Thursday, February 13, 2014

The day I quit Dance Moms.

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 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.


Unknown said...

Bravo well said I am a former dance teacher and I had the same mission as you. Abby is awful.

Unknown said...

Its called Dance MOMS, based around the drama and fighting between the moms. They started the fighting, and looks like their fights will end it. Abby and the kids are costars. If they act like that on tv, I can only imagine how they act in private. I don't think it's Abby that they need to be afraid of, it is the greedy moms.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Christian Conservative Mom said...

I quit watching the show for a while at one point mostly because of Kelly and Christi. Christi is the worst mom on the show IMHO. Honestly since her and Kelly had the big fight and since then have seemed to chill out on the conniving, I have watched it again, but now Abby has gotten much worse.

Here is the thing I don't understand about Paige and Brooke-Brooke never seems all that into dance. She seems like a super sweet girl that would do well as a guidance counselor or youth worker or something that calls for a kind sweet spirit, but her face never sells the dance and she seems to lack competitive drive. She looks like dancing is just some activity to give her exercise and nothing more. Even when she sings-there is no energy in it. As a dance teacher, surely you have to see that on the show.
Paige, I think, has more potential. Kelly should take her to another studio. The best revenge would be for Paige to go up against one of ALDC's dancers and beat them. I think she could, if given the right attention and nurturing.

For a while, I actually defended Abby because even though I may not agree with her tactics, she does produce some great dancers and dances and I saw it as tough love.

I direct at a local children's Theatre and both of my boys have always taken dance and both do regional professional theatre and commercials etc. I have pushed them to their limit at times and yes, I admit, have made my boys cry every now and then, but my oldest son who is a senior and is going to school in the fall for Musical Theatre, realizes that I pushed him because I wanted the best for him and he has thrived over the years because of it.

I thought this was Abby's angle as well, but I am realizing it's not.

I don't think she wants the best for any of these girls except Maddie. She seems to be picking on McKenzie a lot now too. I wonder how Melissa is just fine with that. But then, I think Abby does care about McKenzie and we don't know what happens off screen.

While I do think Abby is over the top, I wouldn't want my kids to go to a studio where a teacher is not pushing them to their limit physically. Emotionally, maybe not, but then again, sometimes the truth hurts.

Whether I take a break from Dance moms again is still looming in my mind. As long as there are viewers, the show will continue. Abby seems to think replacing these dancers will bring her more wins, but her kids already do well and the moms of these other kids she brings in are just as bad or worse than the ones she already deals with and once those new kids who will probably all be amazing, start competing against each other for solos, it will be the same situation all over again. "A whole team of Maddie's" will just produce a whole team of other kids who are competing to be Abby's top girl and the fighting will be just the same with the new mothers.

The Christian Conservative Mom said...

And one more thing-my son was in a local professional production of Shrek and the artistic director raked him over the coals one night for not singing loud enough or dancing hard enough. My son came home crying-it was a grueling schedule of 6 hour rehearsals every day after school with him taking several college classes and 8 hour rehearsals on the weekend for three weeks before they opened the show which ran 2 months-with him checking out of school 2 days a week at 8:00 a.m and having to do make up work every night. He was exhausted and I don't know how he made it through, but it made him a better actor, dancer, singer and taught him time-management.

For a lot of moms, that would have seemed cruel, but I let him make the decision as he was 16 and he chose to persevere. At opening night-the artistic director told me that he pushed my son and my son stepped up, but what if I had pulled him out after the director yelled at him and made him cry?

For his own sake, he worked harder than ever to prove himself to that director and he gained a lot because of it and he also gained the director's respect which means a lot in this town because all of the directors of professional theatre are connected here.

Just some food for thought-sometimes the yelling and the tears are a tool to push yourself to work harder.

Of course, I wouldn't have let him go through this for year after year as it goes on on DM. But now and then-those that plan to pursue a career in this type of thing-the arts, they need a little tough love to get them where they want to go.

Susie said...

I agree with what you're saying but also have to wonder why the moms don't pull their kids out of this situation. I don't care if they have a contract, I'd think their children's well being would be worth whatever backlash there is. These kids are scared and put in awful situations, why do the moms tolerate it? I stopped watching a while ago because of how those children are treated by both that monster of an instructor and the network.

me said...

i quit dance moms a while ago because abby's behaviour towards the kids made me sad and why would i want that in my life??

Unknown said...

I find it interested that we are going to blame Lifetime. Do we not hold the parents of the children accountable at all. If my child was being berated and treated as poorly as the parents claim, my child would no longer be in thay studio. The parents habe to sign the contracts. The parents tote their children to these practices. The parents keep bringing them back. Imstead of questioning Lifetime, why aren't we questioning the parents. Would we even know brooke as a singer if it were not for Dance Moms. So let your kid get tortured to gain other potential avenues. If things are truly as bad as what the parents claim on this reality tv show, then I am questioning the parents as to why they continue submitting their children to it.

Unknown said...

I find it interested that we are going to blame Lifetime. Do we not hold the parents of the children accountable at all. If my child was being berated and treated as poorly as the parents claim, my child would no longer be in thay studio. The parents habe to sign the contracts. The parents tote their children to these practices. The parents keep bringing them back. Imstead of questioning Lifetime, why aren't we questioning the parents. Would we even know brooke as a singer if it were not for Dance Moms. So let your kid get tortured to gain other potential avenues. If things are truly as bad as what the parents claim on this reality tv show, then I am questioning the parents as to why they continue submitting their children to it.

Unknown said...

LOVED THIS!!!! I'm the Daughter of men's college basketball coach, wife of a college Defensive End Coach & I'm a Cheer coach and mom...Abby freaks me the heck out. I have been on every side of the coaching, athlete and parent line and she is the most abusive thing I've ever seen. Did I mention that I'm from Texas...2 sons, football players since kindergarten and a Texas Cheerleader. There is a bunch of serious CRAZY here and still nothing competes with that disgusting person. Keep the girls, keep the moms and GET RID OF ABBY Lifetime before she becomes as physically abusive as she is mentally, emotionally and verbally

Chelle said...

I think the worst people on the show are Cristi and Kelly. They do nothing but make fun of fat people, say the rudest things and are so mean to everyone. I don't see how this type of behavior is good for anyone. How on earth can their kids look up to them as role models when they see this on TV each week? Abby is no different from a sports coach. The more wins, the better her reputation of the studio and the more people she will attract. That is life. Coaches are FAR worse. These moms would cower. And I agree if this is so bad, why are there kids still there? Maybe is Cristi and Kelly closed their traps they would get respect.

Abby doesn't disgust me. It's the moms. That is why they probably got the show because someone said, "Can you believe these ladies?" Horrible role models for their kids.