate in the absense of an overbearing “doc mom.”

I was amazed, during a recent episode of “Dance Moms,” that a dancer whose headpiece fell over her eyes continued to dance as if nothing had happened. I felt certain both studio owner/teacher and parent would applaud her for staying focused and keeping her cool.

Instead, the dance teacher tore into the dancer’s mom for letting such a thing happen. Plumb notes that there’s little benefit to parents and teachers talking negatively to or about one another when dancers are present. It’s tacky, and entirely unproductive.

A Plumb Performing Arts Center dancer competing in Dallas in April 2011

Plumb insists that “a true winning team, whether they win the top trophy or not, is one that has a good, honest and open working relationship between student, parent and teacher.”

The young dancers on “Dance Moms” are trying, says Plumb, to please their parents and teachers. At times, they’re expected to choose between the two — something that makes Plumb feel “sorry and sad.”

In real life, observes Plumb, dance moms “support their children without being over the top.” And they “diversify” their children’s dance experiences — coupling dance competitions with non-competitive performance, summer intensives and such.

As the series unfolds, we’re all learning more about the dance moms featured on the show. The one who pushes her daughter to perform against medical advice. The one who insists her daughter stress the right syllable when saying “okay.” Were children not involved, all these grown-up neuroses might be somewhat amusing.

Dorie Reiter and Jordan Pelliteri of Plumb Performing Arts Center competing in the April 2011 New York City Dance Alliance Regional Finals in Dallas

Plumb admits that “Dance Moms” has “its very funny and real life moments” but still finds it “a bit sad and disturbing.” And she cautions parents that about 95% of competition owners, for both pageants and dance, are only there to make money.

Do your homework. Trust your instincts. Listen to your child. But don’t believe everything you see on TV.

— Lynn

Note: All photos, by PRO PIX, are courtesy of Plumb Performing Arts Center. Dance group pictured above includes Angelina Lewallen, Katelynn Lewallen, Eliana Shephard, Madison Schultz, Jessica Rizor, Sierra Aungst, Brooke Rozelle and Gracie Timms.

Coming up: More dance experts on “Dance Moms,” Coffee meets comics, Way of the “Wolves,” Origami & beyond

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings. 6/13/12

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4 responses to “Reflections on Lifetime TV’s “Dance Moms”

  1. Cathi, you are so ridiculous! To have one of your dance students utilize one of Abby’s student’s (Chloe) songs for a competition was such a class-less blow on your end. By the way, money doesn’t buy one class. Did you really think that your student could hold a torch to Chloe? Are you really that oblivious? You also looked so foolish in your “prima donna” appearance in the Dance Moms’ ensemble. I am so embarrased for your daughter and the rest of your students in your “Sour Apple” studio. Get a clue, Cathi.

  2. Abby Miller is a fat screw up that lives threw little maddies dancing. She gives Pittsburgh a bad name and women as well.

  3. Dr. Kristine A. Schach

    I am not going to watch “Dance Moms” again. I’m one voice, but the verbal and emotional abuse these darling little girls are submitted to reminds me of a Marine bootcamp! I have a doctorate in education and the bullying tactics Abby Lee Miller uses could get her arrested in my field. I’m all for discipline, goals, and high expectations but this method of teaching covers none of these. I’m also tired of the behavior of the moms, especially Christi. Children learn by example and displayed behaviors of moms in front of the children is just wrong. I know this is one comment but as for me I’m tired of abusive adults. “Dance Moms” promotes this issue by allowing Abby Lee and her terrible teaching methods to be televised. Next we’ll have not so bright parents copying her and using her show as an example of what abuse can do for children.

  4. I actually love dance moms! I think that all the girls are beautiful and talented dancers! But I would like to point out that this is not exactly a reality show. On the moms blogs they have said that before the show, there wasn’t even a pyramid! It was for the show. Also I’ve learned that on this season when Jill left to CandyApples…she really didn’t. Kendall does routines under Cathy’s name and studio for the show but in reality, she still dances at ALDC. The only reason why this show is called a “reality show” is because it’s a real dance studio and they go to real competitions. Just thought I’d let everyone know! 🙂

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