A dramatic opening: mothers are screaming; girls are crying; people seem to fall into two camps of either jealous or crazy; and a woman who looks as if she owns several house coats that might smell of cat urine is stomping across the floor, rasping orders while some girl contorts into a boneless chicken fillet with an overly mascaraed head. This can only mean one thing: Dance Moms.
Cue opening credits of moms and daughters doing some cringe dancing, next to their names spelled out in giant block letters, before the hulking black figure of terror, Abby Lee, puts an end to all the fun, her hands firmly on her hips, the firm set of her jaw and narrowed lips suggesting she might kill you. DANCE MOMS!
The first episode opens with an alarming amount of polyester. It’s competition time. Nationals! And we all know from watching Glee how important Nationals are.
Let’s meet the cast, shall we? First up it’s Abby Lee Miller herself, who appears to have misplaced her neck. Maybe this is why her voice sounds as if she gargles with gravel and the bones of small children.
“Coupe, grand jete, Chardonnay, Michael Buble,” she rasps at the floor of dancing children. It turns out, these are all dance moves. Apparently, Abby produces stars. We know this from the pan out of some of her trophies. You get the impression Abby makes stars in the same way diamonds are made, but it turns out she’s actually very caring. She raises some of these children as if they were her own (said with the underlying violence of someone who eats their young), staring down the cameraman so hard, you fear he may have wet himself. Let’s hope he’s not crying though! As Abby Lee can’t abide tears, as we see in the next scene, where she yells at a little girl for doing so.
But what have we here? Why, it’s the pyramid, where all the girls are rated according to their performance. “Everyone wants to be on top, but you have to work for it,” Abby explains, as you’re left with the overwhelming impression that she’s actually running an escort agency. This is partly because of the amount of makeup some of the small children are wearing in their headshots; partly because they’re posing like they’re setting a honey trap. Either way, you begin to feel distinctly uncomfortable. At the moment, Maddie’s on the top, which her mom pretends to feel bad about, “She’s always on the top,” while happily preening herself. Still in polyester though.
Let’s get a confessional from her, shall we? We get an insight into her home life, where she dreamily flips through a catalogue, while Maddie smugly points out it’s mainly of her. “There’s me. There’s me. There’s me.” What a winning little narcissist she’ll turn out to be. But uh oh! All is not well at home. Wearing a top made purely from glitter and (my guess) Pritstick, Melissa tells us about her (head twitch) “Ex to be” who blames dance for breaking up their marriage. But it’s ok! She’s found a new boyfriend and he foots the bills instead. “It’s about the kids,” she tells us with wide, staring, crack eyes.
Back to the studio!
“Those legs are about as straight as Elton John.” Abby gasps at the prancing girls.
Let’s meet Christi and her daughter, Chloe. Chloe is Maddie’s number one competition. Christi will do pretty much anything to make Chloe number one, including putting dance before school. “It’s probably not right,” she gurns.
Back at the studio, the mothers are all discussing the pyramid, bitching about how Maddie’s on top (big suh-prise ), ignoring Maddie’s mom, Melissa, who’s sat right next to them. Apparently, there’s a big soundproof wall between Melissa and the rest of the moms, which makes this all ok.
But the other moms—I mean, their daughters—might be in with a chance, as Maddie looks sick! “If she pukes, I’m not cleaning it up,” caring, loving Melissa intones, with a sassy wiggle of her finger. Maddie looks pale, has been seen retching and is dancing through a haze of tears, so Melissa goes to cheer her up, using comforting words such as “Stop acting like this. Are you going to throw up? You looked like you were going to throw up.” While telling the camera “I can’t stand. A child. That’s sick.” With a bracing, “You never miss dance. Let’s go,” tearful, sick little Maddie bravely troops back out onto the dance floor, to the bile of all the other moms.
It’s time for Abby to do some more yelling, threatening to have Paige’s head on a platter and telling the camera (surely by now left unattended) that she likes to be the ones to tell the girls their flaws and make them cry, before anyone else can. Flash over to Paige, her mom Kelly and her other daughter, Brooke. Brooke has been winning awards since she was six years old and Paige has also won an award. It turns out that Kelly also used to be a dancer! She started dancing with Abby when she was two and a half and has been dancing with her for 37 years. Yet she still sees fit to put her daughters through the same rigours. Brooke doesn’t want to dance anymore, preferring cheerleading instead. This makes Brooke an ungrateful little bitch. Kelly tries to make her feel bad by asking if it matters to her that “you’re not getting first and second anymore.” Brooke looks bored. “Not really.” Back in the confessional, Kelly’s smiling like she’s on uppers and saying that though her daughters can be mean (evils Bored Brooke), deep down, they appreciate what she does. Paige points and mouths “that’s her,” so there can be no confusion as to whom Kelly’s talking about.
Let’s go straight to Holly, shall we? Holly’s Nia’s mom. Nia is at the bottom of the pyramid. Again. In their confessional, Holly beams about over Nia’s talent. Nia practices her Demon Headmaster eyes. With a masters degree from Carnegie Mellon and currently studying at the University of Pennsylvania, whilst still holding down a job as a high school principal, Holly easily comes across as the most intelligent and accomplished mom in the group. Oh! And she also looks like Michelle Obama! Which is the biggest achievement of all. Nia shows off her crown. She didn’t win it. She had to buy it. Holly remains optimistic and supportive. “It’s coming.”
Welcome a new mom! It’s Cathy and Vivi-anne! Cathy explains she has a history of dance, running her own studio, while Vivi-anne sits next to her and mockingly mouths everything she’s saying, complete with hand gestures. I like Vivi-anne immediately. “Vivi has to dance.”
Cathy is “absolutely loaded with quirks.” We see this as we enter her house, which is what I would imagine the Neverland ranch to look like inside, except for little girls. “I love bunnies,” Cathy coos. She likes carrots too. They’re neat ‘cause they go with the bunnies. Cut to Vivi who looks like she’s been lobotomised. Pink is Cathy’s favourite colour, or, as she puts it, “a way of life.” Cut to Vivi: “I don’t like pink.” Which is a shame, because her bedroom seems to be decorated exclusively with pink bunnies. Unless this is Cathy’s room, which would be more fitting. Cathy talks like Bugs Bunny, which would probably be a compliment to her. Cathy has brought Vivi to Abby Lee’s studio so someone else can be the bitch that makes her daughter cry. “So you’re here as the mom…?” Abby clarifies.
“I’m here as the mom.”
“You’re not looking for a job?”
“Oh no, no… Yet.”
Then there’s an awkward moment when Cathy says “You go girlfriend” and gives Vivi a high-five. Let’s move on.
It’s the day before competition. But then! Someone’s arse walks into the studio! And boy, does it look clenched. Someone has worn the wrong outfit and this is a big no no for Abby Lee. It turns out the clenched arse is the girl’s mom. Who’s also a minister. “Yes I am a minister!” She screeches. “Let’s play the Bible game, Abby!” At this point, the screaming becomes unintelligible, but the Bible game doesn’t sound much fun. Abby throws the woman and her daughter out. Abby starts yelling at the daughter for not doing the right moves. One thinks her anger might be displaced and make a comment about picking on someone her own size but to be fair, there probably isn’t anyone Abby Lee’s size. After the woman chases Abby round the studio a bit, Abby calls the police. “She does not have weapons, just her mouth,” she explains while correcting one student’s point.
It’s competition time. “We’re like the glammed up Beverly Hillbillies,” Christie explains in the best line to date. Behind the scenes, everything’s going to hell: costumes aren’t finished and one girl’s had the wrong manicure. Christi and Kelly decide to diffuse the tension by going to the bar. Abby’s found them, coming storming through the bar. She’s not happy. Kelly and Christie ‘double fist’ (“I don’t double fist when I’m with my kids! I double fist when I’m in college.”), before heading back to the girls. Kelly then burns Paige with her curling iron, before blaming it on Paige. “She walked right into the curling iron.” Someone grabs ice (maybe from her cocktail), while little Nia comforts Paige with the sage words: “If it makes you feel any better, I don’t have any underwear on.”
The first dance goes off without a hitch, though they only win third place, which means the trio dance has to be amazing. But then disaster strikes: Chloe’s headband falls down her face! At one point, not considering pushing it up, she dances blind. This leaves Abby and Christie to go outside for a shouting match, where Abby accuses Christie of being a drunk mess.
“Remember, I pay your bills!” Christie shouts, which appears to be the equivalent of saying ‘your ass looks big in those knock off Juicy jeans.
“You pay your bills late,” Abby hisses back. Equivalent: your weave looks cheap.
Somehow, they win anyway and the world is saved from ending.