It's no secret I love Dance Moms. I have been a faithful viewer since Day 1, chatted daily about the antics with my students, loved rewatching the dances on YouTube, enjoyed discussing the highs and lows of each dance...I loved it. I never was a huge fan of Abby herself, frankly since I was in high school and knew of her through the dance circuit. I did meet her about this time last year and she was delightful in person. So kind, so polite, so gracious. She spent a good amount of time talking with my cousin and I about all sorts of dance related things, Kaari winning her first title, etc. It was a fun meeting, at her studio, and Kaari was beyond thrilled.
I hosted a meet and greet day with Brooke, Paige and Kelly at my studio. I found them to be the sweetest, most gracious young ladies. Kelly was a hoot, keeping us laughing and smiling all day. They were so kind to all my students and even though they've been to places MUCH more glamorous than the middle of the forest, they never let on that it was a small town meet and greet and they'd probably rather be anywhere else. They were wonderful. (And I'd bet be the rest of the moms and girls would be similarly as gracious and delightful.)
I love trashy reality tv. Mostly because it makes me feel like my life is normal and good. (lol!) I love the Real Housewives, Kim of Queens, etc etc. I GET that it's "reality" tv, situations are scripted, etc. I'm not that gullible.
That is a lot of back story to let you all know...
I am done with Dance Moms. Done.
This week's episode put me over the edge. I am absolutely horrified that Lifetime allowed such situations to be filmed, let alone air. I do not blame Kelly one second for hitting Abby. I don't condone violence, but she was at an edge. She was done with Abby's words and actions towards her daughter. What mom hasn't wanted to haul off and belt someone who was mean to their child? Just because we haven't actually done it doesn't mean we haven't thought about it.
Now of course the internet trolls are rumbling that this was all scripted, a fake fight, etc. Whether or not that is true. the fact that Lifetime is allowing such behavior to be glorified really disgusts me. It is absolutely irresponsible for that channel to allow a grown adult to belittle and degrade a child over and over again
I think my biggest problem with this type of behavior from a dance teacher is really simple. Abby's behavior gaining her fame is giving permission for other dance teachers to act so ridiculously.
A dance teacher is meant to inspire, to love, to nurture their students. Real dance studios should feel like a second home, a family. The dance teacher represents a safe person, a person to cry to, to hug, to make you laugh or smile on the days you need it most. Dance class is a safe space, a sacred space, a space for creating, trying, failing and trying again. Dance is an art form, a way of life, a means to breathe. Dance students are meant to become your sisters, your brothers, your comrades in arms.
Dance students and parents should not be enemies, they should not be pitted against each other likes dogs forced to fight. Class should be an atmosphere of excitement and creativity. The studio should be welcoming, the teacher an accessible, comforting person.
Now, no dance studio is perfect. I remember a few times growing up where I was convinced my teacher hated me or I was at odds with my fellow students. As a studio owner, I have only "yelled" at my students twice and can count the number of parent fights I've had to deal with on one hand.
Why? Because I wake up and choose to make my studio what it is. A place of dreaming, laughter, dancing. Are there moments I want to wring a mom's neck for forgetting a head piece, could toss a dancer out the proverbial window for messing up the same stupid step again, that I get frustrated and am ready to toss in the towel? OF COURSE. But it's all in how we choose to react. I might not have the thousands of trophies Abby has lining her walls, but I've got millions of memories, giggles and smiles that will be shiny long after a plastic trophy gets broken and no one can remember which dance it was for.
And why, Lifetime, are you allowing these CHILDREN to be victims, on television for millions to see, of blatant and awful bullying? In this day and age, it is unacceptable. These. Are. Children. Yes, their parents signed contracts. Yes, they "knew" what they were getting in to. Yes, they chose to participate. But let's go back to season one...in season one, Abby was stern. Yep she yelled a lot. Yep she pointed out every little flaw and was very picky. Yep she was mean. But. The kids were happy. They were having fun, they were enjoying their dance life.
In this season, can the same be said? Why in the world are these little girls crying behind a curtain at an open audition, being forced to demonstrate a combination they don't know and living in fear of being replaced? Why are they admittedly afraid of their teachers? Why are we glorifying these behavior and making it seem okay?
I KNOW that in "real world" dancing, people get replaced all the time. That's part of the job, part of the dance atmosphere. It forces dancers to always be on top of their game and work their hardest. I have no problem with that. I have a major problem with manufactured auditions where students are being made to assist their teacher with an audition during which she is "looking" for their replacements. (Granted, Lifetime has shown us clearly that the replacements aren't coming from these auditions, they are coming straight off Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition) It is absolutely unfair and damaging to these poor children to have to live in a such a harsh and negative spotlight. I don't care how many times you try to tell me that all of this is scripted, all of the situations are contrived, that everyone know the timeline. I don't care. It is still hurting these children as people.
I'm going to use my husband here as an example. Dave is a pretty great soccer player. He was a goalie in High School and was very talented at it. He had a really tough coach who yelled negatively a lot and didn't offer much, if any, positive reinforcement. Dave never felt like he was really any good and never pursued playing in college. Fast forward a few years, Dave runs in to the coach in the gas station and the coach is shocked Dave didn't play in college and thought he had more than enough talent to make it on a team, even with a partial scholarship.
I'm sorry, what? If a child isn't understanding the value of his talent, if a child spends his time doubting himself because of the method in which the teacher or coach corrects and instructs them, then something is wrong.
I'm far from perfect. I'm sure there have been many days where I've had students leave my studio without a compliment or feeling down. But I promise you it is NOT every class, every week, every time they step in to my studio.
As a dance teacher and a person, I have a responsibility. It is my duty to build my students up in to good people. It is my privilege to help them become caring, well rounded people with a wide, sweeping world view. It is my job to demonstrate and instill in them qualities of good leaders: acceptance, perseverance, honesty, integrity. If a child is afraid to fail, how will they ever learn to rebound? How will they ever learn to pick themself up off the stage, dust off the disappointment and try again? I need to be showing, teaching, telling my students that it is better to try and fail than to never try at all.
So this is my point, Lifetime and Dance Moms fans. What you see on tv? That is not competitive or studio dance. At all. A real, true dance studio will offer love and kindness to your child. And if the studio you are at isn't doing that, regardless of how many fancy turns the student can do or how many trophies are on the wall, than your studio isn't doing it's job. Leave. Find somewhere else. And discover that dance is a path to a beautiful way of life.
To the girls on Dance Moms, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry that I played a part in elevating this type of behavior to fame. I am so sorry that people love the show so much and you are being pawns in some sort of strange, cryptic, twisted master plans. I am sorry that for the rest of your dance careers, you will be associated with Dance Moms. I appreciate so much your talent, your passion, your desire to dance, especially in the face of such terrible conditions. If I had the ability, I'd bring you all up to my studio in the forest, to show you how great and loving your dance days are supposed to be.
To the moms, I'm sorry. I'm sorry that this whole thing spiraled in to so much more than you bargained for. I firmly believe you signed on to what you anticipated to be a a great opportunity for your daughter and were doing what you thought best. As a mom myself, I know I'd do the same for my daughter. Hindsight is 20-20 and you are not to be blamed for what this mess has turned in to.
In conclusion...well I've deleted two full seasons of Dance Moms off my DVR. I erased the timer and won't be watching anymore. I can't stomach it. I can't indulge my curiosity, I can't watch this train wreck anymore. I'm finally looking away as my car drives past the 12 car pile up on the other side of the high way. And I have a feeling my Tuesdays will be much less stressful.