'Dance Moms' Recap S3 E31: Payton Ackerman Joins ALDC Competition Team

L to R - Jill Vertes, Melissa Ziegler-Gisoni, and Abby Lee Miller from Dance Moms
Jill Vertes, Melissa Ziegler-Gisoni, and Abby Lee Miller from Dance Moms

Last week on Dance Moms, Kelly Hyland was happy that her daughter Brooke was offered a chance to sing at the Abby Lee Dance Company (ALDC) recital, but upset that her other daughter, Paige, was the only one who had to learn a new solo for the show. Kelly and Abby fought about it, then the Hylands walked out. This week on Dance Moms season 3, episode 31 titled, “Clash of the Dance Moms”, Kelly and Co. are still absent, so Abby brings Payton Ackerman and her mom Leslie into the group. Abby’s nemesis, Cathy Nesbitt-Stein from the Candy Apples Dance Center (CADC) is back, along with talented choreographer Anthony Burrell (and his mom!). During the episode we see two commercials featuring Abby: one for season 2 of Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition (AUDC) – it begins on September 3 – and one advertising Abby’s appearance on the bra fitting show called Double Divas (August 6, 10/9c).

Before I begin the recap, I want to extend a warm welcome to our new readers. We’re getting a large amount of correspondence from Dance Moms fans in Australia – thank you for stopping by our site.

And now for the recap…

Dance Moms season 3, episode 31 titled “Clash of the Dance Moms” begins like most installments of the series, with studio owner Abby Lee Miller revealing her pyramid, the ranking system she uses for the dancers of the ALDC. It is almost always based on the girls’ performances at the previous week’s competition, but sometimes favoritism and ego affect the results.

From the bottom up: Paige (“wasn’t there…very unprofessional”); Brooke (also wasn’t there, and missed the opportunity to sing “Summer Love Song”); Asia (had her costume on backwards); Nia (Abby asks her, “What can you do better than everybody else?", so her mother Holly asks Abby to spend more time with her); Mackenzie (the casting director at Dance Track Magazine said she played a “fantastic nerd”, but didn’t know enough nerd moves or poses); Maddie (didn’t raise her hand when Abby asked for a girl to take Paige’s place in the recital); Chloe (Abby calls her last week’s “MVP of the show”); and at the top, it’s Kendall, for her victory in being chosen as Dance Track Magazine’s cover girl.

This week the ALDC is headed to the Believe National Talent Competition (affiliated with the well-known Starpower Competition) in Lancaster, PA. All of the girls will be in the group routine, a lyrical piece called “Open Waters” (Abby says she wants them to be sharks), and Chloe, Kendall and Nia will do a jazz trio called “Castaways” (I wonder what inspired Abby’s water theme this week?). Abby was going to use Maddie instead of Nia in the trio, but cut her from the number as further punishment for not raising her hand last week.

Abby tells the team that her enemy, Cathy Nesbitt-Stein from the Candy Apples Dance Center (CADC) will be at Believe with her group, and says, “We are not going to lose to that evil woman, understand? I’m the only evil woman in your life.” This makes our dancelings giggle.

While the girls rehearse the group routine, Abby yells at Nia. Holly wonders if she picked the wrong week to ask Abby to spend extra time with Nia, since they are headed to a brand new competition, Paige and Brooke are missing, and competing against Cathy makes Abby more on edge than usual. Nia is a trouper though; she takes the heat and just keeps dancing.

Chloe’s mom Christi says the group feels “incomplete” without Paige and Brooke. Abby’s concern is that without the Hyland girls her numbers are off, so she brings in Payton Ackerman to fill Brooke's spot. Abby thinks Payton will take over and be the leader of this group. I like Payton; she's a strong dancer and she stands up for herself.

Since Payton is there, of course her mom Leslie is there too, and she takes Kelly’s seat in the Mom's Den. Normally the Moms aren’t all that happy to see Leslie, but this week they think her tough demeanor will help them in their inevitable confrontation with Candy Apple Cathy at the Believe Competition. Leslie doesn’t know anything about that – her sole reason for being there is that Payton wants a real spot on the ALDC team instead of being a fill-in. When she says they “would die” for the opportunity to be permanent members of the team, Christi warns, “Be careful what you wish for, Leslie.” Later in the episode when Leslie tells Abby that Payton wants to stay with the team, Abby tells her Payton doesn’t have the same skills as Brooke.

An interesting tidbit about the CADC team is revealed while the Dance Moms gossip: Jill says she heard a rumor that Zack Torres (from AUDC) left the Candy Apples.


Over in Canton, Ohio, Cathy does indeed have (another) new Candy Apples team. This time it’s one boy, Lucas (he's fantastic, and his mom is Bridgette Triana – they are from Dance Moms Miami), and four girls: Hadley (Yvette’s daughter – they are formerly of AUDC); Nicaya (Black Patsy’s daughter); Brooke (she was handpicked by choreographer Anthony Burrell – her mom is Michelle); and Mari (she’s been with Cathy for a few episodes - her mom is Gina). Cathy says this is her “most technically savvy team”, and that since last time she competed against the ALDC she lost, so this week it’s crucial to win.

The CADC’s routines for the Believe Competition are choreographed by Anthony: a contemporary group dance called “Four Seasons”, and a contemporary trio with Lucas, Nicaya and Brooke called “Spies Like Them”.

There is some minor drama during rehearsal when Cathy informs the group that Anthony has requested the moms keep their chatter to a minimum, but then puts words in his mouth adding that Anthony was “going to keep his bold corrections to a minimum.” There is another moment when Anthony has to change a combination because new girl Brooke isn’t getting it, and her mom disagrees with him. A little back-and-forth ensues, but Anthony puts a quick end to it by telling Cathy to “take a seat and enjoy the show,” and also threatens to leave and start his own team, and take half of her dancers with him.

Between the CADC rehearsals, there is a scene in which Cathy brings her pretty daughter Vivi-Anne and her mom – Granny Apple – out for a meal at John’s Bar & Grille, and Cathy talks her mom into attending the Believe Competition (the last time Granny Apple saw Abby was when Abby called her ‘pathetic” during Dance Moms Tell All Reunion, Part 2, so she discusses tripping her, but happily, that doesn’t happen).  A little later in the episode we learn that Anthony’s mom will be at the show too.


Finally, it’s the day of the Believe National Talent Competition.

While they get ready for the show, Leslie talks about how she wants them all to get used to the idea of Kelly not coming back, and for her and her daughter Payton to be there instead. The conversation moves quickly, so when Abby addresses “Kendall”, and then over that Payton says, “Just so you all know my name is not Kendall, it’s not Brooke, it’s not any of you, it’s Payton,” it’s not clear that the teen was addressing Abby. If she was, wow, but it’s just as likely that they were simply talking over each other. However,  Abby didn't see it that way, so she unleashes her fury on them and yells at Leslie, who is defending her daughter, to “SHUT YOUR MOUTH!”

Then Abby says, “I’m going to ask you a question right now, Miss Payton, and if you answer me ‘yes’ then you’re where you should be at 15 years old. Do you have your solo costume with you? No? Then keep the smart mouth to yourself, because you would have brought it just in case I wanted to write you in.”

Abby tells her team she wants as little interaction with the CADC as possible, but on the way to the theater, Melissa taunts one of the CADC Moms (maybe Yvette?), “Your Spanx are squeezing your thighs too tight - I can see your Spanx.”

Then, Kristie with K (Asia’s mom) and Yvette (Hadley’s mom) go at it right in front of Gary, the Believe Competition owner – they’ve been enemies since back when their kids were competitors on season 1 of Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition. This time around, Kristie claims that at a previous show, Yvette said she was “going to ruin Asia”, but Yvette denies this and says, “I said ‘Be careful, you don’t know who I am.’” Huh? Who are you, Yvette? This goes on for a few minutes, then Abby ushers Kristie away.

The competition begins with the Candy Apples’ “Spies Like Them” trio. It’s not the best execution I’ve seen on this show, but the choreography is very cool and I dig the music.

The ALDC’s “Castaways” trio is next. The choreography is interesting – I can’t quite place why – maybe less turning? – but it looks different than what we usually see from them (maybe it was put together by the man who was dancing with the trio during rehearsal at the ALDC studio). While the trio is on, the ALDC moms notice that the CADC moms are talking loudly and mocking them. Jill says “they have terrible issues.”

The CADC group performs their “Four Seasons” routine: their costumes depicting the different season are neat, and once again, the choice of music is wonderful.

The last dance we see is the ALDC group number, “Open Waters”. In past recaps I have written that the ALDC dancers have issues dancing in unison, but this week their combinations in unison are fantastic. Also, I love their sophisticated costumes – long asymmetrical chiffon skirts and midriff baring tops. I’m not a fan of their prop though – I think it’s a boat ramp?

The awards ceremony begins. In the 9-11 Duo or Trio Division, the CADC places 7th; the ALDC gets 5th. In the 9-11 Small Group Division, the CADC is awarded 3rd Place; the ALDC wins 1st Place. To their credit, Cathy and Anthony stand in the back and applaud for the ALDC

Backstage, Christi tells Leslie, “I think Payton was great today, that does not mean that that chair that your butt is in belongs to anybody but Kelly.” Leslie is incredulous that Christi would say this mere moments after their win, and it starts a fight. Then Abby “woo-hoos” into the room and credits the win to Kelly’s absence, and says that Kelly being gone is “the best thing in the world”.

Suddenly, the CADC invades the ALDC dressing room. Cathy congratulates the ALDC and introduces them to Anthony’s mom, who is unhappy that the ALDC moms were saying things about her son. She gets right in Jill’s face (Jill is Kendall's mom), but thankfully, it doesn’t go any further than that. As the two teams are separated, Christi says, “It’s just a dance competition, settle down women, settle down!” Ha! As if!

The episode ends with Holly asking Abby, “What about Kelly and Paige and Brooke?”, and Abby answering, “Who?” Abby says that if they wanted to reach out to her, they would have, and that Brooke is “going to throw it all away to be a singer - don’t you think that hurts me?”

We’ll see how it turns out next week, because the previews show that Kelly is back.


Did you enjoy "Clash of the Dance Moms"? Did you think it was fair for Abby to punish Maddie for not raising her hand? Should Abby let Kelly, Brooke and Paige return to the ALDC? Would you like to see Payton remain on the team? Do you like Cathy's new Candy Apples? Don't be shy, leave a comment and let us know what you think.

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Dance Moms airs on Tuesdays at 9/8c on Lifetime

Photo courtesy of Lifetime

Posted on Wednesday, July 30, 2013