|McKaylee True, winner of Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition Season 2|
Previously on Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition (AUDC), Gianna won the Group Dance Challenge, and along with her mom Cindy, got to assign the competition solos. They played it well in terms of strategy, but their competitors AND Abby Lee Miller were unhappy with their choices, and the judges advanced all four girls to the next round. So, the AUDC season 2 finale (episode 12) begins with a Final 4, but Kalani is eliminated after the first challenge, and only the Top 3 - Gianna, McKaylee and Trinity - compete for $100,000 and a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet School of New York. Judges Rachelle Rak and Richy Jackson perform, as does Dance Moms star Maddie Ziegler. In the end, McKaylee True is named the winner of Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition.
As the AUDC S2 E12 finale titled "Meet Abby's Newest Ultimate Dancer" begins, we visit with each of the Final 4 contestants and their mothers...
Gianna, 13, says, "Winning this competition would be life-changing. My family barely has any money, and this scholarship would mean I can go to college." Mom Cindy says, "From the beginning of this whole competition, Gianna took a lot of crap from Abby. Guess what? She has gotten better and better through each week, picking up choreography better, she's trying to turn her feet out, she stretches every night for that flexibility and she is getting better with it… I'm newly divorced so Gianna and I have been through a lot. Going home with a win will make this whole experience worth it."
Kalani, 12, says, "I want to win the Joffrey Ballet Scholarship for New York so badly because it’s such a great opportunity and just $100,000 is a crazy amount of money." Mom Kira says, "Kalani started dancing when she was five, she gets technique awards at almost every competition we go to. Kalani is Abby's style of dancer, Abby's said that, numerous times, from week one. Kalani's critiques that she gets all the time is basically performance. She better bring it and show Abby that she's willing to do anything to be the best, there's no room for mistakes this week. "
Trinity, 13, says, " I'm going to use my uniqueness, they're all like built the same, and then there's me with short legs and just like okay feet, but I have that power unlike any of them. Mom Tina says, "Abby has stated to Trinity over and over again, 'You have a stockier build, you have shorter legs, you're not built like a ballerina,' so the Joffrey Ballet is gonna to be something that will lengthen her legs and lengthen her muscles so that she looks long and lean… We didn't start her very early in dance because she's been busy doing gymnastics, but Trinity was born to dance."
McKaylee, 13 says, "It's been a really tough journey in the competition, so I am really proud of myself that I've even made it this far, because I'm just a little Midwest girl that no-one really knew of. Winning the Joffrey School of Ballet in New York scholarship it would change my life." Mom Shari says, "From the beginning McKaylee was told to 'find a personality,' and that is new for McKaylee, so if she is gonna win this competition she has to expose her inner self like she's never done. Confidence is everything. I don’t want McKaylee trapped in Nebraska just because that's where our family roots are."
The dancers arrive in the auditorium, and to their surprise, all three judges are there, and Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition season 1 winner, Brianna Haire, makes an appearance via video to wish the contestants well. She tells them, "I know it sounds cheesy, but dance like nobody's watching."
Abby reveals that for the final Group Dance Challenge (GDC), each girl will pick their favorite competition routine from the past eleven weeks, and do an encore performance. Then, the other dance shoe drops when Abby says, "There's one more very pertinent piece of information you should know: at the end of this challenge, we won't be picking a winner, we will be picking who goes home. One of the four of you remaining will be leaving us immediately following the challenge." My hair actually stood up!
The girls are given ten minutes to remember the choreography and get dressed, so they all make a mad dash to the Vanity Room to get ready. Abby says, "Retaining choreography makes you worth more, maybe worth $100,000."
- McKaylee is first with her "I Danced a Dream" solo choreographed by Anthony Burrell, and she is lovely.
- Gianna is second with her "Zombie Dreams" solo choreographed by Matt Cady, and she is engaging.
- Trinity is third with her "Down and Dirty Diva" solo choreographed by Q Pittman and she is fierce.
- Kalani is fourth with her "Rhinestone Cowgirl" solo choreographed by Matt Cady, and she is fantastic, but at the very end she falls on her tush coming out of a front aerial walkover.
Despite Kalani's fall, Abby still thinks she did better than Trinity, but Richy and Rachelle disagree. The reviews are mixed on McKaylee, and her bad habit of lip synching is brought up. The talk turns to Gianna – Richy says he saw her as a star, and he and Rachelle both think she's the most improved, but Abby's not sure.
The girls line up on stage and Abby tells them, "Today was about survival; who will make it into the Top 3. Two of you made very wise choices: McKaylee, Gianna, you had your head in the game; you came into this challenge prepared. You will be dancing in the finale."
Abby goes on: "Kalani, Trinity, I don’t think you made the smartest choices." Abby mentions Kalani's missed front aerial, and says Trinity still needs to show her softer side. Then we hear the judges' decision: "Kalani today is not your day. I've been fighting for you in this competition every step of the way – this was the ultimate challenge..." Then Abby looks upward like she's trying to keep tears from falling.
The girls head into rehearsal. For the last competition, the Final 3 will be doing solos AND a group dance that will also be judged. Abby says, "I want to see the very best these kids have to offer. They need to impress us like never before."
Gianna, McKaylee and Trinity work on the group dance with supervising choreographer Tessandra Chavez; the theme of the dance is boxing, and Tessandra brought back all of the contestants to participate in the number. This leads to lots of squeals and hugs – it's nice to see how much the contestants genuinely like and miss each other. The mothers, not so much – Cindy says, "The bitches are back. I did not miss them one bit."
Tessandra gives each girl in the finals a team of dancers: Trinity gets Travis and Tyler; McKaylee gets Ally and Kalani; Gianna gets JoJo and Haley. When the moms of the Tops 3 meet in the costume room and discuss how the other moms are jealous, Cindy laughs about being "stuck" with JoJo (Cindy famously argued with JoJo's mom Jessalynn over the course of several episodes).
Gianna works on her "Falling" solo with choreographer Tessandra Chavez. Tessandra questions Gianna about her personal life so she can help her emotionally connect with the dance. Gianna talks about her parents' divorce and says it's been a "big change" and "really tough." Cindy cries because during the divorce she thought her daughter was handling it okay, but she really wasn't. Tessandra deduces that Gianna is putting on a strong front for the world, and tells her "there is strength in being vulnerable." Abby stops by and gives Gianna the correction that she has too much tension in her upper body.
McKaylee works on her "So Perfect" solo with choreographer Victor Rojas. He tells her the dance is about finally being okay with not being perfect. McKaylee is stressed because "right now, the dance doesn't feel like me." Abby observes, then tells McKaylee to "say some of the lyrics," but McKaylee says she's trying to not think about the lyrics so she won't lip synch. Abby laughs and says, "I can't win with this kid." Then Abby asks her what the story of the dance is, but McKaylee doesn’t know. After Abby's visit, McKaylee's nerves get the best of her: she cries and flees to the bathroom, then gets it together, returns to rehearsal, and tells Victor the dance doesn't feel right. They play back the song, and McKaylee realizes the lyrics describe her emotions.
Trinity works on her "Stellar" solo with choreographer Tarua Hall. Tarua wants her to do her own story, so Trinity dedicates the dance to her grandfather who recently passed away. Abby arrives and gives Trinity corrections on her legs and knee placement "Trinity, this is your time to prove to everybody that you are not a gymnast, that you are a dancer." Tina says, "Trinity knows that she is here by some mishap that Kalani made, and just by grace, by luck, she's in the top three. She is definitely the underdog." Jessalynn (JoJo's mom) and Tiffany (Ally's mom) show up at rehearsal and make critical remarks, but Tina is unfazed: "I really don't care; my daughter and I are here for the final stretch of the competition."
The Top 3 moms enter the lounge where the rest of the moms are hanging out. Melanie (Haley's mom) says she wants to make a toast, and as she hands Cindy a drink, Cindy asks, "Are you going to throw it at me? You never know." Melanie says, "I wanna congratulate the three of you remaining, and I'd like to give a toast to Gianna and wish her the best of luck in the competition." Kira praises McKaylee and also Gianna, but says she can't support Gianna because, according to her, Cindy "lies, steals and cheats" to make her way through life. Cindy doesn't sweat it – she leans back on the sofa and calls "bullshit" on all of the moms pretending to be lovey-dovey.
On competition day, Abby makes a surprise visit to the Vanity Room and introduces Davis Robertson, the artistic director of the Joffrey Concert Group at the Joffrey Ballet School of New York; he will act as the fourth judge for the final competition. He tells them, "Don't let the nerves show." After Davis leaves the room, Abby notices the moms are crying - it's been an emotional journey for all of them.
Host Kevin Manno stands at center stage in a fabulous black suit and tie with a pink shirt, and introduces Brianna Haire, who is in the audience. Then Kevin asks the judges how they feel about the contestants, and what they'll be looking for in the final competition. Abby calls Trinity "hard-hitting", she says Gianna is the "dark horse in this race, and that McKaylee is "probably the most ballet based." Richy says he wants to see them "dance as themselves" and "go full throttle, all the way." Rachelle is hoping to see them "kick, jump, leap, turn, and bite the apple – hah!" Davis Robertson says, "Technique is important, but technique is not everything. It is something that they can still learn." Then he reveals that he used to be a break dancer, and went from "spinning on his head to classical ballet."
Before the Top 3 compete, we see several performances: Maddie Ziegler, star of Dance Moms does a solo called "Survive" choreographed by Abby and accompanied by singer-songwriter Alexx Calise; judge Richy Jackson does a routine with eight of his dancers – it's very cool – and Rachelle Rak sings and dances a number called "Sas" that she co-wrote with Martyn Axe. I will never get tired of seeing Rachelle do a side aerial in heels – you rock, Sas!
Kevin brings the Top 3 and their moms out on stage, and surprises them with video messages. Each finalist has well wishes from their family at home, and a special message from their mom: Gianna's features her father and three brothers, and then Cindy; McKaylee hears from her father, and then Shari (McKaylee looks so much like both of her folks); Trinity's message shows her father and five siblings, and then Tina. This whole segment made me cry, and the judges were crying too!
All of the contestants perform the group number called "The Contenders" in boxing outfits: Gianna and her team are in red and black; McKaylee and her team are in blue and black; Trinity and her team are in gold and black. They all dance wonderfully, but I think Gianna stands out the most, and at one point, I clearly see her "bite the apple."
Abby thinks "they were all exemplary." She praises Trinity's acro skills, and says, "If I was going into the ring, I would not want you in there with me." Abby tells Gianna, "Your performance quality is always top-notch. You didn't need to do any tricks at all… you took over the stage." Abby calls McKaylee's performance "extremely clean," and compliments her ballet combination. Rachelle tells them, "You three were sassing it up," but she thinks Gianna held back a little. Richy thinks they all put it on the line. Davis calls McKaylee out for timing issues, Trinity for not being confident in her ballet, and Gianna for settling.
Then it's time for the Top 3 to do their contemporary solo performances.
Trinity goes first with her "Stellar" solo; she wears a black and metallic two-piece costume and has her hair in a ponytail. Trinity looks so happy during the number, and I think it's her most graceful performance of the season. Richy says, "What I saw tonight was the gymnast, the dancer and the star," and tells her she danced to the best of her ability. Rachelle tells Trinity "You're dynamite, you're like bottled lightning," and tells her that *using her "Callback Card" to save her was her best decision of the season. Davis thought she looked more comfortable in the second half (the more athletic part of her dance) than the first. Abby thinks she did a great job, but gives her corrections on her legs. Abby closes by calling Trinity a rock star, an upstanding citizen, and a really great kid.
Gianna dances second with her "Falling" solo; she wears a metallic red costume with cutout sides. Instead of playing character, this is just a straight-up dance performance. Rachelle says that tonight they stripped away all of Gianna's characters and wigs and saw her struggle and pain, and that she is a true performer who lights up the stage. Davis saw a few fumbles, but praises Gianna for holding her end pose through the applause and for being a performer who takes it to the next level, and says she grabbed him and pulled him in. Richy says Gianna's performance was too powerful for finger waves – he compliments her "stripped down" routine and says it was "beautiful." Abby gives Gianna several corrections for foot and leg positions, but thinks Gianna became more flexible during the course of the competition, and that she was one of the few contestants who went through a physical change. Backstage though, Gianna cried and says, "It was so bad," and "I feel like I could have done a lot better."
McKaylee competes third with her "So Perfect" solo; she wears a royal blue costume with a strappy top and an asymmetrical lace skirt. Her choreography is similar to Gianna's – I think it's going to be close for these two. Kevin asks Abby, "Did McKaylee deliver what you needed to see to deserve that title of Ultimate Dancer?" Abby answers "Yes, but so did everybody else." She goes on to point out that McKaylee "bobbled here and there" and missed a few things, but also calls her "lovely." Richy also "saw a few things," and says that something wasn't right, but also says it was a beautiful performance. Rachelle completely disagrees, and praises McKaylee's beautiful technique, face, spirit and talent, and says this was the first time that McKaylee "chose not to be safe." Davis compliments McKaylee, saying she was so good he would probably come back to see her again. Like Gianna, McKaylee also cries off stage.
The judges deliberate for the final time this season, and Abby concedes, "It's very difficult to judge three vastly different dancers."
Kevin welcomes the dancers and their mother's to the stage for the last time. Abby says, "Congratulations, you all were spectacular… This is the day that I struggle with – if I could split it all up, I certainly would, but only one person on this stage today is going to win $100,000 and a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet School of New York." Then Abby makes the first cut with, "Trinity, today is not your day," but she commends the young dancer for her confidence and for being a threat in every challenge, and promises that their "paths are sure to cross again." Offstage, Trinity says, "Even though I'm in 3rd Place, I made it to the Top 3 in Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition, and honestly, that's amazing for me, and I feel like I left my mark."
Abby address the finalists: "Gianna, day one I wasn't too impressed, and then your mother opened her mouth and I knew who you were, you were Cindy's daughter. I was tough on you, but you rose to the challenge. Sometimes in life, people need somebody to be tough on them." Then Abby tells Cindy, who is in tears, "I know you're going through a lot, but you have instilled a fight in your kid, and she fought to be here. Gianna, you've come a long way, baby." Cindy tells the camera that win or lose, it was all worth it.
Then Abby focuses on McKaylee: "You came into this competition with a ballet background, with the technique of being at the studio day in, and day out. It's tough to have a mother as a dance teacher, I know," and Rachelle raises her hand and says, "Me too!" Abby tells Shari, "You know what the corrections are going to be before she even makes the mistake. She is not just a daughter; she's a student. Shari, I think you're probably a lot harder on McKaylee than the moms that aren’t dance teachers." Shari tells the camera, "No matter what happens, I am really proud of her as her teacher, and really proud of her as her mom."
Then, Abby gives her final verdict: "I am so very proud to have the two of you standing here today, but we can only pick one "Ultimate Dancer" … McKaylee, today IS your day! McKaylee wins season 2 of Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition!
Abby explains, "It was a tough decision all around, but McKaylee had the ballet training," and Davis tells the newly crowned winner, "Congratulations, this is just the beginning." McKaylee is awarded a trophy and a check for $100,000 and she says, "It was such a privilege to be here and meet Rachelle and Richy and Abby. I enjoyed every second being here, it's such a privilege.
Kevin Manno closes out Season 2 of Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition with, "It's a great ending to an amazing season, thank you and good night."
Did you all enjoy season 2 of Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition? Did you prefer season 1 or season 2 of AUDC, or did you like them both equally? What was your favorite dance or moment of AUDC season 2? Who was your favorite mother-daughter duo? Leave a comment and tell us what you think.
Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition is casting for season 3
For information on how to book an audition, click here.
To see all of our AUDC recaps click here.
AUDC may be over, but it won't be long until Abby is back on TV; the Dance Moms season 4 premiere airs on New Year Day 2014 on Lifetime.
To see all of our Dance Moms recaps click here.
Photo by Danny Feld, courtesy of Lifetime
Posted on Tuesday, November 19, 2013