Tag Archives: Abby Lee Miller

Musings on “Dance Moms Miami”

Thanks to artist Brett Sauce, folks who watch the latest "Dance Moms" series on Lifetime Television can enjoy a far prettier picture of Miami

After two seasons with destruct-o-matic dance moms and their delightful daughters, Abby Lee Miller has finally entered meltdown mode. Folks who’ve watched the show grow more venomous over time are surely wondering — What took so long?

Moms who delight in gossip learn that one of their own has hired an attorney to prevent talk of her romantic adventures. Children needing calm as they ready to take the stage are surrounded by squabbling mothers. And dancers who should be supporting one another’s successes exude the petty jealousy modeled by those charged with their care.

Abby’s no innocent, of course. She’s consumed by concern for her own reputation, subjects dancers to a weekly pyramid that pits dancer against dancer and does more screaming than teaching. And she’s easily baited by rival dance types from another studio who share her gift for pushing others’ buttons.

As one mom in particular appeared to unravel before our eyes this season, folks I’ve chatted with about the show have shared escalating concerns — even wondering whether some of the behaviors exhibited on the show might rise to the level of child abuse.

Palm tree meets pirouette on "Dance Moms Miami" on Lifetime Television

So naturally, the network that brought us “Dance Moms” decided they needed more of a good thing. Hence last night’s debut of “Dance Moms Miami,” featuring a new set of misguided moms, diva dancers and over-the-top teachers. It’s got everything you love to hate about “Dance Moms” — but with bright Miami colors and a hot mess of infantile emotions.

Dance Moms Miami” features dance teachers Victor Smalley and Angel DeArmas of Stars Dance Studio in Miami, who share two goals early on in episode one — raising stars (rather than merely raising dancers) and creating artists who can express themselves through movement. Crushing children’s spirits didn’t make their list, but it’s bound to happen.

While Miller seemed merely exasperated with her dance moms, Smalley and DeArmas ooze genuine disdain. “I don’t even think they’re good parents,” one says. And later — “Truth be told, I think I could be a better parent to them sometimes.” So much for positive parents/teacher partnerships.

There’s no shortage of dysfunction in the dance mom department. “Some people,” shares one mom, “may say that I’m psycho.” Mental health advocates will be rightfully disturbed by the show’s heavy use of “crazy” talk, and viewers will surely wonder why a mom would take such pride in her own shortcomings.

It’s easy to see where “Dance Moms Miami” is going. One teacher describes himself as “like one of the kids,” noting that his partner is “the strict one.” Both mistakenly assumed that hiring one of the moms to work the front desk would help calm the other parents. It’s all a recipe for conflict meant to whet the instatiable appetite of voyeuristic viewers.

So how does “Dance Moms Miami” compare to its forerunner? The moms, by their own account, are bitchier. Blah cold weather surroundings are replaced by loud Miami colors. There’s a boy dancer in the mix. And the dancewear is skimpier. Think black skin-tight numbers with red feathers and silver chains.

"Miami World" by Brett Sauce, whose work you can enjoy at http://www.brettsauceart.com

Both shows feature moms who live vicariously through their children, though the original dance moms seem subtle somehow once you’ve heard Miami dance moms opine about their own foiled dance dreams or family dancers of generations past whose shoes they expect a new generation to fill.

Like the original, “Dance Moms Miami” sometimes reveals remarkable insights by young dancers. When one Miami dancer doesn’t get a solo for the “Hollywood Vibe” competition, she realizes it’s an opportunity to hone her part for the group number.

And while teachers on both shows dispense heavy doses of criticism, the “Dance Moms Miami” guys sometimes manage to dish out real gems. While revealing this week’s list (the equivalent of Miller’s pyramid ranking dancers based on the previous week’s performance), one reminds dancer Lucas that “the stage isn’t a runway” — adding that “being cute is only going to take you so far.”

Sometimes, it seems the Miami dance moms enjoy rare moments of insight. One clearly recognizes that she’s much more competitive than her daughter, and another readily shares that she’s contributed to her daughter’s dance with perfectionism. All think their daughter dances like no other, though I’ve yet to witness an abundance of artistry or technique.

"Dance Moms" makes dolphins at the Miami Seaquarium seem the more advanced species

Still, there’s something to learn from watching these characters in play. Like its predecessor, “Dance Moms Miami” is a “how-to” for what not to do. Don’t interupt class time for impromptu parent/teacher talks. Don’t tell dance teachers how to cast or choreograph their works. Don’t send your child to class with sloppy hair or missing dancewear. Don’t greet fellow moms with a litany of your child’s awards and accolades.

Run fast and far when you see teachers teasing students, parents fighting in front of children or students risking injury with moves they’re not strong or skilled enough to execute. Beware of studios that sexualize children or encourage dancers to flash a “come hither” look while performing. (Cheers for the Joffrey Ballet School auditioner who told one of Miller’s dancers that the person who’d taught her to shake her bum bum was a dumb dumb.)

In the final minutes of the “Dance Moms Miami” premiere, which felt a bit like twisted tango meets “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” a teacher shared a lovely little rant that went something like this — “The moms, they behave like animals. Those moms are crazy, they’re mental. Their husbands can’t control them. Even God can’t control them.”

As “Dance Moms” cast members dream of setting the world on fire, the rest of us grapple with one burning question — Why would anyone let themselves be filmed in the midst of such bad behavior? The better question might be why we all continue tuning in.

Recently a friend described time spent watching “Dance Moms” as a cathartic experience. “A few minutes of one of the dance mom shows and my life seems so calm and ordered,” she told me. “It’s some sickness of mine that I’ve watched at all.”

— Lynn

Note: Click here to enjoy more works from Brett Sauce

Coming up: The fourth coming


Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade auditions

Some of the kids who audition at ASU Gammage this Saturday might get to enjoy workshops, performing and sightseeing in New York City this November

I’ve got NYC on my heart and mind today as Hurricane Irene threatens to head up the East Coast, possibly affecting some of my favorite sites in New York City — the beautiful Battery Park waterfront, Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan and more.

Folks enjoying their weekday lunch hour along a waterway in Battery Park

But I’m also thinking ahead. More than 3 million people are expected to line the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route in NYC on Nov 24, and your child could be among those performing for the crowds. Macy’s expects another 50 million people to watch the 85th anniversary parade on NBC.

Auditions for this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade are being held by the national Camp Broadway organization this Sat, Aug 27 at 9am at ASU Gammage. It’s an open call dance audition but no dance experience, headshot or resume is required — meaning any child who will be 12-16 at the time of the parade who might like to participate can try out.

Camp Broadway will be casting 120 children and teens from across the country (there are about ten auditions total) to perform an original number titled “There’s No Place Like Here” at the parade. They’ll be performing on and near a Zhu Zhu theme float — which will feature a performance by a “mystery teen pop star.” Tempe is stop number one for these auditions.

Those chosen will participate in a special Camp Broadway experience that includes six days of music, movement rehearsals and workshops — plus on-site rehearsals at Herald Square under the direction of Tony Parise, artistic director for Camp Broadway at the national level.

Parise will teach a dance combination on Saturday as part of the audition process. Auditions will be conducted in groups, and participants are expected to dress for dance. Think comfortable clothes and soft rubber-soled shoes. Sandals, flip-flops and hard-sole dress shoes are a no-no.

There are no time slots for auditioners, and the length of the audition process will depend on the number of kids who take part. Camp Broadway estimates that it could be a two to three hour process, but urges families to prepare for longer or shorter hours. Be sure you arrive at the audition no later than 9am.

I’m happy to report that the experience sounds a good deal more enjoyable than dancing with Abby Lee Miller at the Pittsburgh studio where Lifetime television films portions of its new “Dance Moms” reality series.

Those selected to dance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade will pay an $895 program fee to participate. While in NYC, they’ll receive Camp Broadway giveaways — and they’ll even get to keep their parade costume. Participants also pay associated costs like travel, housing and such.

Perhaps some of the parade performers will get inspired to study one day at places like the Juilliard School in New York City

While in NYC, dancers will not only prepare for their parade performance, but enjoy time with dance captains from various Broadway shows — who will teach them actual choreography from these shows. Parise notes that there will also be time for sightseeing, since some rehearsals last just half a day.

While in NYC, parade performers will spot taxis sporting ads for all sorts of Broadway shows -- and maybe feel inspired to perform on Broadway one day

Those with an interest in all things Broadway might want to mark their calendars for next year’s Camp Broadway at ASU Gammage taking place Jun 4-8. Campers will see a touring production of the Tony Award-winning musical “Million Dollar Quartet” and meet the show’s cast.

Participants from Camp Broadway at ASU Gammage in 2007

Come Saturday, I’ll have a heavy heart for those along the East Coast who might be experiencing or bracing for the storm. Especially folks at places like the 9/11 Memorial Preview Center and Poets House, which I so enjoyed visiting during my last trip to NYC.

But I’m glad to have something positive to think on as well — all those dancing feet and smiling faces as Camp Broadway gives oodles of young dancers at ASU Gammage a chance to live their own NYC dreams at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to read about special Macy’s discounts available through Desert Stages Theatre in Scottsdale

Coming up: Saturday event featuring family-friendly comedy

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