|L to R: Maddie Ziegler and Mackenzie Ziegler on Dance Moms season 5|
Previously on Dance Moms, Abby Lee Miller and her Abby Lee Dance Company (ALDC) officially moved to Los Angeles. Abby was preoccupied and didn't attend their first competition, but she did organize and emcee the premiere of Kendall Vertes' (aka Kendall K) premiere for her "Wear 'Em Out" video. This week on Dance Moms season 5, episode 23 titled "Maddie vs. Mackenzie." the Ziegler sisters and teammate JoJo Siwa compete against each other in the same age division, and the team works with celebrity choreographer Travis Payne, who brings a positive, happy, inspirational vibe to the ALDC.
As Dance Moms S5 E23 "Maddie vs. Mackenzie" open, the ALDC reports to 3rd Street Dance, the team's temporary home while Abby builds her LA studio. When they arrive, Abby is watching a video of their routine from the competition that she missed last week (and if you missed the episode, read my recap for Dance Moms Recap S5 E22 Summer Premiere: "Live From LA, It's Kendall K.")
Abby critiques the performance, saying that when Maddie is featured, no-one can take their eyes off of her, but with Nia as the lead dancer, it was "like nothing." Nia stands up for herself, saying, "If I'd had more opportunities, maybe I would have been better at it."
Then, when Abby reveals her pyramid – the leaderboard for the ALDC – Nia is in the bottom slot. No matter: Miss Nia Sioux takes her own advice to "Star in Your Own Life," and she stands tall and maintains eye contact with Abby. From the bottom up:
Nia Frazier: Her solo came in 5th place,
JoJo Siwa: Had timing issues.
Maddie Ziegler: Did her job but didn't stand out.
Mackenzie Ziegler: Applied Abby's corrections.
Kendall Vertes: Premiered her "Wear 'Em Out" video.
Kalani Hilliker: Won 1st place.
This week, the ALDC will attend the Center Stage Dance Competition in Anaheim, California. Kendall and Jill will not be present due to a family commitment. At this competition, all three soloists will be in the 10-12 age division: Mackenzie will do a jazz acro solo called "Sink or Swim"; Maddie will do a tap solo called "You Go-Go, Girl"; JoJo will do a jazz solo called "Rebel Without a Cause." The group will do a jazz funk routine called "Beautiful Bizarre" by celebrity guest choreographer Travis Payne (Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Jackson) and his collaborator, Aisha Francis (Beyoncé). The number will incorporate several dance styles including waacking and voguing.
The moms observe the group rehearsal and are delighted that the girls are working with a respected choreographer and are clearly enjoying themselves (lot of smiles and high-fives). They are also happy that Abby says she's not going to change the routine once Travis sets it (although she does tell him to give Maddie the center spot instead of Mackenzie). Jessalynn (JoJo's mom) says, "If this is Abby stepping up her game, it's about time. This might be Abby trying to give the girls extra advantages, extra opportunities, which is great, OR, maybe it's just Abby wanting to take another break all week."
While Maddie rehearses her tap solo, other dancers are in the studio including JoJo, who is working on steps in the corner. Abby confronts JoJo about her participation in a master class that has been advertised. At first Abby warns JoJo about using the word "master" without earning the title, but then she belittles JoJo, saying she's "some kid wants to make a quick buck on the weekend because Daddy doesn't earn enough money."
Jessalynn enters the studio to defend JoJo and points out that her daughter isn't TEACHING the class, she's IN the class. JoJo is a tough cookie, but she's rattled for a moment, and leaves the room in tears.
Upon witnessing this, Travis takes JoJo aside for a pep talk: "First of all, you're an awesome little girl, you’re an awesome little talent. You're one of my favorites, I think you're good. You know, you just have your own sort of style and it's kinda all over the place… Maybe you're getting pushed because you are special. Focus on JoJo, then no-one can say anything." It's a wonderful moment; #TeamTravisForever.
While Mackenzie rehearses, Melissa (Maddie and Mackenzie's mom) talks about the release of Maddie's new video with Sia ("Big Girls Cry", released in April 2015). In a taking head interview, Holly (Nia's mom) is nonplussed that Melissa is "completely ignoring" Mackenzie's practice to discuss Maddie. When the moms point out that some people didn't like the video, Melissa says they can kiss her a$$. I agree with Melissa; I think it's important to focus on the people who like and support you; not the people who don't.
During JoJo's solo rehearsal, Jill (Kendall's mom) addresses Melissa and Jessalynn, saying, "Don't think for a minute that your two kids, Kenzie and JoJo, don't know that Abby expects Maddie to win." Jessalynn disagrees, saying that SHE expects Maddie to win, but JoJo thinks she has a shot at winning because Maddie is doing a tap routine, and maybe the judges don't like tap.
At the next group rehearsal, Travis imparts more words of wisdom when he asks the girls, "How does it make you feel now to be like, you know, in the spotlight?" Maddie responds, "Great, but sometimes it's annoying because it's all, like, all the pressure is on us and we want to do amazing." Mackenzie adds, "Everyone is talking about us, and we want to do it perfect." Travis encourages them to work hard and find a balance so that in the midst of their work they remain themselves. He elaborates, saying that Michael Jackson was so kind and trusting that he didn't always realize when people weren't looking out for his best interests. It's an important message for the girls to hear from a dance pro working at the highest levels.
Competition day arrives. Backstage, Abby is focused on Maddie, particularly with her hair. Maddie says, "Miss Abby is obsessed with high poufs in her hair, and in my hair now… We tried one thing it didn't work; we tried another, it didn't work, so she took her weave out and put it in my head, and I was like 'Oh my God' and I just looked horrible." It's a funny moment, but actually, Maddie's hair and makeup work well for this number; Abby was right.
JoJo dances first with her "Rebel Without a Cause" solo; she wears a biker-inspired, black studded costume with a vest and hat. It's a fast routine and JoJo rocks it. Mackenzie is next with her "Sink or Swim" solo; she wears a red one-piece costume and high pigtails. Abby enthuses, "Kenzie was close to perfection and I don’t say that often - it was great!" Maddie dances third with her "You Go-Go, Girl" solo; she wears a white 60s-inspired mini dress and headband with matching white go-go boots with taps. Abby gushes, "Maddie is head and shoulders above the rest of her competition… she's Maddie."
Travis and the team join hands in an energy circle and he offers, "Thank you to the dance horizon for making us amazing," then the ALDC takes the stage for their "Beautiful Bizarre" routine. Their costumes are black, long-sleeved unitards with red piping, and they wear high ponytails and vivid red eye makeup. The choreography is super-cool, and JoJo immediately grabs my attention; she stands out in a good way.
The awards ceremony begins. In the Junior Solo Division, JoJo gets 3rd Place; Maddie come in 2nd Place; Mackenzie wins 1st Place. When Maddie comes in 2nd, Mackenzie assumes that she hasn't placed at all, so when she is named the winner, the surprised look on her face is priceless.
Abby looks elated, and while Melissa and Maddie look genuinely thrilled for Mackenzie during the awards presentation – Melissa is standing in the audience and wiping away happy tears, onstage Maddie has a big smile and puts her arm around her little sis – back in the dressing room, it appears they are disappointed that Maddie didn't win.
Holly says, "Maddie and Melissa are trying to put on brave faces, but we all know Maddie hates to lose, and Melissa also hates to see Maddie lose even if it's to her own daughter. " Melissa tells Mackenzie, "Maddie's very proud of you, I can tell." Mackenzie gestures towards Maddie's sad face and says, "Wow. You can really tell." Melissa tries to get Maddie to… maybe be more gracious in defeat… and they briefly exchange words, with Maddie saying, "I AM happy, just stop it." Melissa tells her girls, "Maddie stop. Mackenzie, shut up."
When Jessalynn asks Melissa if she honestly thinks Kenzie should have beat Maddie, at first she says, "I can't say, I'm not a judge," but then admits that she doesn't because "Mackenzie looked like a 7-year-old on stage and she looked adorable and sweet. Maddie was fabulous." In a voiceover, Holly asks "Why can't you just be happy for her?," but at the end of the scene, Melissa appears to be speechless.
Next week on Dance Moms S5 E24 titled "West Coast Strikes Back," the ALDC once again faces rival choreographer Erin Babbs and her Murrieta Dance Project.
Dance Moms airs on Tuesdays at 9/8c on Lifetime.
Photo courtesy of Lifetime.
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Posted on Wednesday, June 17, 2015