‘Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition’ Season 2 Premiere Recap: S2 E1 Fame

L to R: Rachelle Rak, Richy Jackson and Abby Lee Miller from season 2 of Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition on Lifetime

On Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition season 2 premiere, eleven aspiring dancers between the ages of 10 and 13 travel to Los Angeles, CA, to compete for $100,000 cash and a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet School of New York. Each week the panel – lead judge Abby Lee Miller, celebrity choreographer Richard "Richy" Jackson, and Broadway star Rachelle Rak ("Fosse," "Cats and Catch Me If You Can") – will eliminate one dancer. In a new twist this season, each judge has the power to use a "Call-back Card" to save one contestant from being cut. Radio personality Kevin Mano returns as host for  season 2’s twelve episodes scheduled to air on Tuesdays at 9/8c on Lifetime.

On the season 2 premiere of Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition (AUDC, S2, E1), the contestants arrive and we get a glimpse of who we’ll be dealing with this go-round. Not surprisingly, half of the performers have moms who either own or work at dance studios:
  • Angela and daughter Chloe, age 13 (mom is a dance teacher)
  • Cindy and daughter Gianna, age 13 (mom does costuming at a dance studio)
  • Jessalynn and daughter JoJo, age 10 (mom owns a dance studio)
  • Kira and daughter Kalani, age 12 (stay at home mom)
  • Melanie and daughter Haley, age 11 (mom is a dance teacher)
  • Shari and daughter McKaylee, age 13 (mom owns a dance studio)
  • Sharon and daughter Sarina, age 12 (mom was Asst. VP at a university)
  • Sheryl and twin sons Travis and Tyler, age 12 (mom's a life coach)
  • Tiffany and daughter Ally, age 12 (mom owns an insurance agency)
  • Tina and daughter Trinity, age 13 (mom was a pro dancer)
Melanie tells her daughter Haley, "Remember what we've been through. You're not here to make friends, you're here to win! It's us against the world!" Young JoJo quips, “Part of being a star is you must have a hair bow in at all times”, so I immediately start calling her “BoBo”. Cindy is less dramatic or silly (so far); she would like her daughter Gianna to win so she’ll have college money.

Each week the dancers will participate in a themed Group Dance Challenge (GDC) - it is normally based on a specific skill, but for this opening week, it deals with the broader topics of auditions and fame. Supervising Choreographer Tessandra Chavez teaches the group the audition combination, then they dance for Abby, who runs the sequence over and over, eliminating performers as she goes. The last dancer standing wins the challenge and gets a reward that will give them an advantage in the competition. Jessalynn instructs her daughter JoJo to “diva walk to the middle” so she’ll be the center of attention, but it backfires and she’s the first eliminated. In the end it comes down to Trinity and Kalani, and Trinity is named the winner. Her prize is that she gets to choose her partners for the Competition Dance; she picks Chloe and Ally. This week’s competition routines will pay tribute to four famous dancers: Michael Jackson, Gene Kelly, Beyoncé and Madonna.

While the kids learn their routines, the moms are busy rhinestone-ing in the costume room. Tiffany (Ally’s mom) was greatly offended by Jessalynn telling her daughter JoJo to take the middle spot during the GDC, and tells her so. She refers to the mother-daughter duo as the “JoJo circus,” and says Jessalynn owes them all an apology for trying to “sabotage” their daughters. Jessalynn says Tiffany is her own circus, and Tiffany walks out. I’m wondering if these two have a history outside of the show, or if Tiffany is just looking for camera time, because she seems overly annoyed and unhealthily focused on Jessalynn and JoJo.

JoJo and Travis work with choreographer Tarua Hall on a Gene Kelly-inspired duet. Abby reminds Travis that he has Gene Kelly’s big shoes to fill, and tells the duo that with two days to go to get the routine on stage, she’s “not impressed.”

Trinity, Chloe and Ally work with choreographer Matt Cady on their Beyoncé-inspired trio. Angela (Chloe’s mom) says her daughter is a Christian and isn’t used to “gyrating and dropping it like it’s hot,” but she prays for Chloe to rise to the occasion, and gives her daughter a pep talk telling her, “You got this.”

Haley, Tyler and Sarina work with choreographer Anthony Burrell on their Michael Jackson-inspired trio. Sharon (Sarina’s mom) says Anthony is “barking out commands, and the choreography is really, really intricate,” and she calls Melanie's daughter Haley a “deer in the headlights.” Poor Haley IS nervous, and she looks scared; Abby reminds her that on stage in a competition, the judges can see that.

McKaylee, Gianna and Kalani work with Tessandra Chavez on their Madonna-inspired trio. When Tessandra points out that they forgot some of the choreo, Cindy (Gianna’s mom) tells the camera that her daughter isn’t used to learning a dance in two days.

On the day of the competition, the dancers and moms see the dressing room area for the first time, and admire their personal makeup stations with their names in rhinestones on the mirrors. The moms offer their kids words of encouragement, and Jessalynn hangs a giant bow over JoJo’s mirror.

Show host Kevin Manno introduces the judges.

Richy Jackson, who is a hugely successful creative director and choreographer (he works with Lady Gaga, among others), but isn't formally trained, says he’s not looking for “Perfect Patty’s, I’m looking for someone who wears their heart on their sleeve when it comes to dance.”

Rachelle Rak offers, “I’m a Broadway gypsy – I’m a dancer that can sing and act. I’m coming from a place that is maybe the hardest: I want you to have some technique, I want you to have some sass, I want you to dance full-out, and you better tell me a story.”

Abby reminds the dancers that someone will be going home at the end of these performances, and then the competition begins.

Gianna, McKaylee and Kalani go first with their Madonna-inspired number. They wear black and silver two-piece costumes. It’s a neat number with snappy choreography, and Kalani stands out due to her flexibility. Then, suddenly, Gianna falls on her tush. After the dance, Abby gives the girls corrections, and tells Gianna that she recovered well, but “one good fall on the derriere could send you home.” Richy commends Gianna for her performance, and tells Kalani she didn’t go as far as she could. Rachelle tells McKaylee to put a little lift into her turn, then she calls the trio “Three Broadway divas”, and praises them for a job well done.

Trinity, Ally and Chloe are next with their Beyoncé-inspired number. They wear metallic costumes: Trinity is in silver; Chloe is in black and silver; Ally is in red and seems to be the focus of the choreography. Abby calls Chloe “outstanding”, but says all three had sickled (improperly positioned) feet. Rachelle thought Chloe had face and attitude, and that Ally was “Pow!”, “Wham!” and “Boom!”. Richy tells Ally, “You were fantastic, you were shining,” and informs Trinity he couldn’t see her as much as he saw the other girls. Abby points out to Trinity that although she won the GDC and got to pick her partners, in the end Ally wore red and danced the lead, which was, “Dumb. Just dumb.”

Travis and JoJo do their Gene Kelly-inspired duet. Travis wears grey pants and vest with a white shirt; JoJo is in pink with a large hat and elbow-length white gloves. JoJo is a good dancer and her facial expressions remind me of Asia Monet Ray, the breakout star of AUDC season 1 (she is now on Abby’s other hit show, Dance Moms). Richy tells Travis he needs to perform and act more. Rachelle calls JoJo “Little Sass”, but when the young dancer replies, “You haven’t seen the half of it yet,” Rachelle advises her, “You are setting yourself up… less, sometimes, is more.” Abby’s critique of JoJo is, “Cute helps, but cute is not enough to stay in this competition,” then she calls JoJo out for technical details, and reiterates that “less is more.” Backstage, Tiffany gloats to Jessalynn, “You just got checked.”

As Haley, Tyler and Sarina get ready to perform their Michael Jackson-inspired trio, Sarina calls Haley a “hot mess,” and worries that “Haley’s actions and her not being a strong enough person” will affect their routine. They take the stage in white pants, hats and Michael Jackson-esque military jackets – their choreography is very good, but it’s not executed well. Abby says Haley started out confident, but then almost fell on her head. Rachelle says Tyler needs to come to life. Richy says Sarina messed up (she forgot the choreography and she slipped), and that even when she kept going, she was wrong on that too.

Then it’s time for the judges to deliberate - they determine that the following contestants are safe: Tyler, Chloe, JoJo, McKaylee, Travis, Kalani and Ally.

This leaves four dancers up for elimination: Trinity, Gianna, Haley and Sarina.

Abby says Trinity danced circles around some of the people in the GCD, but then they danced circles around her in the competition, “but what I saw in the challenge was amazing, so you will be here next week.”

Abby focuses on the issues with the remaining three contestants: Gianna (the only one who fell); Haley (Abby didn’t like her tuck); Sarina (not quick at picking up choreography, forgot steps). Sharon (Sarina’s mom) complains that Anthony Burrell “didn’t do them any favors, he changed the choreography constantly, he barked out commands at them, my daughter Sarina only just started hip-hopping a few months ago, he made it very, very difficult to learn, it was almost impossible.” Yikes! As someone who works in higher education, Sharon should have known that wasn’t a smart move. Abby chides her with: “This is the professional dance community. You don’t throw the choreographer under the bus and blame it on them. Haley was in the same number, she didn’t forget the choreography.”

Then, Abby tells Gianna that despite her fall, she was part of the evening’s best trio, so she is safe.

With that announcement, there are two dancers left on the chopping block: Haley, who did her choreography improperly, and Sarina, the only dancer to forget her choreography. Then Abby says, “Sarina, today is not your day,” and with that, she is the first person to be cut. Sarina thanks Abby for the opportunity, and Abby wishes her well saying, “Grow, learn and break a leg.”


On next week’s episode of Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition, all of the routines are a tribute to Lady Gaga, who appears on the show via video.

Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition airs on Tuesdays at 9/8c on Lifetime

To see all of our AUDC recaps click here.
To see all of our Dance Moms recaps click here

Photo courtesy of Lifetime