Dance Moms' Abby Lee Miller: There's nothing better than rivalry

Sarah Welsh
Yahoo Lifestyle
15 March 2013

‘Dance Moms’ is the reality TV sensation that’s taken the States by storm and with mothers fighting to ensure their ‘little darlings’ become superstars it’s little wonder it’s become compulsive viewing.

Celebrity fans of the show include Best Actress at the Oscars 2013 Jennifer Lawrence, who even chatted about how addicted she is on the red carpet.

As the programme launches over here Yahoo! Lifestyle discovers what all the fuss is about…

If you’ve ever wondered how far a mother might go to push her child into a career in the limelight, a gripping scene in the first episode of hit US show ‘Dance Moms’ makes it shockingly clear.

Melissa, one of the troupe of pushy parents who spend hours watching their daughters rehearse and perform at Abby Lee Miller’s Pennsylvania dance studio, talks to camera about how she’s invested tens of thousands of dollars to ensure her two girls, Maddie, eight, and six-year-old Mackenzie become famous.

Even the breakdown of her marriage – her ex apparently calls her ‘crazy dance mom’ – isn’t enough to dent her focus.

"It’s all about winning. Abby will make my daughter a star," she says simply, before scolding little Maddie for being ill. "I can’t stand children who are sick – you never miss a day’s dance class."

Melissa’s attitude might sound extreme, but attempting to rein in ridiculous ambition is all in a day’s work for straight-talking dance expert Abby. In fact her sharp tongue could be compared to Glee’s Sue Sylvester.

With more than 30 years in the business Abby has trained some of Broadway’s biggest stars and loves what she does. It’s just a shame about the pushy parents of her pupils.

"Those moms will be the death of me – they’re even worse off camera," she confides. "They’re all trying to live out their own dreams through their children. They’re so stupid and always try to go against me.

[Related: Why anxiety is a 'natural state' for parents]

"Maddie is my star pupil and the mothers are jealous of her. They’re jealous of an eight-year-old girl!"
This explains why, as seen on the show, Abby banishes the bickering mothers to ‘dance jail’, a viewing room above the studio when she’s training the girls.

Abby’s standards are the toughest in the industry, with her students having to learn a brand new routine every week for competitions right across the US on the road to the ultimate prize – the National Dance title.

Methods she harnesses to help the girls stand out can include skimpy costumes and risqué moves.
Abby even uses a ‘pyramid’ teaching tool, pitting the young dancers against each other in a bid to sit at the top of the triangle.

"There’s nothing better than a little rivalry," Abby reveals. "To make it in this industry you have to stand next to the best girl in class and kick higher than she does. If you want to be the best you have to push yourself.

"I am harsh but that’s because auditioning can be soul-destroying in the real world. I’d rather my girls cry in front of me than be made a laughing stock at an open casting."

Abby’s ‘caring side’ certainly doesn’t extend to the mothers of her dancers.

One mother, Cathy, whose daughter Vivi, six, starts training with Abby at the beginning of the show, is an outspoken dance tutor herself so bound to knock heads with Ms Lee Miller. But by far the most badly behaved is Christi, mum to nine-year-old Chloe.

"Christi is so awful that she was nearly expelled from my dance school before they started filming," Abby says. "Sadly she wormed her way in with producers and now I’m stuck with her.

"She portrays herself as this amazing mom but I’ve seen the other side and she plays all kinds of mind games with her own child. She uses terrible language in front of three-year-olds, has bounced cheque after cheque to me and basically her head isn’t screwed on right.

"I’d be thrilled if she disappeared one day. But as for Jennifer Lawrence, she’s welcome to do a cameo whenever she likes!"

Dance Moms starts Tuesday, March 19, 9pm on the Bio Channel

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