'Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition' Season 1 Finale: The Winner is Brianna

Brianna, winner of Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition

The Lifetime Network premiered Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition in October 2012. The show, which takes place in Los Angeles, CA, started with twelve aspiring dancers between the ages of 6 and 13 competing for $100,000 cash and a full scholarship to the Young Dancer’s Program at The Joffrey Ballet in New York City. Each week judges Abby Lee Miller (Dance Moms), Richy Jackson (creative director for Lady Gaga) and Robin Antin (founder of the The Pussycat Dolls) eliminated one dancer. On the season 1 finale on December 11, 2012, it came down to the Top 3: Asia, Brianna and Madison. At the end of the show, Brianna was named the winner.

The final episode of Abby's Ultimate Dance Challenge (AUDC) opens with Madison, age 13, calling home to tell her Dad she made the Top 3, and to ask about her grandparents. We discover that Madison has been dancing since the age of three and competing since age 6, and that winning the Joffrey scholarship would be a big step toward her ultimate goal of attending Julliard.

Kris helps daughter Brianna, age 13, stretch her feet. We find out that Brianna started dancing at age 4, and that in nine years she has won over 30 competitions. For Brianna, winning the Joffrey scholarship would give her access to advanced training that isn’t available to her back home.

We learn that Asia, age 7, began dancing since age 2 and competing at age 4. When she was five she won in the Petite Division of the well-known Starpower Dance Competition. Asia says if she wins, it will be “Asia’s Ultimate Dance Competition”. Judging by the public’s response to the tiny dancer, in a lot of ways, it already is.

Kevin Manno
Abby and host Kevin Manno arrive, and Abby congratulates the Moms and their girls. The dancers are surprised to learn that for this final Group Dance Challenge their choreographer will be…. Abby! She wants the girls to impress her with her own choreography, and she expects perfection. The winner gets to dictate the order in which the dancers perform their solos. Kristie is rightfully worried that Asia won’t pick up the dance moves in the allotted 15 minutes, and wants the other girls to practice first so Asia can watch them.

They do the routine and then Abby gives her critique. She thinks the choreography is a little over Asia's head. She says she specifically made the turns doubles for Asia, but that she didn’t nail them. She cautions Asia that she’s been sliding by in the group numbers, then doing technically imperfect solos and getting standing ovations, and that she needs to pull it together if she wants to win. Abby tells Madison she piked her tilt, and says Brianna’s tilt was properly aligned and excellent but her feet were off.

It's a close call, but Madison wins the challenge and chooses this order for the solos: 1st Asia, 2nd Brianna, 3rd Madison. The solos are designed to test the dancer’s weaknesses: Asia’s jazz number will focus on technique, Brianna’s contemporary dance will show her softer side, Madison’s lyrical number aims to pull out her emotions. Ricky tells Madison to hum so she’ll relax and have a pleasant facial expression during her turns, and it works.

Along with their solos, the Top 3 will also dance as a trio, and each girl will have a mentoring session with one of the judges. Plus there's a surprise: Abby and Kevin enter the rehearsal room and Kevin says, “We don’t think you have enough going on this week”, and the girls are told there’s going to be a group number with “guests”, who turn out to be all of the eliminated contestants. There's lots of screaming and hugs as the dancers and their Moms return for this last dance. Hi Zack! Also, where are Tessa, Tua and Kyleigh Jai?

As the kids line up in front of Abby, Lexine’s Mom Maria feels the need to speak up - she tells Abby she thinks there was “unfairness on the judging.” Zack’s Mom chimes in and says she thinks it is “strange” to compare dancers that are such different ages. Abby shoots them down and says she know there’s been talk about Asia not deserving to be in the Top 3, and says, “that’s not the case right here.” Then she reminds the finalists that while the rest of the dancers are just performing during the group number, only the three of them will be judged.

Then there’s a bit of Mama Drama. Asia’s Mom Kristie calls the other mother’s cowards for talking trash about Asia behind her back. Then she says, “I don’t care what these moms think, if people were buying tickets for these dances Asia would sell out.” Then the Moms all hang out in the vanity room and have drinks. Kelly (Jordyn’s Mom) and Erin (Elisabeth’s Mom) sit on one side with Kristie, all of the others sit on the opposite side with Yvette (Hadley’s Mom), who has been Kristie’s rival for most of the competition. Maria (Lexine’s Mom) wants everyone to raise a glass, but Kristie doesn’t want to toast with Yvette, then Kristie leaves and Kelly goes with her. Blah blah, ball change, 5-6-7-8.

Meanwhile, the contestants rehearse their group number, which Abby calls, “essential for these three finalists” as it is the first time they’re being judged. The routine is performed on scaffolding and Brianna is a little concerned about getting nicked as she navigates the equipment, but adds, “War wounds are a part of dance.”

On the last day of rehearsal the finalists have their mentoring sessions. Abby meets with Asia, and they discuss her technique. Abby holds her up in the air to simulate a jump, and gives her corrections on her feet. Richy coaches Madison and says, he’s not looking for “face”, he’s looking for emotion. He helps her bring it out by getting her to laugh, show pain, and scream. Robin mentors Brianna. She says, “It’s not about being perfect, where is the softer Brianna?” and “sitting here you look angelic, on stage I don’t see that.”

Next we see the Top 3 working on their trio, and Asia struggles to learn the choreography. It’s on Kristie’s mind of course, and backstage she worries, “If Asia can’t fix these corrections tonight it’s going to be over,” and also, “If Asia’s going to win this she has to nail all three dances.”

50 minutes into the two-hour episode, the competition begins. Kevin Manno introduces the judges, and he asks Abby who she thinks is going to win. She says it depends on “who took the corrections and applied them, who has grown, who has entertainment value.”

The three finalists come out, and then they are joined onstage by all of the contestants for the group dance by choreographer Gina Starbuck. The dancers perform on the aforementioned scaffolding, and the stage is lit in blue. The number is described as a tribute to the Moms. Abby deems it “outstanding” and “thoroughly entertaining”, and says the kids all did a great job. She also says that Madison nailed the turns, and she loves Brianna’s beginning pose. Richy says he saw three girls fighting for their lives. Robin calls Brianna strong, and Madison stunning. Then she tells Asia she is “fierce”, and that no matter what happens, everyone loves her.

Robin Antin
During this episode judges Robin and Richy perform, and so do some of Abby’s professional dancers. Robin goes first; she wears a white fringe costume and does a Pussycat Dolls number with a troupe of gorgeous dancers; they all use chairs as props. Robin is very good. Abby states that sharing a table with Robin has been an honor.

The finalist’s trio is next. The way it’s filmed it’s hard to see exactly what’s going on, but the girls are obviously out of sync. Yvette calls it a “hot mess”, and even Kelly says it was a “disaster”. Abby chides Brianna for her bad habit of not “winging” her feet, and compliments Madison on her face. Richy points out that Asia shouldn’t have been singing during the number; Robin says they didn’t work together during the routine.

Richy Jackson
Richy Jackson and his backup dancers perform a hip hop piece about getting into "the circle of freedom where all dance genres rule". He is also very good. All of the contestants give him finger wags (his signature move for when he loves a performance), and eliminated contestant Jordyn – the best hip hop dancer on the show - goes on stage to give her feedback and do a Richy impersonation.

Then it’s time for the solos.

Kristie and her daughter Asia
Asia does a jazz dance choreographed by Molly Long. She wears sunglasses, a two-piece silver sequin top and skirt, and a fuchsia boa. Abby calls it “incredible” and says, “You bring the performer out in all of us, we just want to get up on stage and strut around with you.” Then she chastises Asia for her feet in her ending pose, and says she doesn’t want Asia to be the kind of dancer who wins everything when she’s little and burns out by the time she’s a teenager. Richy thinks it was “A-mazing” and says, “What I just witnessed was someone who put everything on the line while still performing to the audience… you’re giving me what I need at the finale.” Robin tells Asia’ “I am a massive Asia fan." Abby asks Asia, “Do you think you gave us the performance to win?” Asia answers, "I gave it all I got."

Brianna and her Mom, Kris
Brianna’s solo is a contemporary dance choreographed by Gina Starbuck about an angel. Backstage Brianna and her Mom Kris share an emotional moment as they reminisce about her late grandparents. She takes the stage in a white and gold costume with one feathered shoulder, a cut-out midriff and a chiffon handkerchief skirt. After the number Brianna cries, “I walked out on that stage and saw my Grandma, I unleashed my soul and showed you guys the dancer that I really am.” Abby praises Brianna for being open-minded, a warrior, and an athlete, and then gives her a few corrections. Richy compliments Brianna for being so constant in diving onto her numbers and characters and showing her passion. Robin doesn’t say a lot about the dance, but wishes Brianna had worn her hair down.

Coreen and daughter Madison
Madison looks gorgeous in a in a teal sequin skirted costume with a feather headpiece. While they wait in the wings she tells her Mom she loves her. She does a lyrical solo choreographed by Ricky Palomino – it is the most graceful routine of the three solos. Abby tells Madison she was moved by the performance, and says she looked fresh, young, innocent, happy, and not over-rehearsed. Abby had some minor technical corrections, but says she was totally impressed with Madison’s turns. Richy offers, “When I watch a dancer’s solo I want to feel like they might have done this on their own…. that is what I felt,” and he calls it a “very, very honest performance.” Robin recalls Madison’s previous performances and remarks, “You gave the best you could possibly give, and it was beautiful.”

After Madison, we see Abby Lee’s Professional Dance Company. Their routine is similar to what we’ve been seeing the contestants do every week.

Then the judges deliberate. Abby thinks Madison did the best, Richy thinks it was Brianna. Richy says he didn’t see Madison for the first eight weeks of the competition (meaning she didn’t stand out). Robin is pulling for Asia, and says, “There a reason why I love her and America loves her.”

The moment arrives for the judges to announce the winner, and Abby tells host Kevin, “it’s really tearing our hearts apart.”

The three finalists and their Moms stand center stage, and Kevin asks the Moms to speak to the judges about their daughters. Kristie says Asia “has grown with your help, with your critiques, she brought everything to the stage each week.” Coreen says, “This has been an amazing journey for Madison and I… she wants to go to Julliard one day, she lives and breathes dance, it’s her passion”. Kris: I believe Brianna has been working for this since she was 4, I know it’s something she really wants she danced her heart out for you this has been an amazing journey for the both of us.”

Abby tells the dancers they are going to have exciting, fulfilled careers with endless opportunities. Then Abby says to Asia, “I’ve never let up… I’ve been tough on you but look how far you’ve come.” Richy says to Brianna, “I don’t know what else we could throw at you” and cites the fact that she’s performed in a fat suit, danced in a number in which she played Little Red Riding Hood AND the wolf, and executed an African dance. Robin tells Madison, "You are a dancer, you were born to dance", and Abby adds, “Someday you will dance on The Great White Way” and reminds Madison to send her a ticket.

The third place dancer is announced, and it is Asia, meaning one half of the AUDC audience is rejoicing, the other half is vowing to never watch again. It comes down to Brianna and Madison, and the winner of Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition is… Brianna. The newly crowned winner says, “Words can’t describe how honored I feel,” her Mom offers, “I feel like she blossomed here,” and we hear Abby’s final critique: “In the end it came down to consistency.”

And so the first season of AUDC ends, and as always, we welcome your comments. Do you agree with the results? Did your favorite dancer win? Do you think your child could do it better? Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition is currently casting for new dancers; for more information on how to audition click here.

To see all of our AUDC coverage click here.

On January 1, 2013, season 3 of Dance Moms premieres on Lifetime at 9/8c, and there is a one-hour special at 8/7c; please come back and join us for the recaps.

AUDC judges Robin Antin, Richy Jackson and Abby Lee Miller
All photos ©Lifetime

Posted on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 1:00 PM