Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition – Casting Special and Episode 1 Recap

Judges Robin Antin, Richy Jackson and Abby Lee Miller

Abby Lee Miller, the dance teacher made famous on the Lifetime hit show Dance Moms, is everything people say: she is loud and occasionally obnoxious, she is hard on her dancers and rude to their parents, she plays favorites, and she puts too much pressure on everyone around her.  She is also a beloved coach who turns out winning dancers.  As someone who studied dance and competed in national talent shows as a kid, I find that Dance Moms is nearly identical to my experience, and I can say wholeheartedly that if I were still in the game I’d want Miss Abby as my teacher.

Now in addition to Dance Moms, Abby has a new show, Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition (aka AUDC), in which aspiring performers between the ages of 6 and 13 compete in front of judges Abby, Robin Antin (creator of The Pussycat Dolls) and Richy Jackson (choreographer for Lady Gaga) for $100,000 cash and a full scholarship to the young dancer’s program at the Joffrey Ballet.

During the audition portion of the two-part premiere of AUDC we meet 14 young dancers including Asia, 6, and her mother Kristie – she’s the youngest in the group but says she’s not scared and to “bring it on”;  Zack, 13, and his mother Gina – a few of the mothers say he may get “pee pee points” for being the only boy dancer on the show;  Hadley, 12, and her mother Yvette who have a list of sayings they live by, the best one being, “You gotta risk it to get the biscuit”; and Elisabeth, 13, and her mother Erin, who tells us her daughter “may not have the best feet or the most natural flexibility but the kid can perform.” 

The dancers get two hours with the show’s choreographer Anthony Burrell to learn three combinations, one from each judge. Jackson’s is the toughest, Antin’s is pose-y and Pussycat Doll-ish, and Abby’s looks like something that her studio’s star performers Maddie or Chloe (from Dance Moms) would execute flawlessly.

The dancers complete the three combinations and take their criticism. Abby gives the most useful notes: she tells Tua, 9, “if you don’t have great feet don’t put rhinestones on them”, she cautions Hadley, 12, that “less is more” and says, “I’d rather see three impeccably beautiful turns than five that you fell out of”, and warns Madison, 13, not to stand behind the other dancers because “this is a competition”.  We also get to hear one of the teacher’s famous “Abby-isms” when she tells Asia to “save those tears for the pillow”. In the end, two go home – Nicole, 11 and Amanda K, 13.

In the second part of the premiere we have the first competition. The dancers are given 45 minutes to learn the combination for the group challenge – the winner gets to pick their own style for his or her trio’s competition challenge from jazz, hip hop, contemporary or tap. Because, as Abby states, “first impressions never go away” she selects the tall, blonde and beautiful Elisabeth as the winner.  Elisabeth chooses contemporary for her competition dance.  Yvette, Hadley’s mom, is “a bit surprised that Elisabeth won the technique challenge, you know, because she’s not that good”. She also says she doesn’t like overconfidence, and “When people think they’re all that and a bag of chips, you know what, maybe they’ve been eating too many bags of chips”

The twelve dancers are separated into trios and head off to learn their Hollywood-themed routines from guest choreographers.

The hip hop trio
Bobby Newberry runs the hip hop trio with Asia, Jordyn and Lexine, who gets called out by Abby for botching her front walkover.  Robin Antin tells Asia she was “born to be a Pussycat Doll”, which in the real world seems odd to hear about a six-year-old, but in a dance context I get it because the kid can move and has a lot of attitude.  Backstage Lexine’s mother tells her she’s going home, which the other moms think is terrible, and they all get in a fight.

Gina Starbuck choreographs the jazz trio with Hadley, Madison and Zack.  Abby questions why the girls are in long pants but Zack in in shorts – she doesn’t like his knees.  Robin tells Madison “you are fierce", and Richy says Hadley has what it takes but she has to “let her firestorm out”.

The contemporary trio
Anthony Burrell takes charge of the contemporary trio with Brianna, Elisabeth and Amanda. When Abby tells Elisabeth that out of the three in her trio she doesn’t have the best technique, the girl cries and tells the judges it’s because her parents are getting divorced. Pulling the divorce card proves effective, and the judges applaud. Backstage Elisabeth’s mom Erin says, “This is a dance competition, right? You wanna do what you need to do to win”

Joyce Chittick guides the tap trio with Tua, Tessa and Kyleigh Jai, who wear flapper costumes. Abby tells Tessa that she was “given a character to portray and you didn’t do that”, Robin tells Kyleigh it’s hard to see who she is through the wigs and costumes, and Richy says they have “lots of work to do”.

In the end Brianna and Madison are revealed as the top two performers of the week, and it is Tessa, 11, who goes home.

Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on Lifetime

Photos ©Lifetime

Posted on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 5:00 PM