“Dance Moms”: Uncovered

Diving into the backlash and controversies of Lifetime’s fan-favorite series “Dance Moms.”


Kaelyn Rickels

Many former “Dance Moms” stars have come forward to expose the dark secrets behind the show.

“Dance Moms” is an American reality television show with eight seasons that aired from July 2011 to Sept. 2019. The show follows the emerging show business careers of young dancers, under the instruction of Abby Lee Miller. Miller owns the Abby Lee Dance Company (ALDC) where most of the show takes place. The show initially follows the ALDC’s Junior Elite Competition Team, comprised of dancers aged six to 13, as they travel to various competitions around the country and grow their show business careers.
Many “Dance Moms” fans love the show for its focus on the drama and fights that break out between Miller, the moms, and rival dance teams. Others, however, are aware of some of the darker secrets that the show is hiding.
One of the largest and most public scandals the show has faced was in 2015 when Miller was indicted in Pittsburgh on charges of bankruptcy fraud, concealment of bankruptcy assets, and false bankruptcy declarations in hiding $755,000 that she earned during earlier seasons of the show (The US Sun.) Miller plead guilty to these charges and was sentenced to one year and one day in prison, followed by two years of supervised release. Miller left the show during season seven because of her pending sentencing. As a result, the cast fractured into separate dance teams. Miller returned for the filming of season eight.
The show has also faced backlash for the harsh treatment of the young dancers in the ALDC studio. Many former members of the cast have come forward to discuss the toxic environment that Miller and the show’s producers created on set.
“To be a part of the studio, you had to sign a contract. A few of the reasons my mom didn’t sign [it] was because it said stuff like you couldn’t gain or lose five to ten pounds…, you couldn’t do anything to your hair…, [Miller] also wanted 10% of the money I made and I wasn’t willing to agree to that,” said Chloé Lukasiak in a video on her Youtube channel. Lukasiak was a member of the ALDC for seasons one through four and has been very open about her struggles with mental health since her time on the show.
Another aspect of the show that has faced controversy is the infamous pyramid. This pyramid was a system that Miller used to rank the dancers based on their previous week’s performances. Reportedly, this segment of the show took the longest to film and Miller was known for giving harsh criticism to her dancers.
“Imagine standing there for two hours listening to your dance teacher talk, and more of the time she’s telling five out of six children how horrible they are,” said Lukasiak in the video.
The producers of “Dance Moms” have also received heavy criticism for some of their decisions while filming the show. Many former ALDC members have come forward to discuss how the producers manipulated the show to create and exaggerate drama.
“There was so much drama. They immediately made us look like the bad people, the crazy ones, the bullies… I remember going to the competition on the first episode that I filmed and [the producers] said “Can you say that you think you did better than the other contestants?”… They edited it and made it seem like I was saying it about the girls I was dancing with, and from there, everybody that watched the show hated me,” said Payton Ackerman in a video on her youtube channel. Ackerman was a guest dancer on the show from seasons two to four, during which she was continuously depicted as a bully to the other ALDC dancers.
“It got to the point where I was getting death threats. People were calling my home phone in the middle of the night. People were showing up to my front door.”
Other controversies that the show has faced have been a result of questionable costume and choreography choices made by Miller and the producers. The season 2 episode “Topless Showgirls”, which aired on March 6, 2012, has been removed from Lifetime due to heavy criticism. The episode features the young dancers wearing flesh-toned costumes while doing a burlesque-style dance routine.
“You cover your body with the fans so you give the illusion that you’re nude underneath the fans,” Miller explained in the episode. “C’mon. We all know you have tan bras on and tan tights on. … Everyone in the industry knows the girls are completely covered and everything’s harmless.”
Despite the backlash, “Dance Moms” still has a devoted fanbase, with an average of 2.2 million viewers per season according to Hollywood Reporter. Even though Lifetime has not aired any new episodes since 2019, the internet is still full of “Dance Moms” deep dives, clips, and memes.

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