|Abby Lee Miller, star of Dance Moms|
When we last saw Dance Moms at the end of season 3, Christi (Chloe's mom) and Leslie (Payton's mom) brawled in the middle of the street in New Orleans. As a result, their horrified dance coach, Abby Lee Miller, sent them and their daughters back to Pittsburgh, PA, so they didn’t get to compete at Nationals. In the Dance Moms season 4 premiere titled "Welcome Back... Now Don't Get Too Comfy," Abby reenacts the fight in her choreography, and reminds the girls and their parents that this season, she's holding auditions for new dancers. Abby's mantra is "Everyone is replaceable," so several of the moms worry that it's their daughter who will be cut from the Abby Lee Dance Company (ALDC).
As the Season 4 premiere of Dance Moms (S4, E1) kicks off, it's a relief to see that Chloe and her mom Christi are still on the team after being sent home at the end of season 3. "I really want this season to be different for Chloe," states Christi. "I really want to stay out of all the mama drama, I want Chloe to focus on dance, and I want Abby to recognize that." In reality TV-speak, this probably means she'll spend most of the season 4 fighting, especially since Payton and her mom Leslie are also part of the team that has assembled for rehearsal.
Abby tells us, "I'm about to change the face of the Abby Lee Dance Company. Things are not going to be the same anymore." Then she tells the team that she's holding open auditions in three cities: Orlando, Atlanta and New York, adding, "and you can bet I'm gonna find some talent."
Then, Abby reveals her pyramid, the ranking system she uses for the dancers of the ALDC. It is usually based on the results from the previous competition, which in this case, was the Nationals in New Orleans. From the bottom up:
Chloe: Abby says, "You weren't there." Chloe responds, "I'm sorry I let the team down and I wish I could have been at Nationals.
Payton: "Let's see if you can stay out of trouble."
Nia: "I'll come back to you."
Brooke: "Can't get a ride to come to dance class?" (she missed one class)
Paige: Almost a teenager, Abby is waiting for her to "click".
Mackenzie: Kenzie came in 2nd, Abby says Asia would have won if she was there
Kendall: When Abby reveals that Kendall has the second spot from the top, the young dancer and Jill (her mom) both have smiles on their faces, but then, Abby switches her photo with Nia's, stating that Kendall missed the mandatory Booty Camp to go on vacation. Abby says that after all the opportunities she has given Kendall, including a solo at Nationals, she sees this as "disrespectful".
Maddie: She gets the tops spot – in New Orleans she won the title of National Champion
This week, the ALDC is traveling to Wheeling, West Virginia, to attend the Sheer Talent competition.Maddie will be doing a lyrical solo called "Birthday"; Nia gets a jazz solo called "Freedom in Paradise"; Paige, Chloe and Kendall are given a jazz trio called "Buckle Up". Everyone is in the group routine, a jazz number called "Girls Night Out". After the assignments are made, Abby asks Payton, "You think you're up for a fight?" to which Payton answers "yes."
Abby sends the moms upstairs to their loft, and begins teaching the girls the group number. Lo and behold, this routine is a reenactment of the physical fight Christi and Leslie had in New Orleans (in the season 3 finale) that resulted in them and their daughters getting sent home – it's going to be Payton vs. Chloe. Abby wants their moms to realize that "They are an embarrassment to the Abby Lee Dance Company."
During the rehearsal, Abby is unhappy with everyone but her star pupil, Maddie, so she tells her, "I know that you wanna go out on that stage and be amazing, and if this team isn’t going to support you and be amazing, I'll find people for you to dance with." Maddie looks uncomfortable. In the Mom Loft, Holly asks, "Can't we just have a nice start to the season?" They also discuss Abby switching the photos. Jill knows it was done to hurt her, but obviously it hurts Kendall. Despite the fact that it benefited Nia, Holly is unhappy about it because it was hurtful to the girls, but she also points out that Jill caused it (by missing Booty Camp). As this is going on, Abby enlightens the team to the theme, and when she instructs Chloe to "attack" Payton, Leslie says "Payton has to be me. She's gonna win!"
Two days to go until the competition…
Abby teaches Maddie her solo, and states an obvious fact about her favorite student: "She's the only girl on this team that I know I won't be replacing." Then, Abby has the team bring in a "Congratulations" cake for Maddie to celebrate her being crowned National Champion. Jill says, "It's just so typical of Abby. Maddie's the best, and all the other girls are just along for the ride. Kendall was second right behind Maddie, where's Kendall's cake?"
Abby works with Nia. She says, "Nia proved herself over the break. She was here all summer long, and at Booty Camp, she was a rock star. So, Nia, go out there and prove to those judges that you deserve a win." Jill thinks Kendall should have a solo because if Maddie hadn't competed at Nationals, her daughter would have won. Holly takes offense to this, but lets it ride.
When the girls line up for group rehearsal, Brooke is missing. Apparently, Brooke is late because she's with country singer Jana Kramer. In a confessional, Kelly (mom of Brooke and Paige) says, "What I'm most excited about is that someone asked her to do that, and Abby lee Miller had nothing to do with it." However, in a voiceover we hear Abby say, "Brooke got this gig through my connections. Jana Kramer is my friend, and now Brooke is gonna go to a concert and miss my rehearsal? Brooke's gonna go and do the performance half-assed, just like she's gonna sing for Jana half-assed."
Brooke shows up, Abby gives her a hard time, then makes her do the dance head-to-head with Payton. This, of course, starts a fight between Kelly and Leslie. Then, referring to Abby's pattern of bringing Payton in as a replacement but then letting her go, Leslie says, "I'm tired of Abby using Payton as a pawn in her little dance game."
Next, we see the girls going to Jana Kramer's concert. Backstage, Jana gives Brooke advice about her career, telling her she doesn't have to choose between singing and dancing, that she can do both (Jana is a singer and an actress – she played "Alex Dupre" on the TV series One Tree Hill). When Brooke says Jenna is good at giving advice, the pretty country singer offers, "I'll be your big sister" and they hug. It's nice to see Brooke get some support. Jana calls Brooke up to sing in front of the huge crowd – you should see how happy her sister Paige looked – it was cool. "Brooke is reaching for what she wants – without her dance teacher."
One day to go until the competition…
Holly says, "Abby has overlooked Nia for years, and finally Abby is giving Nia the credit and opportunity she deserves," but also says she doesn't want to add too much pressure for her daughter. After the rehearsal, Abby claps, and this makes Holly very happy. Jill notices that Abby is "looking very closely at Nia right now." Christi admits it's kind of funny watching Jill be "green with envy" over Nia's solo, but acknowledges that Jill is in the place she used to be in when Chloe was competing for the second spot. Now, Chloe isn't in the running for that – it's between Nia and Kendall.
With the competition less than 24 hours away, Abby finally gets around to trio rehearsal. Jill is concerned that Kendall is dancing with Chloe and Paige because Abby isn't fond of them, and she doesn't want her daughter "to get stuck in that rut with them."
On the day of the competition, Abby and the team arrive to a huge crowd of cheering fans. Abby makes her way through the throng with the help of security guards dressed like Secret Service agents. With people chanting her name, Abby says, "I felt like Justin Bieber for a minute."
The trio dances first, with Paige, Chloe and Kendall in tomato red/orange shorts, black bikini tops and black and white check accessories. They all wear their hair in high ponytails. They did do a good job, especially impressive given the short amount of time they had to work on it.
Maddie goes next and is in a gorgeous mauve (or maybe it's lavender) two-piece costume with a halter top embellished with floral appliques and a thigh-length chiffon handkerchief skirt. She wears her hair in a high chignon. Her dance is wonderful.
Nia is third to perform; she wears a pretty yellow one-piece costume featuring a halter-style top and a flirty skirt. She wears her hair in a low chignon. Nia is lovely, and her choreography is more like what Abby gives to Maddie. Nia is a good dancer, so it stinks to see her take and extra step coming out of a front aerial. When her routine is done, Abby applauds, and says Nia was stunning, but points out that as the routine progressed, Nia got more into the performance and less into the technique.
As the ALDC prepares for the group number, Abby reminds them that she's scouting for new talent (way to build confidence and morale before a performance!). She says she's looking for "a girl that is 12, someone short, petite, extraordinary legs and feet, the ability to work both sides, and somebody that does all genres." Leslie notices, "None of that was Payton," and Abby confirms that. This is stressful for Payton, who starts to cry.
Then, while Abby is running the group routine, Leslie asks the other moms, "Are you ladies worried about her replacing your kids, because I'm a little nervous." Abby stands behind Leslie and yells over her shoulder, "Oh! You know what? I'm sick and tired of it. Shut up!" Then Abby reads the team the riot act, and informs them that there are four dancers in the hallway (that she spotted in the competition) waiting to take their places. Next, Abby chides Payton for not be able to look at her. She says, "Stop acting like a baby. You're 16 years old and everybody's watching you cry. Save your tears for the pillow. You have an opportunity here. Don't blow it kiddo."
The ALDC takes the stage for their group number wearing assorted pink and black costumes. Christi and Leslie squirm a little when their girls mock fight, and an unhappy Abby shakes her head, rolls her eyes, and critiques the number deeming it "a mess, especially Brooke. She makes so many mistakes, I think she oughtta stick to the singing."
The awards ceremony begins.
In the Pre-Teen Trio Division, Kendall, Paige and Chloe win 1st Place. In the Junior Solo Division, Maddie wins 1st Place, but sadly, Nia doesn't come in at all. In the Pre-Teen Group Division, the ALDC is awarded 3rd Place.
Abby is very upset; she is 2 for 4, and 50% is way below her standard. Backstage, she lectures the team and their mothers about taking vacations and missing classes. Then Abby and Kelly get into it about Brooke missing group rehearsal. When Kelly tells Abby that Brooke had a better opportunity and took it, Abby's retort is, "and the performance skills there suck too." (harsh!). As the argument progresses, Abby calls Kelly a bitch.
The fight is diffused when the girls arrive in the dressing room. Abby doesn't normally announce where the team is going next until she does the pyramid, but this week she reveals it right there: the team is going to Ohio, the home state of her nemesis, Cathy Nesbitt-Stein, owner of the Candy Apples Dance Center. Abby says she worried about it since they only placed 3rd this week.
As Abby leaves, Kendall says "Thank you Miss Abby." Abby responds, "You're welcome, you don’t need to thank me, just win."
As the premiere closes, we see clips from upcoming episodes, and in a voiceover Abby says, "The face of the Abby Lee Dance Company Elite Competition Team is going to change forever. Each one of you is just another number."
Did you enjoy the Dance Moms season 4 premiere episode? Should Kendall have had a solo, or was Abby right to give it to Nia? Is Abby is too hard on Brooke? Who is Abby going to cut from the team? Leave a comment and tell us what you think.
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Dance Moms airs on Tuesdays at 9/8c on Lifetime
Photo courtesy of Lifetime
Posted on Thursday, January 2, 2014