|Abby Lee Miller, star of Lifetime TV's Dance Moms|
Previously on the Dance Moms season 4 finale, Abby Lee Miller and her Abby Lee Dance Company (ALDC) were in LA for Nationals, their biggest annual competition. Abby cut the Select Team after they lost to the Elite Team, who won their 4th National title. Sadly, Abby and Christi Lukasiak had one of their legendary arguments, and after, Christi and daughter Chloe left the ALDC. On this week's Dance Moms reunion (season 4, episode 32), "Playing Favorites," the moms discuss Abby's favoritism; Maddie Ziegler talks about her success; Abby rival Cathy Nesbitt-Stein stirs the pot; we see video premieres for Mackenzie "Mack Z" Ziegler's "Shine" and Todrick Hall's "Freaks Like Me."
On the Dance Moms S4, E32 reunion show titled "Playing Favorites," we see the aftermath of yet another tumultuous season. As the episode opens, Executive Producer Jeff Collins welcomes "force of nature" Abby Lee Miller to the stage to discuss "new faces, new alliances and new explosive allegations." The "new faces" refers to the ALDC Select Team, the girls Abby brought on to compete with the original Elite Team. Why did she do that? Abby says, "Nothing motivates a dancer like another dancer who's better right in front of you."
Of course, in a show about Abby "playing favorites," one can't help but think of her star pupil, Maddie Ziegler. This has been a huge year for Maddie, who became a global sensation after dancing in the video for the song "Chandelier" by Sia. The resulting fame led to Maddie being booked on the Ellen Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and the dance has been interpreted by everyone from big stars (Lena Dunham took a turn with it on The Late Show with Seth Meyers) to Abby's dance teacher rival, Cathy Nesbitt-Stein, who used the song for her Candy Apples Team's group dance at Nationals. Regarding being Abby's favorite, Maddie says, "When I first started at her studio I was very bad, and I just kept on working and working because I wanted to be in the front in the middle of every dance." When Jeff hinted that Maddie would be working on another project with Sia, Abby shushed her so as not to jinx it.
Next, we hear from the Elite Team moms, Christi Lukasiak (Chloe's mom); Jill Vertes (Kendall's mom); Melissa Ziegler-Gisoni (Maddie and Mackenzie's mom); and Holly Frazier (Nia's mom). Holly, who has a doctorate in education and was formerly employed as a school principal, has been extremely vocal about Abby's teaching methods this season. She asserts that calling the kids names isn’t the best way to motivate them, and says that Abby, "tears others down in order to lift Maddie up." Holly also points out that when Nia won 1st Place for her Maya Angelou tribute, "Goodbye Maya," it was with ALDC teachers who didn't put Nia down.
Christi is introduced next, and she brings up that Abby lobbied competition judges to revoke Chloe's win over Kamryn Beck (a new girl from the Select Team). Abby denies it, but Francisco Thurston – one of the judges Abby spoke to – is in the audience, and he re-confirms Christi's allegations (he previously confirmed the rumor on Dance Moms S4, E29 "45 Second Solos"). Abby counters that she was just questioning the judges so she could help make Chloe a better dancer. Christi tells Abby, "You're a horrible, rotten human being and it shows every week." No mention is made of the fact that the final shot of the Dance Moms season 4 finale was of Christi and Chloe leaving the ALDC.
Melissa joins the panel, and Holly and Christi agree that she plays both sides of the fence when it comes to studio politics. Holly says, "Melissa will do whatever it takes to get her kids ahead…" and Christi interjects, "…even if it means hurting us or our children, but Melissa pretends she's not like that." When Melissa states, "My kids come first and they always will," Christi tells her, "There's a difference" and calls her "intentionally manipulative." Abby says the preferential treatment she gives to Melissa's kids is "earned."
Jeff brings Jill out, and she mentions that when Abby assigned Kendall, Chloe and Kamryn solos for Nationals, she specifically said Maddie wouldn't be doing a solo, but then backtracked and had Maddie rehearsing a routine (when Abby was ready to pull one of the solos to give Maddie the spot, the moms wanted Melissa to tell Abby "no," but ultimately it was Maddie who nixed the idea). Jill doesn't say too much though, which is probably best, since it looks like Abby is considering Kendall as her go-to girl when Maddie has bookings.
The conversation turns to the moms from Abby's Select Team: "Christy with a Y" Hunt (Sarah H's mom); Tami Adamson (Tea's mom); Loree Cloud (Jade's mom); Tracey Reasons (Sarah R's mom); and Jodi Beck (Kamryn's mom). Jeff shows footage of Christy with a Y calling Abby "garbage." She and her daughter were cut after that, and then brought back and dismissed several more times (in a previous recap I wrote that dismissing Sarah H on Dance Moms was like killing Kenny on South Park - it happens every week.) In fact, Jeff says that Christy was so devastated that Sarah H didn't get to dance at Nationals, she couldn't attend the reunion.
Then, Jeff shows footage of the physical altercation between Christy and Tami, who is unapologetic about the fight, saying, "That bitch touched me first I'm gonna defend myself… I don't feel any remorse for what I did." From what was shown in that episode, it didn’t look like Christy hit first, it appeared that she just threw paper in Tami's general direction, but with editing, it's hard to tell. Christi (with an "i") jumps in and says, "If that were the four of us [the Elite moms], it would have never been tolerated." Abby says she did throw them out, but Christi responds that the Select members were back dancing the next day, which was not the case when she and Leslie Ackerman (Payton's mom) fought at Nationals in season three; they and their daughters were sent home and didn't get to compete.
Regarding this year's Nationals, the Select Team moms are upset that Abby cut the entire team because they lost to the Elite Team. Loree, a well-known dance teacher, says Abby didn't give the Select Team winning choreography. Christi says, "maybe Abby did it because the Elite Team was a sure thing," but Abby shoots down that theory, saying that she had to give the Elite Team the better routine because they needed a gimmick, where the Select Team could just "do a pretty dance in a pretty costume."
After that go-round, all of the moms talk about the other dismissed Select Team members, Jeanette Cota and daughter Ava. Abby expresses her annoyance that Jeanette stalked her at competitions and constantly asked her to watch and consider Ava for the studio/teams/show.
Abby's nemesis, dance teacher Cathy Nesbitt-Stein from the Candy Apples Dance Center (CADC) in Canton, Ohio, arrives on set to defend using "Chandelier" for her team's group dance at Nationals. In comparing her choreography to Maddie's dance in the video, Cathy says the CADC's was "avant-garde" and "cutting edge." She is delusional.
Toward the end of the reunion, Jeff announces, "It's time to get to the biggest news of the evening," but it's something we already know from Dance Moms two-part, season 4 finale: Abby is opening a studio in Los Angeles (ALDC-LA).
During the course of the "Playing Favorites" episode, there were several ALDC performances: Chloe's "Lucky Star" solo; Maddie's "Fool Me Once" solo done as a trio with Kendall and Chloe; and two group routines, "Tribal Council" and the new "Save the Rainforest." There were also two video premieres: a sneak peek of Mackenzie "Mack Z" Ziegler's new video for the single "Shine," and a bit of the Todrick Hall video for "Freaks Like Me" starring Abby, the moms and girls from the ALDC. Christi and Chloe were not in the video; it is rumored that Abby didn’t invite them to participate.
Dance Moms is currently shooting season 5; stay tuned for news and the premiere date.
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Photo courtesy of Lifetime
Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2014