Dance Moms is an American reality television series that debuted on Lifetime on July 13, 2011. Created by Collins Avenue Productions, it is set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the Abby Lee Dance Company and follows the early careers of children in dance and show business, as well as the participation of their mothers. The show features many highlights in the children's careers but also the drama of the mothers trying to get their children on top, including conflict with each other.
The fourth season of Dance Moms debuted on January 1, 2014. Filming for the fifth season Dance Moms began on October 11, 2014. Season five premiered on January 6, 2015.
Set in Pittsburgh, Dance Moms follows the Abby Lee Dance Company's Junior Elite Competition Team of young girls aged 9–13 years old as they travel week-to-week to various dance competitions, winning awards and hoping for an invitation to one of the National Competitions. Much of the program depicts the doting mothers as rivals not only of each other but as a group to protect the familiarity of the team. All performances are choreographed by Miller and her staff, with the exception of a few guest choreographers. Later in the program, Candy Apple's Dance Studio (located in Canton, Ohio) is introduced as a rival dance company.
Every week on the show, Abby uses a pyramid chart to show the moms and the dancers who she feels did the best in her eyes and who needs to improve. Miller had never used a pyramid in her studio prior to Dance Moms, and when asked about the pyramid Miller stated in an interview, "I've never done that in my life. That has nothing to do with me. That's the show; they came up with that whole process." The pyramid changes every week, and the moms' behavior is always a factor in the girls' placement on the pyramid.
Abby Lee Miller is the director of Reign Dance Productions (formerly Maryen Lorrain Dance Studio), which houses the Abby Lee Dance Company, of which she is owner and chief choreographer.
Gianna Martello is an instructor for RDP specializing in all genres including lyrical, en pointe, and hip hop, and is also the assistant choreographer for the ALDC Junior Elite Competition team.
Melissa Gisoni is the mother of the Ziegler girls, Maddie, a lyrical dancer who also enjoys tap, and Mackenzie, an acro dancer. Gisoni was once a part-time receptionist for Miller's studio, but has since switched jobs to spend more time watching her daughters dance. Gisoni is perceived as a doting mother who encourages her daughters' blossoming careers, but is shown as defensive when the other mothers voice criticism about Miller's own doting habits. In Season 4, Gisoni begins homeschooling her daughters for more studio time.
Holly Frazier is the mother of Nia, an acro dancer who also enjoys musical theatre. Frazier was a full-time educator, and was once perceived as the most rational mother of Miller's teaching technique. Frazier has since given up her office career in an effort to spend time at the studio rediscovering her daughter's dance potential.
Jill Vertes is the mother of Kendall, a jazz dancer with growing abilities in contemporary dance. Vertes was initially noted as a "studio hopper" and has since found her niche at Miller's studio after her daughter's audition in Season 2. Vertes, early on, was perceived as a brown-noser, but her daughter's growing abilities have cemented her spot on the team.
Christy Hunt is the mother of Sarah, is a jazz/contemporary dancer selected as a competitor of Mackenzie and Tea, and is a member of the Select Ensemble. Hunt is the only member selected from the ALDC, and is perceived as overbearing, stubborn, and confident on her daughter's position on the team.
Kira Girard is the mother of Kalani, an acro/contemporary dance/lyrical dancer, with a traditional ballet background. Appearing in six episodes and attending four competitions, Girard left the ALDC of her own accord amid Season 4. She and Kalani returned for Season 5.
Due to heavy criticism, the Season 2 episode "Topless Showgirls", which aired on March 6, 2012, has been removed from rotation. The episode features the young dancers performing a burlesque-style routine and wearing sequined, flesh toned bra tops and tights in an effort to simulate the idea they are nude. Miller defends her costume choice saying, "Everyone in the industry knows the girls are completely covered and everything's harmless." Lifetime confirms pulling the episode on March 23, 2012. The episode is not included on the DVD.
On January 29, 2014, Miller announced that Kelly Hyland and her two daughters Brooke and Paige are no longer contracted with and will no longer appear on Dance Moms as stated on an appearance with The View. Hyland was arrested in early January on alleged assault charges after a dispute backstage at a dance competition held in New York City during filming for the show's fourth season in November 2013. Hyland appeared in court with Miller on January 21, 2014 and pleaded "not guilty" to charges of physical assault. Proceedings were to resume in March. At the hearing in March, without explanation, a Bronx County Supreme Court Judge again adjourned the hearing to May 5, 2014. Legal expert Rosemarie Arnold opined that because the episode aired on TV, Kelly Hyland's defense that the "smack down" was scripted was a viable defense. The episode featuring the incident between Hyland and Miller aired on February 11, 2014.
In mid-2012, it was announced that Miller would host a sister program entitled "Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition". The series follows Miller and other dance professionals judging twelve young dancers aged 6–13 years on different styles of dance hoping to find the most versatile dancer of the group. The series premiered on October 9, 2012.
In April 2014, it was announced that Miller would host another sister program entitled "Abby's Studio Rescue". The series chronicles Abby Lee Miller as she visits dance studios across the country to assist them by improving their choreography, studio decor, staff and other aspects. It premiered on June 24, 2014.
A British version of Dance Moms entitled Dance Mums was announced. Jennifer Ellison will front the series and it will be set at her Liverpool dance school, Fame Academy. Dance Mums will be produced by Shiver.
On June 24, during the premiere episode of "Abby's Studio Rescue", a spin-off titled "Raising Asia" starring Asia Monet Ray was announced. The docuseries will follow Monet Ray and her model mom alongside record-holding bodybuilder dad and younger sister Bella Blu helping Asia reach dreams of fame in showbiz.