'Dance Moms' Recap S4 E7 Big Trouble in the Big Apple: Abby and Kelly Fight

Dance Moms star Abby Lee Miller
Dance Moms star Abby Lee Miller

Dance Moms season 4, episode 7 titled "Big Trouble in the Big Apple" shows the widely reported physical altercation between mom Kelly Hyland and studio owner Abby Lee Miller. What led to the fight? In addition to the usual, ongoing antagonism between them, Abby brings a new dancer into the Abby Lee Dance Company (ALDC) and uses her as a weapon against Kelly's daughters. The new girl is none other than Kalani Hilliker, Abby's favorite contestant from season 2 of  Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition (AUDC); I predicted she'd be invited to join Dance Moms and the ALDC back on September 24, 3013.

Before we begin this week's Dance Moms recap, there are two things to discuss...

First, I want to send my sincere condolences to Abby Lee Miller on the death of her mother, Maryen Lorrain Miller (1928-2014). Mrs. Miller was a well-respected dance teacher; she founded the studio that Abby eventually took over, and was an occasional guest on the Dance Moms series. God speed.

Second, I knew this Dance Moms recap was going to be harder than usual because there were no media screeners issued this week, but I didn't realize that the show would be so hard to watch, period. 

I grew up in the same competitive, performing kid atmosphere that is portrayed on this show (except obviously, not on reality TV): I had a teacher who was extremely demanding and hard on her students, she gave her pet better opportunities and routines, and of course, the parents were all heavily involved in the politics, so it got ugly on a regular basis. Because of this, I grew up with a very thick skin, and I've said a few times in my recaps that to me, what occurs on Dance Moms seems like just another day at the office.  Despite Abby's often harsh rule, I was able to find fun, positive aspects of the show on which to focus: I love the girls and enjoy watching them dance, and I marvel at their friendships (in my day, there were lots of kids who were catty and bratty). However, after watching last week's episode in which Abby said Nia didn't "warrant" her attention, and now this week's episode in which Abby seemed to take so much pleasure in undermining Paige, Brooke and Chloe, I'm doubting my ability to watch Dance Moms and write these recaps.  Do any of you still think that the good outweighs the bad? I just don't know.

As season 4, episode 7 of Dance Moms titled "Big Trouble in the Big Apple" opens, Abby conveys her disappointment that even though the group won first place, the other routines placed lower. Jill (Kendall's mom) asks Abby if she regrets taking time away from coaching the team regulars to work with Chloe Nguyen, the new girl she brought in, but Abby says no, she enjoyed working with her. In fact, Abby has figured something out: the problem was that she only brought in one girl, SO, she informs the team that instead of replacing just one or a few of them (the theme for this season so far) she is going to create a whole new Elite Junior Competition Team to compete against them, except for Maddie, who she might put on the new team. Jill calls this revelation "the beginning of the end."

Next, Abby reveals her pyramid, the ranking system she uses for the dancers of the ALDC. It is usually based on the previous week's competition, but the results are sometimes skewed by ego, personality clashes between Abby and the moms, and Abby's personal preference. The season 4, episode 7 pyramid from the bottom up:

Chloe: 4th place isn't good enough.
Kendall: Jill, who always cares, says "I don’t even care."
Nia: Her duet didn't win.
Mackenzie: Didn't shine in group number.
Brooke: Could have been amazing, but wasn't.
Paige: High on pyramid because of her look, not her dancing.
Maddie: The only student to get a positive review; Abby actually says, "Praise Maddie!"

This week there are several things going on: Maddie, Mackenzie, Nia and Kendall will at first be staying in Pittsburgh, PA, for the NUVO competition. Paige, Brooke and Chloe will be going to the Bronx, NY, to compete in the Sheer Talent competition and to assist Abby with her third round of open call auditions for the ALDC that she is holding to replace them. Then, all of the girls going to NUVO will head over to The Bronx to join in and do the group routine at Sheer Talent (the footage in the Bronx was filmed there on November 24, 2013). A little later in the episode Abby states, " I intend on leaving New York with a win and a whole star-studded team."

Because the team is going two different places, Brooke and Paige have multiple numbers to learn this week:

Paige has a contemporary solo called "Ooh La La";Brooke has an acrobatic solo called "Purple Reign"; Chloe and Paige will do a contemporary duet called "Wishbone";The group dance is a contemporary number called "Beautiful Revenge".

Abby says she hopes that Kelly (Brooke and Paige's mom) embraces the fact that the girls have so many numbers and sees it as "a wonderful opportunity for Paige instead of having a hissy fit because Paige has too much on her plate." Later, Kelly says her kids never get this many dances, the only reason they got them this week is "because Abby has all the other kids at NUVO, and my kids aren't invited."

"Maddie and her friend Kalani," as Abby describes them, have a duet called "Two Sapphires" competing for the ALDC at NUVO. In fact, Kalani (and I believe McKaylee True, the AUDC season 2 winner) shows up at the studio while the ALDC is rehearsing their group routine. Abby tells Kalani, "I might have you jump in and do Brooke's part, so get ready."

While Chloe and Paige rehearse their duet, Abby tells them that New York is going to be big, and says, "I'm don't think by the end of the audition you're gonna be as confident as you are right now. Are you better than they are? I don't know." Up in the mom's loft, Jill says, "I just don’t  know when this became 'Sabotage Your Students.'" Christi points out that the last time Paige had a solo she forgot it, and that Chloe struggles with confidence every week, and she asks, "What about those two screams, 'I'm so full of myself?'" Meaning, there's no reason for Abby to work so hard to cut Paige and Chloe down.

The one bright spot on this episode is when Abby and the girls arrive in The Bronx for the audition, and the crowd is chanting "Chloe, Chloe, Chloe…"  This quickly leads to a devastating moment on the show: after Abby belittles the girls – she doesn't even teach them the audition combo so they can demonstrate during the audition, and she berates them for wearing ALDC gear, so they change clothes – Chloe is so rattled that she cries and sobs, "I'm scared." It's devastating. My heart breaks for Chloe.  

Abby says, "I've been trying to build a team of Maddies for years, and now, I'm gonna do it, and this new team will be unstoppable." We see Abby auditioning dancers, running a combination and dismissing them one-by-one. When she lets one young dancer go, that girl's mother challenges Abby, stating that her daughter is doing the a la secondes (the name of a specific turn) better than Paige, and she calls Paige's turns "horrendous." Take a look at Paige's face in this moment - it's devastating. My heart breaks for Paige, too. Abby runs the combo again, Paige nails it, the other girl doesn't, and she and her mother are dismissed. Abby tells the mom, "Take 'no' and go home gracefully, you're embarrassing yourself, turn around," and as they leave Christi pipes in with, "You know what Abby always says? She can talk about her dancers, but nobody else can."

The next day, right before the competition, Abby undermines the ALDC dancers by bringing two girls from the audition, sisters Ally and Maggie, into the dressing room. She tells the ALDC girls that if she finds two more girls, she'll have a new team. Then, Abby gives Paige and Brooke pre-show notes for their performances. Both of them try to smile, but clearly, something is wrong.

Paige does her "Ooh La la" contemporary solo, and to me, it looks below her age and skill level, like she's been been given Mackenzie's choreography. Abby comments that "Paige is always a disappointment for me." Brooke does her "Purple Reign" contemporary solo. Abby says, "You can't give her anything new, you just have to recycle the crap she's been doing since she's been eight," and she calls Brooke the "princess of Boring Town, USA."

Next, Abby tells Paige and Chloe that she's not going to watch their duet, that she's going to go watch more auditions instead. What she is really doing though, is heading over to the Sheer Talent administrators to enter her "secret weapon," the Kalani and Maddie duet (they won their division at NUVO), to compete against Chloe and Paige. Upon finding this out, Christi gives Chloe, who is clearly upset, "You dance your dance with your friend," as in, do this and enjoy it for yourself and for Paige, and don't let Abby ruin your moment. Abby tells the camera, "Sorry kids, that's show business."

Kalani and Maddie do their "Two Sapphires" duet, and as you would expect, they are lovely. Kalani is a gorgeous dancer; her grace and long lines remind me of Chloe. Abby is all smiles.

Paige and Chloe do their "Wishbone" duet, and they do a beautiful job, but for me, their choreography is not as good as what Kalani and Maddie have been assigned.

In the dressing room, the last minute addition of Maddie and Kalani is, of course, the topic of conversation. It seems as if Abby told Melissa and Maddie not to let on that she was going to enter the "Two Sapphires" duet in the competition, so when Jill and Christi were asking Melissa about it, she lied, and when Chloe asked Maddie about it, based on what we are seeing on the show, she didn't tell the truth either. Chloe is crestfallen, and when Christi advises her to just keep her head up, Maddie says "other people are allowed to perform too," and she says she guesses they're not friends anymore.

Then, Maddie tells the camera, "I don't understand why they're so hard on me about it. It's just a dance, it's two minutes worth of my life and it's over with now and it's not like it's the end of the world. Like, they just have to calm down."

To her credit, Melissa did ask Abby if the Maddie/Kalani duet could be non-adjudicated (not judged) so they wouldn't be competing against Paige and Chloe, but Abby said she wanted a win in New York. Overall though, I think Melissa should take a long, hard look at her and her daughter's actions.

While the moms discuss how they were lied to, Abby brings in Kalani and announces that she's going to be on the permanent team. When Abby starts in on how she thinks Kalani is superior to Brooke, Kelly has had enough. She hands Brooke's group routine costume to Kira (Kalani's mom), and announces that she and her daughters are leaving. This causes the argument and subsequent altercation between Kelly and Abby: Abby yells for Kelly to "Tell Brooke to grow the hell up." Kelly responds, "You shut the hell up." Abby jumps up in anger and starts pointing her finger in Kelly's face. Kelly yells, "Get your finger out of my face," and then starts pointing her finger in Abby's face. Abby makes chomping motions toward Kelly's finger. Kelly smacks Abby's face and pulls her hair. Holly and the other moms usher the girls out of the room; some of them are crying.

It's very quick. Kelly and Abby separate, with Kelly saying that Abby came at her (she did), and Abby saying to call the police. We see Kelly and her girls in a little room: Kelly is saying that she's had enough; Brooke has her back to the camera, but she's crying; Paige looks absolutely stricken, like she's in shock. We see Abby on the phone with the police setting Kelly's arrest in motion, because obviously, the kids haven't been traumatized enough. Holly goes to Kelly and says, "You need to leave now… trust me," and she gets the Hylands out of the building before the police come. They head home in a black van.

After this, the team still has to compete with the group dance. Holly says that the kids are shocked, stunned and upset, and that this is the second time this season they have to re-block a number right before they go on (the first time was when Payton Ackerman sustained an injury at a competition). Abby says, "I am finished," and that once she re-blocks the routine, no-one will ever know that Paige and Brooke were in the number in the number in the first place. The ALDC takes the stage for their "Beautiful Revenge" routine, and because they are good at what they do, they perform as if nothing happened (in this respect, Abby has been a very good dance teacher). In the audience, Christi sits a seat away from the team, like she's keeping Kelly there in spirit.

The awards ceremony begins. Paige gets 5th Place; Brooke gets 4th Place; Chloe and Paige get 2nd Place; Maddie and Kalani get 1st Place; the ALDC group dance gets 1st place.

Backstage, Jill asks Abby, "How are you going to address this with Kelly, like, what's your next step?" Abby answers, "Well, I think the face of this team has definitely changed. The Abby Lee Dance Company is moving up the ladder. If the moms don't like it, all I have to say is that everyone's replaceable. I'm running a business so my rules apply."

In the previews for next week, Dance Moms season 4, episode 8 titled "Wingman Down," Abby says Kelly is "not allowed on the premises," it appears that the other moms confront Melissa about her role in this week's deception, and we also hear Abby yelling at Nia and Kendall.

So what do you think, Dance Moms fans? Has this episode changed your feelings about the show? Feel free to leave a comment and tell us what you think.

To see how how the fight between Abby and Kelly played out in the media, click here:
Lawsuits Filed After 'Dance Moms' Abby Lee Miller and Kelly Hyland Fight


To see all of our Dance Moms recaps click here
For our Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition recaps click here.
Dance Moms airs Tuesday nights at 9/8c on Lifetime
Photo courtesy of Lifetime

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Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014