'Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition' Season 1, Episode 8 Top Five Recap: Bend it Like Abby

Abby Lee Miller from Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition

When Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition began in October there were twelve contestants vying for $100,000 cash and a full scholarship to the Young Dancers program at the Joffrey Ballet in New York City. Since then, judges Abby Lee Miller (Dance Moms), Richy Jackson (Lady Gaga) and Robin Antin (The Pussycat Dolls) have eliminated seven hopefuls, and in season 1, episode 8 titled “Bend it Like Abby”, only the top five dancers remain: Asia (age 6), Amanda (age 12), Jordyn (age 12), Brianna (age 13) and Madison (age 13).

The episode opens with Kristie, who says her daughter Asia overheard competitor Madison saying Asia should have been cut last week instead of Hadley. A tearful Asia says, “I’m very sad Madison wants me gone,” but Kristie tells her to be strong and reminds her that it’s a competition and people aren’t always going to be friendly.

Then we find out that Madison has hurt her Achilles tendon, a painful injury for anyone, but even more worrisome for a dancer, especially one so close to the end of a big money competition. A little later in the episode when the other Moms suggest Madison should take a break from rehearsal to give her ankle a rest, her Mom Coreen wonders if they are truly concerned, or perhaps secretly happy that Madison is injured.

Abby and host Kevin Manno arrive to tell the girls about this week’s Group Dance Challenge. Abby says, “If you’re not feeling the pressure something is wrong - this is an opportunity of a lifetime.”

This week’s skill is flexibility, and Abby points out that it can mean physical flexibility, but also things like having an open mind for new things, languages, foods…

We learn that at this week’s Competition Show every dancer will perform a solo, and the winner of the Group Dance Challenge will get to choose her style from a list of ethnic-inspired routines: African, Asian, French, Indian or Latin.

The dancers work on a combination with choreographer Gina Starbuck for 45 minutes, and then they perform for Abby. After they dance as a group, Abby says Asia is a beat behind the other dancers and tells her to sit and watch. She also tells Madison and Jordyn they are out. It comes down to Amanda and Brianna, and Abby names Brianna the winner of the challenge based on her superior flexibility.

While the girls learn their solos, the Moms ditch rehearsal to go for cocktails. Kristie informs them that Asia’s been crying because of what she heard Madison say, and tells them that children learn from what they hear. Jordyn’s Mom Kris says the other Moms all think Asia should have gone home. Brianna’s Mom Kris doesn’t want to be lumped in with the Moms who don’t think Asia deserved to have made it so far in the competition. Madison’s Mom Coreen admits she thinks based on technique that it should have been Asia that was sent home. Jordyn’s Mom Kelly disagrees – she thinks the other mothers are using Asia as a "scapegoat" because “they’re running out of things to complain about.”

Then there is a commercial break and a clever Flashdance-inspired ad for the new season of Dance Moms (beginning January, 1, 2013) that ends with closeup of Abby and the words, "The Maniac is back".

After the break we see the dancers and their Moms arriving at the Los Angeles Theater, host Kevin introduces the judges, and the competition begins.

Amanda goes first with a Latin dance choreographed by Anthony Burrell. She performs in a one-sleeved red costume with a fluttery skirt. Amanda does a wonderful job with the saucy moves; I could watch her dance all day. Abby loves it and says it was entertaining and Amanda is “a first class plane ticket to wherever we’re going.” Robin tells her she is a great dancer with star quality. When Richy says Amanda was missing passion, Abby interjects and says Amanda set the bar high.

Asia does a French Moulin Rouge-inspired dance choreographed by Molly Long. She wears a black and red Can-Can costume with a feather headpiece. Abby says Asia had good flexibility in her right leg, but has an issue with her left leg. She points out that Asia did a sloppy walkover and had sickled feet. Richy enthuses that Asia’s face and flexibility were “fantastic”, but Abby interrupts and says the other judges keep letting Asia’s mistakes slide, then Robin jumps in and says it’s because Asia is amazing.

Madison performs a cool Indian routine inspired by Bollywood that was choreographed by Molly Long. She wears a gold, coin embellished two-piece costume with an asymmetrical skirt. Abby says she’s a big Madison fan, but has a problem with her grand jeté, and wants her higher in what Abby calls her “lazy relevé.” Richy wants Madison to work on the execution of little things that will make her better; Robin tells Madison, “Five years from now when you come in and audition for me you I guarantee you, you will be a Pussycat Doll.”

Brianna does an African-influenced dance choreographed by Anthony Burrell, and draws on her Armenian heritage for inspiration. She does the sophisticated dance in a white ensemble with long sleeves and a full, flowing skirt. Abby says Brianna took her breath away, and points out the emotional range and maturity it took to execute the piece. Robin says the piece was perfection, Richy likes the way Brianna dives into her characters, and adds, “Your flexibility was more than physical, it was emotional.”

Jordyn is the final act of the night with an Asian style routine choreographed by Kitty McNamee; the moves are inspired by Chinese martial arts. Jordyn performs in a white costume with a chiffon top in a shape that recalls a martial arts practice outfit. She wields a sword as a prop and her dance includes gymnastics. Abby loves the style and the choreo, but says some of the moves showed Jordyn’s lack of flexibility. Richy says she killed it and he loves how she used the prop. Robin thinks Jordyn nailed 98% of the number, but that the other 2% was “so not okay”.

The judges deliberate. As an unabashed Abby fan and apologist, I have to admit even I was taken aback to hear her call Asia “a pigeon-toed squatty little nothing.” It is not unusual to hear harsh criticism in an audition setting, but I was surprised that Abby put it out there on film where the young dancer will hear it over and over, in re-runs and on the internet, for the rest of her life. The good thing is, Asia has the moxie to eventually use Abby’s words to fuel her success instead of being crushed by them. Still, wow Abby.

Then it’s time for the results: Amanda, Brianna and Madison are safe; Jordyn and Asia are the bottom two.

Apparently the judges are having a hard time deciding who should be eliminated, because Abby tells Kevin Manno,“World War III is going on here." To determine who should go, Abby makes Asia and Jordyn do a flexibility test. They do splits, back-bends, and finally a battement, during which Jordyn pulls a hamstring (I pulled my hamstring onstage during a play when I was 18 – hugs to Jordyn, it hurts like crazy).

Abby says there are obvious things that both girls need to fix, and then tells Jordyn that she is the one going home.

Asia says that if Amanda goes home next she will dance against the two oldest girls (Brianna and Madison are both 13), and that it will be “Sleazy peazy, lemon squeezy.”

Jordyn and Mom Kelly
In Jordyn’s exit interview she says, “I’m going to go straight to ballet class, to technique class, yoga probably too,” and Mom Kelly offers, “We’re going to walk out of here better people…she’ll continue to grow as a dancer and do amazing things because we’re not done.”

Of all of the dancers on the show, Jordyn seems to have achieved the balance between learning from the professional criticism she receives, but still figuring her own opinion of her performances into the equation; at the young age of 12 she knows who she is. Also, I know she wants to be seen as more than a hip-hop dancer (and she is), but Jordyn has definitely got swag. I think Richy Jackson should get her a gig in Lady Gaga’s dance troupe.

Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on Lifetime. The show is currently casting for new dancers - for more information click here.

To see all of our AUDC coverage click here.

Photos and video ©Lifetime

Posted on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 11:00 AM