Tag Archives: Lifetime Television

Diving into dance

My favorite dance dad snapped this baby several years ago

Seems the dance teacher duo of “Dance Moms Miami” has decided to delve into the psyches of its charges — coupling choreography sessions with pseudo-therapeutic meanderings into the minds of young dancers. But taking fifth place with an homage to letting go of insecurities seems to have refocused their resolve to destroy all imperfections.

I can’t help wishing, as I watch young Lucas dance each week, that some benevolent ballet teacher would snatch him up — crisply pointed toes and all — and take him away from all that Bieberesque behavior. There’s more to dance than bright lights and bootie shaking — and it appears we’ll soon get a glimpse of it thanks to The CW Network’s new “Breaking Pointe,” which promises a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the world of competitive dance.

I learned of the show from a dancer and ballet teacher who once called Utah home. Turns out Ballet West in Utah, led by artistic director Adam Sklute, will be featured in the new BBC production — conceived as a sort of antidote to the 201o film “Black Swan.”

We’ve been working on a book inspired by burgeoning interest in the dance world, eager to offer dance parents a resource for guiding their own family’s journey with dance. The next step in our own journey will be securing a publisher and getting that baby into bookstores.

We know there’s plenty of interest. Posts I’ve written on the “Dance Moms” phenomenon continue to get a high number of hits, and she’s often approached by dance parents hungry for information and guidance. I was a dance mom for more than a decade, and know there’s more to dance education than schlepping from one two-bit competition to another.

We’re all plenty entertained by shows like “Dance Moms” — but our own children, who don’t live inside a little box ruled by remote control, need more. They need parents appreciative of the true art and athleticism of dance. And families who support their creative journeys with more than sequins and spandex.

— Lynn

Coming up: Ballet Arizona premieres Ib Andersen’s “Topia” at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix

Note: We’d love to hear from parents with dance-related questions, dance professionals with pearls to share and folks with publishing connections. You can share comments below or reach us at poisedpen@cox.net until our new website takes wings.

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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

Once upon a stage mom

The mother of all stage mothers, “Mama Rose,” has been portrayed by plenty of legendary actresses in stage and screen versions of the musical “Gypsy.” Ethel Merman. Angela Lansbury. Bette Midler. Patti Lupone.

When “Gypsy” opens at Phoenix Theatre next month, Kathy Fitzgerald will perform the role. I’m eager to see it after enjoying Fitzerald’s truly exceptional performance as Madame Morrible in “Wicked” on Broadway last October with my daughter Lizabeth.

Fitzgerald has also performed in “9 to 5,” “The Producers,” and “Swinging on a Star” on Broadway — plus plenty of Off-Broadway and regional theater productions.

Before moving to Manhattan, where she lives with her husband and 12-year-old daughter Hope, Fitzgerald spent seven years performing on Valley stages. So working with Michael Barnard, who’s directing “Gypsy” at Phoenix Theatre, is nothing new.

Phoenix Theatre presents the musical "Gypsy" March 7-April 1

“Mama Rose” is often vilified for pushing her daughters Gypsy Rose Lee and June Havoc into show business. But Fitzgerald says she admires her “incredible drive and passion,” noting that she “pushed and pushed her girls” hoping to give them options not open to most women during the 1920s and 1930s.

“In some ways,” reflects Fitzgerald, “I respect her stength and tenacity.” Fitzgerald notes that “Mama Rose” did everything for her girls and was, in some ways, a pioneer. “Her life,” says Fitzgerald, “was way more tragic and flawed than it’s depicted in this musical.”

Today’s best known stage moms are another story. Fitzgerald says she has a hard time understanding why the mothers of Lifetime’s “Dance Moms” put their girls through so much melodrama. Seems the pay is poor for cable shows, though plenty of scenes may live on in digital world forever.

Fitzgerald says she’d “never want to be like” the moms who star on “Dance Moms” — whose nasty neuroses and futile fights typically take place in front of their kids. Having issues is one thing. Airing them in front of your children is another. Sharing them with millions of viewers is just plain creepy.

Daughter Hope is plenty busy with her academically rigorous school, according to Fitzgerald, who adds that neither she nor her husband would let Hope do the theater thing at this point. “There’s plenty of time for that later,” quips Fitzgerald.

Her own childhood was a bit different, however. “My dad ran a theater in L.A.,” says Fitzgerland, “and my mom was pretty pushy too.” Though her own mother died when she was just 15, Fitzgerald says “she knew that I was supposed to be an actor.”

Whether you’re a stage mother (in the best or worst sense of the word), or simply someone who enjoys watching others do the stage mother thing, seeing the musical “Gypsy” is a must.

“Gypsy” debuted on Broadway in 1959 featuring book by Arthur Laurents, music by Stephen Sondheim and lyrics by Jule Styne. It was directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins. It’s based on a memoir by Gypsy Rose Lee.

“Gypsy” is regarded by Fitzgerald and many others as “one of the best musicals of all time.” Its best-known songs include “Let Me Entertain You,” “Together Wherever We Go” and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” The music, says Fitzgerald, “is genius.”

— Lynn

Coming up: Trends in marketing Broadway

“Dance Moms” teen wants to quit?

These dancers are from Ballet Etudes in Gilbert

On last week’s episode of the new Lifetime Television series “Dance Moms,” a 13-year-old dancer named Brooke lamented missing opportunities to hang out with friends because of a rigorous dance schedule.

Seems friends had invited her to the mall during a week full of dance competition rehearsals. It didn’t help that Brooke had a painful hip injury or that most of her friends do cheerleading rather than dance.

If your son or daughter is a serious student of dance, competitive or otherwise, you’ve likely encountered a similar issue. I remember Lizabeth having several hours of dance classes or rehearsals up to six days a week when she trained with the School of Ballet Arizona in Phoenix.

Often there’s little time for friends outside the dance studio, unless you’re keen on skipping homework, family time or sleep. So I asked Sharon Seder Meko, founding artistic director of Ballet Etudes in Gilbert, for her take on letting young dancers quit lessons if they want to.

Sharon Seder Meko, founding artistic director of Ballet Etudes in Gilbert, enjoying time with some of her young dance students

Seems there’s something we parents can do long before it gets to this point. “Children,” says Meko, “should be brought slowly into the dance world.” She notes that most 7-year-olds who take five days of classes a week will “be burned out” by the time they are ten.

It was hard to tell last week whether Brooke was considering leaving dance altogether or merely wanting the freedom to miss a few rehearsals. In the end, her mom Kelly made her go — and the team performed well in competition. Certainly that helped Brooke feel better about showing up.

Meko notes that if a dancer makes a commitment that effects other dancers or a group of peers, the dancer must learn the hard way that commitments should not be made lightly. “In my company,” says Meko, “we only make these allowances for matters of life or death, sickness or school grades.”

In most dance studios, including Ballet Etudes, there is a lot more dance than drama

From my own experience with the “real dance moms of Maricopa County,” I can tell you that there are teachers out there who feel illness is a poor excuse to miss dance — and who aren’t inclined to excuse an absence when major exams or papers loom. I suppose it’s good to ask about such things when researching various dance options.

So what does Meko recommend for parents of children who want to take a break from the dance world? “See them as a child first,” she says. “And, possibly, a dancer second.” Meko adds that “very often a dancer needs time off to recuperate their mind and/or body.”

“If the child truly has the passion for dance,” reflects Meko, “then they will realize the void they have in their life without dance and will want to return.” She describes dance as “highly challenging both emotionally and physically” and notes that it effects not only the dancer’s time, but that of family members too.

Dancers auditioning at Ballet Etudes in Gilbert

“If your child does not have the passion for it,” says Meko, “then to make them continue to pursue it is unhealthy.” Meko believes “there is a select three percent who know in their heart that they want to be dancers” and says those who don’t know “need to experience other outlets before they can make a sound decision.”

So what does Meko think of “Dance Moms” on Lifetime? “All in all,” she says, “I enjoy the show.” She notes that “many of the children do have good technique” and says “Dance Moms” demonstrates “just how difficult dance is, and how much time is required for successful training and excellence.”

“I am thrilled,” says Meko, “that inappropriate dance moves and costuming is finally being brought into the limelight in a negative way.” She feels that children are too often “put into situations where they are required to dance and act like young women” when it’s their “youth and innocence that should be highlighted.”

Meko recalls an episode where some of the dance moms “stood up to the instructor” for choosing revealing costumes for young dancers. “Hopefully this will give mothers around the country the courage to stand up for their children in similar situations.”

There is little need for revealing costumes when it is all about the dance

Sadly, Meko shares that the sterotypical “stage mom” behavior seen on “Dance Moms” is “a common occurence throughout the dance world at all levels.” I suspect it doesn’t help that the moms featured on the show are rarely shown leaving the dance studio to pursue their own interests. It seems, during most episodes, that each desperately needs to “get a life.”

She’s not a fan of their negativity, childishness or cruelty — especially towards the parents of other children. Meko hopes that the “plain negative behavior displayed by these mothers will help act as something of a mirror” for similar “stage mothers” who watch the show. Then, perhaps, their “behavior patterns will change.”

Dancers do best when their parents play well with others

I’m less optimistic. Dance just happens to be the glue sticking these parents to their captive children. If they weren’t “dance moms” in the worst sense of the word, they’d be something equally awful. Clingy chess moms. Bossy basketball moms. Seething soccer moms.

Still, Meko’s point is well taken. Those of us who fancy ourselves “stage moms” do well to measure our own attitudes and behavior. In the end, most get passed along to our children. And a mean-spirited child is no joy to behold.

— Lynn

Note: All photos, which feature Ballet Etudes dancers, are courtesy of Sharon Seder Meko

Coming up: “Pay for play” theater, Summertime meets Shakespeare, Andrew Lloyd Webber alert!