'Dance Moms' Recap S5 E4 Bye Bye Pittsburgh: ALDC Prepares for LA Move

Abby Lee Miller, star of Dance Moms on Lifetime
Abby Lee Miller, star of Dance Moms on Lifetime
By REESE AMOROSI

Previously on Dance Moms, Maddie Ziegler was in LA working with Sia (Maddie stars in Sia's "Chandelier" and "Elastic Heart" videos), so studio owner Abby Lee Miller invited JoJo Siwa (from season 2 of Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition) to perform with the Abby Lee Dance Company (ALDC). This week on Dance Moms season 5, episode 4 "Bye Bye Pittsburgh," it's the team's last few days before their move to LA, and it's JoJo's last chance to convince Abby to give her a permanent spot with the group. Like the other dancers, Nia Frazier is anticipating the move and wondering how it will affect her career, but she has the added pressure of facing her grandfather's illness. Meanwhile, the moms wonder if Abby will promote all of the ALDC girls in LA, or just her favorites.

As Dance Moms S5 E4 opens, Holly and daughter Nia arrive at the studio and tell Abby that once the team gets to LA, she might have to take a leave of absence and head back to Pittsburgh because her grandfather is ill. This hits close to home for Abby who lost her mother, studio founder Maryen Lorrain Miller, last year. Abby comforts Nia, and in a talking head interview she says it's admirable that Nia and her mom are still going to LA, and that it's what Nia's grandfather would want.

The team – including JoJo, who has been invited back for another week – lines up in the rehearsal studio. Abby tells them they need to redeem themselves after last week's second place finish (if you missed it read my recap for Dance Moms S5 E3 titled "JoJo with a Bow Bow"), and then reveals her pyramid, the weekly ranking system she uses for the girls of the ALDC. From the bottom up:
Nia Frazier: was lead dancer, didn't lead group to victory.
Kendall Vertes: Abby was unhappy with her feet.
Kalani Hilliker: didn't elevate team above second place.
Maddie Ziegler: was in LA performing with Sia.
JoJo Siwa: Abby wonders how she'll do in a pro environment.
Mackenzie Ziegler: had overall high score in junior division.

This week the ALDC will be traveling to Woodbridge, Virginia for a competition called World Class Talent Experience. Jill (Kendall's mom) has business in Kentucky, so Kendall will be staying with the Zieglers until Jill rejoins the team in Virginia. Abby assigns the routines: Kendall will be doing a musical theater solo called "Clueless"; Maddie will be doing a lyrical solo called "She's History"; JoJo will be doing a musical theater solo called "Fashion Victim." Abby says this is JoJo's "last hurrah," and that she needs "to make it or break it."

The group will be doing a lyrical number called "Frozen Together" inspired by the movie Frozen. While the kids learn the routine, their parents head up to the Mom Loft and talk. Jessalyn (JoJo's mom) calls out Kira (Kalani's mom) for making fun of JoJo during pyramid (Kira mimicked JoJo's unique speech pattern). Jessalynn points out that there's a double-standard because last week, Kira admonished her for not following team etiquette regarding not directing aggression or negativity toward the girls. After this brief argument, Melissa tells the moms that Ryan Seacrest wants to interview her daughters, Maddie and Mackenzie.

JoJo rehearses her solo, and Maddie, Kalani, and Abby all marvel at how good she is. However, she doesn't do as well in the group rehearsal, and Abby tells the camera that some kids don't do well in a group situation, but it's a necessary skill if you want to be a successful working dancer. Then, Abby asks JoJo if the outfit she's wearing is a costume, and JoJo answers, "you wanna see a costume?" This annoys Abby, and it's the final straw: JoJo is cut from the group number.

Abby heads up to the Mom Loft to talk about the move to LA. She reminds the moms that since she manages the girls, they can’t book gigs on their own; they have to go through her. In an interview, Holly says this is fine, as long as Nia gets the same opportunities as Maddie and Mackenzie. Next, Abby focuses on Jessalynn and the reasons JoJo was cut from the group routine, and they argue about JoJo's dance ability and her bookability.

Kendall rehearses her solo, and Abby is so pleased with it she applauds. Melissa calls Jill with the good news, and Holly teases her with, "Kendall dances better when Jill's not here." Jessalynn says, "Well, Abby'll probably realize it was a huge mistake to take JoJo out of the group when she beats Kendall in the solo competition."

Nia and her father visit her grandfather, and she tells him that she'll be going to LA soon. Nia says, "I am going to have a lot of opportunities, hopefully." Back at the studio, though, Holly and the others aren't sure about that. Kira points out that Maddie and Mackenzie have been working professionally all summer ("Mack Z" with her singing, and Maddie dancing with Sia), and she hopes there's "some balance" between them all.

The team arrives in Woodbridge, Virginia. Abby says the competition in this part of the country is always tough, but she wants a clean sweep so they'll arrive in LA as winners. After they settle into the dressing room, Holly calls home and Nia speaks with her grandfather who says he's rooting for her and that he loves her.

Gianna "Gia" Martello (Abby's assistant choreographer) hands Abby her phone. Abby looks at it and says, "Okay, we're never coming back here again! Why didn't somebody (tell us that), then I would have put her in [referring to Kalani]." Just then, JoJo asks, "Gianna, do you know the order of the solos?" Abby yells, "JoJo! Have you learned nothing?" Then, Abby turns to Gia and says, "Do not address her until she learns to say 'excuse me' when two adults are speaking." The outburst shocks Kira who admits, "I'm the first one to call out JoJo's bad behavior, but clearly something is up with Abby, 'cause she had no reason to lash out on JoJo like that."

It turns out that Abby is upset that because the way the age categories run at World Class Talent, Maddie (who was 11 when this episode filmed), Kendall and the group will all be competing in the Teen Division against 14-year-olds (who are, as Jill later explains, "bigger, stronger, older dancers"). Abby worries that since Maddie is famous now, losing a competition will tarnish her reputation. I understand that line of thought, but I think Maddie's work with Sia has been brilliant, and nothing can take the shine off of that.

The competition begins. Maddie dances first with her "She's History" solo; she wears a petal pink dance dress and matching headband. Maddie has always been exceptional, but the experience she gained working with Sia (live and in videos) has made her an even more confidant dancer. Kendall is next with her "Clueless" routine; she wears a jail-striped top, a black skirt and red hair bow. She's beyond pretty and she looks happy on stage. JoJo is third with her "Fashion Victim" solo; she wears a giant yellow bow top, a multi-colored skirt, and has her hair teased into a huge cotton candy poof. She's a very good dancer AND a born performer so she's fun to watch.

Backstage, Jessalyn points out that if Abby drops one of the older girls from the group and puts JoJo in, they could dance in the Junior Division instead of Teen. When JoJo tells Abby, "Me and Nia do most of the same stuff," Nia stands up for herself and states, "I worked for my place on this team. I want to stay." Holly asks, "JoJo, would you really want Nia not to dance at all today?" In an interview, Jessalynn says it's more important for the team to go to LA as winners than it is to worry about Nia' feelings, but Abby declines the offer.

The ALDC takes the stage for their "Frozen Together" lyrical number; they wear powder blue, two-piece costumes with shorts that have tutu backs, and they wear face paint including blue lipstick. It's a beautiful piece, their timing is very good, and at the end, snow falls from the rafters. You go, Abby!

The awards ceremony begins. In the Junior Solo Division, JoJo gets 3rd Place. In the Teen Solo Division, Kendall earns 3rd Place; Maddie wins 1st Place. In the Teen Group Division, the ALDC is awarded 2nd Place.

Back in the dressing room, the moms are nervous about heading to LA without a win under their belts. Abby enters the room and sighs (she cannot stand coming in second - she famously calls it "the first to lose") and says they need to talk before the girls return. When Abby announces that Maddie booked a television show in LA (Disney Channel's Austin and Ally), the conversation escalates to an argument, with the moms complaining that Abby favors Maddie.

Jill offers, "Of course they're going to call and ask for Maddie because Abby has said for years, 'she's the one!' You pigeonholed Maddie as the only one who can do it." Holly concurs with, "For years you helped to build her reputation. Her wins did as well, but you also contributed to that by saying consistently 'she's my favorite, she's the best.'"

Abby counters with, "From the work Maddie has done, there becomes more work. When we get to LA, Melissa is going to be moving and shaking for numero uno," so Holly states that she's going to be a mover and shaker for Nia. Abby tells the camera that that's fine as long as Holly brings the info to her because as Nia's manager, she has the final say.

The team enters the room and Abby says, "Ladies, you're walking out of here with a second place award. In an audition there's no second place. There's 'you get the job', or 'you don't.'" Jessalynn interjects, "So where does this leave JoJo?" Abby responds, "I don't need another third place dancer, that's not what I need on this team. She is not going to LA as part of this dance competition team. Will I represent her in LA? Yes, but you gotta get her there. When you get to LA give me a call."

Jessalynn is unhappy that Abby isn't adding JoJo to the team, and they argue. Abby isn't convinced that JoJo's sassy personality will work in LA, and she tells Jessalynn, "You know why you're here? Because I feel sad for your little girl cause she is gonna grow up thinking that she's it, and when somebody out in that big, bad world makes fun of her she's gonna lose it." Jessalynn yells, "You know in your marketing dance mind JoJo is the most commercial kid here that you will be taking to LA." Viewers can expect this disagreement to continue next week when the ALDC moves to LA on Dance Moms S5 E5 titled "Hello Hollywood, Goodbye Abby."

Dance Moms S5 E4 closes with a photo of Nia and her grandfather and the words, "In loving memory of Andrew Frazier Sr., January 28, 1932 – December 22, 2014." Our sincerest condolences to the Frazier family.

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Dance Moms airs on Tuesdays at 9/8c on Lifetime.
Photo courtesy of Lifetime.

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Posted on Wednesday, January 28, 2015