By Devon Mitchell
It’s been ten years since the iconic moms and daughters of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, took the dance stage by storm with the premiere of the Lifetime reality TV show Dance Moms. I was ten years old when the show began, and as a dancer myself at the time, Dance Moms was a pretty prominent memory of my pre-teen years. So, with the anniversary, I thought I would re-watch the first episode. As an adult, I have major critiques on how adults interact with 8 to 10-year-olds.
Obviously, having a pyramid that pits teammates against each other is an absurd thing to make children participate in. The moms pointed that out right away. What concerned me was what happened a little while after the pyramid was introduced. Maddie complains of a stomachache and leaves crying. I would guess Maddie is either on the verge of a panic attack or amid one. It has been established that Maddie is the favorite and sets a high bar, the other moms are upset about Maddie’s place at the top of the pyramid putting a target on her back, and there is an insane amount of pressure put on this eight-year-old’s shoulders. Instead of receiving support from her mother, she is pushed to go back to dance class. To be honest, Melissa cares more about success than the well-being of her family. She even says her “soon-to-be-ex” blames dance for their failed marriage.
Moving on, Abby Lee Miller’s overall demeanor with the girls is awful. She says she’s preparing them for the real world, but it’ll be at least ten years until they’re faced with beratement from a producer or director. They are still kids, they should be encouraged and positively reinforced. Instead, when the team receives third place for their group dance, they were taught in less than a week, there are insults about specific girls and their bodies. Not to mention Abby’s motto, “save the tears for your pillow”? I’m no child psychologist but I’m pretty sure children should be encouraged to express their emotions and learn how to use their words to say how they feel.
There are so many issues in the ways the girls are treated. This isn’t a criticism against their parents, more so criticism of how Abby interacts with kids. She’s created a toxic environment that negatively affects the girls. In later seasons this is made even more apparent. Despite the trauma they faced as kids, their Instagrams are full of pictures celebrating their friendship in adulthood. Hopefully, they found healthy ways to cope together!