Judge Brett Cullum joins a troupe of moms who don't dance, but do scream at each other and their children.
Making Toddlers & Tiaras look surprisingly tame.
Dance Moms is a modern fairy tale where a wicked witch kidnaps a group of little girls and eats them alive. What makes this bedtime story even worse? Their mothers watch and encourage all of the violence against them. If you take the most wretched parts of Toddlers & Tiaras and marry them with the backstabbing sequences of any of The Real Housewives you will get this show. At the center is the Abby Lee Dance Company which operates in Pittsburgh under the very impassioned dictatorial teacher Abby Lee, and this "docu-series" follows a small group of her students and their moms. They are all preparing for competitions that will lead the troupe up to a national level. They fight, bicker, yell, and somehow train little girls to dance in the middle of this maelstrom. You would think the children dancing would take centerstage, but instead we see Abby Lee and the moms go at each other's throats episode after episode.
Stage moms always get a bad rap, and this series is not going to help their cause one iota. The moms seem to be forcing their nine to thirteen year olds to train nonstop so that they can live vicariously through them. The girls are super talented, and obviously Abby Lee Miller has a gift to share. But the methods seem to include browbeating, constant fighting, and destroying self-confidence. They bash the girls on looks, costume choices, and force them to perform through injuries. They deny their kids trips to the mall, the chance to join a softball team, and to do anything other than what they expect in the studio. It's telling when one of the little girls looks at the camera and says "I love dancing, but I don't want to go to Broadway. All I want to do is stay home and eat chips."
This first year of Dance Moms debuted in July 2011 and ran for thirteen episodes with a season finale that October. It did so well in the ratings that the second season was extended and a spin-off series set in Miami got the green light. Season One puts together all of the shows, and it leaves the language uncensored. You get plenty of f-bombs, and it's interesting to hear that language intact. The transfer looks just like it did on basic cable, the filming is low-tech and hand-held. Included as extras are a "Most Outrageous Moments" special that aired on cable and a handful of clips labeled as unaired footage.
My biggest beef is that I wish the series would focus more on the seven girls rather than on the six parents. Why can't we see dancing and the struggles that come from practice and dedication to an art? The mama drama feels forced as if somebody is directing the narrative and inventing the scenarios. Cameras are present at private lunches, and the whole thing reeks of being set up and contrived by writers and producers. When I checked into the studio in real life, Abby Lee Miller had over twenty-three dancers in her company that compete, but here we only see seven. The girls featured on the show were auditioned with their parents to have the series created around them. There is a sense here that Dance Moms is as carefully constructed as any scripted work airing across from it.
Obviously Dance Moms has enough fans to make it a cable television hit. People love to see parents fight with each other, and it is fun sometimes to see Abby come up with her comebacks and insults. To me it seems sad the moms are doing all of this around their daughters, and treating them so badly doesn't make them very endearing. The little girls have much talent and deserve respect, so it's uncomfortable to watch them get berated or demeaned. The series itself could use a little more focus on the dancing and a little less fascination with the yelling. But then I guess you could always watch So You Think You Can Dance if you wanted to actually see some dancing.
Guilty of being an uncomfortable look at moms screaming at each other
backstage while their daughters try to move.
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