'Dance Mums UK' Recap S1 E1 It All Starts Here: Meet the JEDT

Jennifer Ellison of Dance Mums UK
Jennifer Ellison, star of Dance Mums UK
By REESE AMOROSI

Dance Mums UK is set in Liverpool and stars British triple-threat Jennifer Ellison, who began performing at age 3 and went on to conquer dance (numerous credits and awards), acting (film, stage and television) and singing (including two hits on the UK pop charts). As she says, she's "Been there, seen it, done it and won it." Jennifer's goal as the "Principal" of the Jennifer Ellison Dance Team (JEDT) is to lead the group to victory at the Dance World Cup in Portugal, but first, she'll guide the JEDT through a series of smaller competitions. On Dance Mums season 1, episode 1 titled "It All Starts Here," we meet the girls and mums of the JEDT as they prepare for TalentFest Wales.

As Dance Mums UK S1 E1 "It All Starts Here" opens, the mums and daughters of the Jennifer Ellison Dance Team report for rehearsal at Studio 76 Performing Arts Center and as requested, they bring their trophies and awards with them. We meet Kelly and Eleiyah Navis (age 14); Charlotte Traynor and Sam Dennis (age 14); Carol and Chloe Greenwood (age 14); Maxine Kelly and Tayluer Amos (age 13); Danielle and Aleah Simpson (age 9); Serena McConville and Chloe Fenton (age 8); Helen and Molly Thorpe-Franklin (age 10). Jennifer reminds them that every week they will be learning a new dance and performing it that weekend in a competition.

Dance Mums UK is the British version of the Lifetime TV's US-based hit Dance Moms, and Jennifer, like her American counterpart Abby Lee Miller, uses a pyramid to rank the dancers in her company. In future episodes it will be based on how well the girls did at the previous week's competition, but the first pyramid is based on the girl's dance CVs (resumes). From the bottom up:
Aleah: brand new to dance, has a mountain to climb.
Molly: needs better facial expressions.
Chloe G: not versatile enough.
Sam: needs technical improvement.
Chloe F: great technique; has big future.
Eleiyah: great dancer, but lacks personality.
Tayluer: has the most awards, is the full package.

Apparently, Tayluer and Eleiyah have been dance rivals for some time now, and Maxine (Tayluer's mum) says the pyramid reflects how the results usually unfold at competitions: Eleiyah in 2nd place, Tayluer in first.

This week the JEDT will compete at TalentFest Wales under the theme "Pop Star Divas." Tayluer will do a lyrical solo called "Poker Face"; Eleiyah will do a lyrical solo called "Say Something"; Chloe F and Molly will do a jazz duet called "When I Grow Up." The group will do a jazz routine called "Applause."

While the girls learn the group number, the mums head into their viewing gallery to observe. Charlotte notices that Jennifer yells a lot when she's teaching, but Danielle wants Jen to be strict because it makes the girls take more notice. The mums discuss the pyramid, and when Danielle brings up that she thinks "favoritism" influenced the rankings (the premise is that Tayluer is Jen's favorite) it creates friction with the mums, and that makes Charlotte laugh.

Down on the studio floor, Jennifer sees that Aleah is struggling with the choreography, and wonders if she bit off more than she can chew. Danielle notices too, and decides Aleah should take a private lesson. She discusses this, and also her displeasure that Aleah didn't get a solo or duet, with Charlotte. (That Danielle and Charlotte seem to be paired up doesn't bode well with Jen). When Jen enters the room in which they are gossiping, it's evident that Danielle has unrealistic expectations – her daughter has never been on the stage, but she wants her to immediately be equal with the more experienced dancers.

The conversation turns to Charlotte (Sam's mum), who has been stewing since the pyramid was revealed because she thinks Sam should have placed higher. After a brief conversation, Jen leaves the room and the two mums laugh and make yakety-yak hand motions. Jen hears them, so she dismisses the girls, and as they're leaving, Charlotte continues to laugh as she and Jen argue. As the team gathers outside of the studio door, Sam is crying because of the row, and when Jen goes to console her "World War 3 kicks off" between her and Charlotte. As Charlotte and Sam drive away it's unclear if they'll return, but they do come back the next day, and Charlotte apologizes to Jen.

As the mums file in for rehearsal, Danielle (Aleah's mum) confides that she went behind Jen's back and booked a private lesson for her daughter. This causes Aleah to miss group rehearsal, which is not good since she needs the most help. When Jennifer pulls Aleah out of her private lesson Danielle is unhappy about it, and Jen realizes she's going to have her hands full with these mums.

At rehearsal for the solos, Tayluer gives the room "a master class in dance" with her "Poker Face" (Glee version) routine, then Eleiyah "wipes the floor with everyone" with her routine to "Say Something" (by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera). Jennifer is so knocked out that she changes the girls' positions on the pyramid and gives Eleiyah the top spot. Jen says, "As a dancer, you're only as good as your last performance."

It's a rocky road to the team's first competition: Danielle is upset when Jen decides to take Aleah out of a segment of the routine so she takes her daughter and storms out. When they returns the next day, Jen explains that she's protecting Aleah because she's not as strong a dancer as the other girls, but Danielle doesn't see it.

Then, a day before the competition, the costumes arrive and are an ill-fitting mess, so Charlotte is made "costume supervisor" and is charged with fixing them overnight. She pulls out all the stops, staying up through the wee hours and continuing to work during the bus trip to the show.

When the team arrives in Wales, they have little time to prepare the makeup and hair for all seven girls. Charlotte takes the lead on helping everyone, but Danielle wastes time rummaging in her bag and staring into space. Jennifer attempts to help, but it turns out that Danielle didn't bring any supplies – no bobbles, no clips. Jen throws her out of the dressing room and says sarcastically, "I hope everything doesn't grind to a halt." By the time they're done getting ready, there's no time left to warm up so they have to dance without stretching.

The competition begins. JEDT's "Applause" routine is first; they wear a combination of striking hot pink and black costumes, some with cool stand-up collars – brava to Charlotte (and bonus points to Danielle for wearing a dress that matches the costumes). Jen did a magnificent job of choreographing the routine to showcase each girl's strengths. The results are announced shortly after the performance, and the JEDT wins 1st Place.

As the girls prepare for the solos and duos, there's a brief argument between Danielle and Carol (Chloe G's mum). Carol thinks Danielle should be paying attention to how Jen is doing the hair and makeup so she can learn. Jen yells at them to be quiet.

Molly and Chloe F are next with their duet to "When I Grow Up" by The Pussycat Dolls; they wear magenta and royal purple costumes with tutus. They dance very well together. I don't plan on comparing the UK and US casts on a regular basis, but when I see Molly and Chloe F perform, I can't help but think of Asia Monet Ray from the Abby Lee Dance Company – like her, they are both tiny dynamos. The duet comes in 2nd Place.

The solos follow. Tayleur does her "Poker Face" routine; she wears a black one-piece, Capri-leg unitard with a flame design on the bodice and sleeves. Eleiyah does her "Say Something" solo; she wears simple black shorts and crop top underneath an over-sized, white button-down shirt tied at the waist. Both girls are lovely performers, but at this competition Eleiyah dances with a stronger emotional connection to the music, and she leaves audience members (and this writer) in tears. Eleiyah wins 1st Place; Tayleur takes 2nd Place. Jennifer is thrilled with the day's outcome, and the team celebrates its success.

I thoroughly enjoyed Dance Mums UK; Jennifer has a stellar background, the girls are wonderful dancers and the mums are hilarious. Join me next Wednesday (3/25) for my recap of Dance Mums UK season 1, episode 2 titled "It's All Kicking Off." Cheerio!

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Dance Mums UK airs at 10PM/9c on Lifetime right after Dance Moms. Photo courtesy of Lifetime.

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Posted on Wednesday, March 18, 2015