|Dancer JoJo Siwa and her mom Jessalynn|
Previously on Dance Moms, studio owner Abby Lee Miller was served with legal documents (she's being sued by former student Paige Hyland), she tangled with dance teacher Jeanette Cota (her daughter Ava was on Abby's season 4 Select Team), and she had a terrible argument with Holly Frazier (Nia's mom). This week on Dance Moms season 5, episode 3 titled "JoJo with a Bow Bow," Maddie Ziegler is in LA working with singer Sia, so Abby brings in two girls to perform with the Abby Lee Dance Company (ALDC): Sarah Hunt from the Select Team, and JoJo Siwa, a contestant from season 2 of Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition (AUDC).
As Dance Moms S5 E3 "JoJo with a Bow Bow" begins, Holly (Nia's mom) says there are "unresolved issues" following the intense argument she had with Abby in Detroit (if you missed it, read my Dance Moms S5 E2 recap). "Before we start this week," says Holly, "we probably should just wrap things up with Abby rather than just jumping in and acting as if [it's] business as usual." Holly is unsuccessful in this endeavor because Abby rebuffs her with, "The thing is you don’t understand, Holly, I don't want to talk to you."
Abby ushers the girls into the studio and tells them that last week's chaos proves that she's the one under the microscope. She tells them, "Everything I say, everything I do, somebody is gonna pick it apart... and that's like questioning my vocation in life. I do my job, and in the end, I know what I'm doing."
Abby shifts gears by congratulating the team on last week's win, and then announces that Maddie will not be competing with the team this week because she's flying to LA to perform with Sia at CBS Radio’s We Can Survive concert (on October 24, 2014). Speaking of Maddie and Sia, did you see them do "Elastic Heart" on Saturday Night Live over the weekend (on January 17, 2015)? No retakes or editing there, just Sia and Maddie singing and dancing live, and it was perfection – see the video at the end of this post.
Next, Abby unveils the headshots the girls took last week, then she reveals her pyramid, the ranking system she uses for the dancers of the ALDC. The pyramid is usually based on how well each girl did at the previous week's competition. From the bottom up:
Kendall Vertes: because she cried in the dressing room.
Kalani Hilliker: came in 4th place.
Nia Frazier: was strong in group dance.
Mackenzie Ziegler: kept up in a tough routine.
Maddie Ziegler: won 1st place in her division.
This week the ALDC will be headed to Warren, New Jersey, for an In10sity Dance Competition. The group will do a contemporary routine called "Something to Believe In," and Mackenzie will do a jazz-acro solo called "Boom Boom." In a stealth move, Abby brings in JoJo Siwa, who, like Kalani Hilliker, was a contestant on season 2 of Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition. JoJo is initially assigned to do a lyrical solo called "One Heart" – read on for how that develops. I'm happy to see JoJo, but unhappy with how it looked like Abby was going to give the solo to Nia, but then sprung JoJo on the team.
As if it wasn't already surprising enough to have an unexpected guest on the team, 11-year-old JoJo shocks them even more by asking Abby, "Do you think I could replace Chloe?" (as in, Chloe Lukasiak, a beloved teammate who left the ALDC at the end of season 4). Abby answers, "If you really wanna dance and work hard at your craft, you could replace anybody," but then quickly adds, "Well, anybody but my favorite," referring to Maddie, of course. In a voiceover, Jessalyn (JoJo's mom) states, "We came here to be permanent members of the ALDC, and we’re not leaving until that happens."
While the girls rehearse, the parents head up to the Mom Loft (a mezzanine in the studio). Jill (Kendall's mom) asks Jessalynn if she thinks JoJo can fill Maddie's shoes. Jessalynn says that JoJo can fill anyone's shoes, and that she has the perfect look for LA (Abby is opening a studio in Los Angeles and the team is moving there to be part of ALDC-LA). Jill tells the camera, "Come in with a couple of big bows on your kid's head, a bottle of peroxide, a couple of rhinestones and you think you know what's going on! I don't know who Jess thinks she is, but she doesn't fit in at the ALDC."
The dancers work on their "liturgical routine" with each girl portraying a different religion. Nia is the featured dancer and has a spoken word section, much like she did in her excellent "Goodbye Maya" solo. Holly is thrilled for Nia, but disappointed that it comes under a "cloud of negativity based on our fight last week." When Holly starts to explain how she feels, Jessalynn interjects saying she should "accept it as it is and either take it or leave it," and when she keeps going on about it, Holly calls her "incredibly rude and obnoxious."
Mackenzie and JoJo rehearse their solos. Abby wants Kenzie to be more energetic like JoJo, but that doesn't mean JoJo is in the clear; Abby calls her out for having sickled (improperly positioned) feet. At first JoJo works on a lyrical solo called "One Heart," but Abby worries that she won't be able to do the soft, pretty routine (the piece was choreographed for Maddie; JoJo is notorious for being a bundle of energy), so, mid-rehearsal, Abby switches her to a jazz routine called "Electricity."
However, since Abby has already registered the routines and music with In10sity Dance, she needs someone to do the "One Heart" solo. And so, as if the dynamic in the Mom Loft wasn't volatile enough, Abby brings in adorable Sarah Hunt and her mother "Christy with a Y" aka Christ-y (pronounced like Christ as in Jesus) aka Christy with a Why. Almost every time Sarah was on Dance Moms in season 4, Abby dismissed her by the end of the episode (because of her mother's antics), so we'll see if she makes it this time. Like Jessalynn, Christy also has her eye on making the move to ALDC-LA, stating, "We would do everything that it took to be able to go to LA."
As expected, while Sarah rehearses "One Heart," Jessalynn and Christy start in on each other, with Jess saying that Sarah looks at the floor when she dances, and Christy pointing out that Sarah was doing a solo that was taken off of JoJo. The regular ALDC moms just sit back and take it in, and clearly, Holly and Melissa are having a snack – it might as well be popcorn.
While the moms watch the "Something to Believe In" rehearsal, they wonder if people will be offended by the religious subject matter, and the consensus is that the routine is, as Kira (Kalani's mom) puts it, "a frickin' mess." Holly explains, "this is not the ALDC Junior Elite Competition Team, it's a hodge-podge of different dancers brought together, and it looks that." Jill agrees and says, "This is a disaster."
Meanwhile, Maddie is in LA (chaperoned by her Aunt Renee) rehearsing for her gig with Sia, and she's a nervous because it will be her first time performing for 17,000 people. She calls Abby and tells her she'll be doing four dances in a row, and then asks how the group is doing. Abby commends Kalani, critiques JoJo, Sara and Nia, and gives Mackenzie a mixed review.
The team (minus Abby) arrives in Warren, New Jersey, for In10sity Dance. In the footage of the contestants walking into the venue, Haley Huelsman – yet another contestant from AUDC season 2 – is shown; she's there competing against the ALDC.
As the ALDC gets ready, the moms give pep talks: Jessalynn tells JoJo, "This is your big chance in life…. go out there and kill it"; Melissa tells her daughter, "This dance is totally Mackenzie, and I know Maddie's not here to help you, but I believe in you, and you are a part of this team." Meanwhile, because Abby is late, Holly wonders if she ditched the competition and went to LA to watch Maddie, but Gianna "Gia" Martello (Abby's assistant) assures her that's not the case.
Abby is not present when the show begins. Sarah Hunt goes first with her lyrical solo; she wears a petal pink two-piece costume. Sarah is a dancer with a lot of promise (I've written this before, but she reminds me of young, season 1 Maddie), and she does a lovely job with the number. JoJo is second with her contemporary jazz solo; she wears a black one-piece costume with silver trim and a matching headpiece. The choreography is cool, and JoJo works it. Mackenzie does her jazz-acro solo; she wears a red costume with heart appliques and heart makeup around one eye. It's a cute number, and her facial expressions and costume tie it together nicely.
Right before Mackenzie dances, Abby arrives and takes her seat. Jessalynn leans over to her and says, "Abby, JoJo worked really hard on her solo, I really wish you has been here, I really do. Super, super disappointed." Abby responds that she can watch the tape, and Christy tells Jessalynn, "You gotta get over it."
Jessalynn doesn't get over it, though, and when they get back in the dressing room she chides Abby, asking, "Don't you think you should tell the kids that you're not gonna be here?" Abby tells her if she had been there, JoJo would have performed to her instead of to the judges. Holly jumps in and says that Abby should have been there for all three solos, but Abby cuts her off and says, "Holly, if I wasn't there, just guess it was a darn good reason." Apparently, Abby was in NYC dealing with legal issues pertaining to the Paige Hyland lawsuit (for background on this issue read this recap about the physical fight between Abby and Kelly Hyland (Paige and Brooke's mom) and this post about some of the lawsuits).
The girls enter the dressing room and Abby hugs each of them, then reminds them that when they perform, they shouldn't be looking for her in the audience. Abby is right, but that doesn't stop JoJo from asking her, "Do you think since like, I'm your guest, like, do you like, feel bad, since like, that you didn't like, get to see my solo?" Abby answers, "No," and then tells Jessalynn, "You are creating a monster."
The team takes the stage for their "Something to Believe In" contemporary routine; they wear an assortment of costumes portraying numerous religions. I really like the direction the group numbers are taking this season; the team is a season older, the choreography is more current and mature, and the girls execute it very well.
The awards ceremony begins. In the Elite Mini Solo Division, Sarah wins 1st Place. In the Elite Junior Solo Division, JoJo gets 3rd Place; Mackenzie wins 1st Place. In the Elite Junior Small Group Division, the ALDC earns 2nd Place. In a talking head interview Abby seethes, "I can’t stand being second. You were this close, and you blew it." Backstage, she asks the team, "If Maddie was here, would it have been first place? We don't know."
Suddenly, Jessalynn holds up a score sheet and tells little Sarah, "By the way, JoJo had two more points than you had on your score." It's petty and it's poor sportsmanship, and several of the moms and Abby are quick to call her on it and also point out that there's a two years age difference between the girls.
Then, Abby asks JoJo, "So what do you think of your Mom telling Sarah that you were two points higher than her?" JoJo answers, "Well, I mean if it is the truth, I… I don't mind it being said." Right behind her, Jessalynn asks, "Something wrong with saying the truth?" Holly explains that they have a code of etiquette on the team (the moms don't direct any type of aggression or negativity toward the girls), and Abby reminds Jessalynn, "I went and got her [Sarah] in the other room when your kid couldn't do the lyrical piece. Period." But, in an interview Abby states, "JoJo. She's obnoxious, sometimes rude. But can she be fabulous and make everybody stand up and take notice? Yes, she can."
When Abby takes the team out to "properly thank the judges," Holly asks Jessalynn, "What was your goal in saying that to Sarah, what were you trying to achieve?" Jessalynn says she was "just saying the truth," but Kira yells, "Don’t say it in front of the kids, that's the bottom line." Jessalynn responds, "All I care about is JoJo got a higher score than your daughter."
Next, Jessalynn warns the moms, "If you think LA isn't gonna be tough, you guys better thicken your skin." Holly responds, "You know what? I grew up in the Bronx, New York, I'm good. But I also have class."
The moms walk out and leave Jessalynn sitting alone in the dressing room.
Next week on Dance Moms S5 E4 titled "Bye Bye Pittsburgh," JoJo is still dancing with the team, and Abby says the girls need to redeem themselves because they can’t expect to go to LA if they're 2nd Place dancers.
Dance Moms airs on Tuesdays at 9/8c on Lifetime.
Photo courtesy of Lifetime.
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Posted on Wednesday, January 21, 2015