Last weekend I accidentally caught an all day marathon of Dance Moms: Miami. I say accidental because I started scrolling through my guide without any idea it would be on. However choosing to spend my valuable free time watching the marathon was sadly very purposeful. But I’m a huge fan of Dance Moms and I thought it was only fair to give the spin-off a chance to entertain me. After watching both shows now and seeing their different styles, I can say that Dance Moms: Pittsburgh remains the better show.
And it’s not for any of the reasons you would think. The dancers on Dance Mom: Miami have much better technique and the dance instructors are much more professional. But after seeing that — and after spending countless hours wishing Abby Lee could be a better dance instructor — I realized that’s not the appeal of Dance Moms.
Sure watching the girls perform a new routine every week can be exciting, but that’s not really why we’re all tuning in. As much as I don’t want to admit it, we’re watching the show for Abby Lee Miller. The Trunchbull of dance instructors. She’s mean, she’s competitive, she pits the kids against each other, she yells at the moms in front of the children, she snaps corrections but never actually shows the girls how to do them and most entertaining of all, she actually thinks she’s important.
While Abby can wax poetic about how her name’s at stake at every single competition, we all know it’s not true. She’s a successful dance instructor from Pittsburgh, not the lead choreographer at a major NYC dance company. She might get great business from the families of the Pittsburgh suburbs, but we’re all aware that she would find a much harder time attracting talented clientele in a larger city, like Miami.
Victor Smalley and Angel Armas, the Abby Lee Millers of Dance Moms: Miami are a thousand times more professional than Abby. They’re actual dancers who can demonstrate what they’re teaching while choreographing a dance. Victor Smalley’s such a talented dancer that he was actually a finalist on season 6 of So You Think You Can Dance.
They train their kids with tough love. Yes they’re competitive and yes they push the kids to do their best, but they clearly care about them all and that shows during each episode. Because they actually know what they’re doing and they choreograph age-appropriate dances with age-appropriate costumes, the parents rarely have the same kinds of complaints that the moms in Pittsburgh do. Sure they interfere sometimes, but it’s not anywhere near the same level.
The owner of the dance studio, Abbey, was rather blunt about the fact that she knew she was racially stereotyping Nia. She said that she needed to learn her “ethnic” dance. The mother and Abbey went back and forth and unsurprisingly, nothing was resolved.
So while Lifetime clearly tries to edit in drama, the excitement of Pittsburgh just isn’t there. While at first I was surprised that Dance Moms: Miami’s legitimacy turned me off, I soon realized it all makes sense and fits into the bigger picture of reality TV.
We’re not watching for the good moments, the heartwarming mother-daughter pep talks or even eight year olds pulling off incredible dances. We’re watching for the over-the-top drama. It’s why we watch reality television. Not to cheer someone on, but to take someone down. Sure that’s incredibly sad and depressing to type, but it’s the truth.
If Abby didn’t constantly berate the children and make them do topless dances a la Vegas showgirls, the show itself would be far less interesting. Who wants to watch someone else’s child learn to dance? Not I, and I’m going to guess not the majority of America.
While I hate to reward Abby Lee Miller for being absolutely detestable, I can’t help but admire what she accomplished. She truly is the essence of Dance Moms, without her serving as public enemy number one, there’s really no reason to watch the show at all. The woman might not be able to dance, but she sure can pull off being a reality show villain.