PITTSBURGH,None - I watched the first season of “Dance Moms” filmed in the Pittsburgh area and became a fan of the show. Being a former dancer and nationally competitive baton twirler, I enjoyed watching the dancing and understood the competitive nature in the dance world, the mother and “favorites” drama and what it’s like to have a tough coach.
Before the season two premiere, I contacted the Abby Lee Miller Dance Company, the group featured on “Dance Moms,” and Lifetime, which airs the show. I was hoping to catch up with the moms, the dancers and instructor Abby Lee Miller, perhaps at a premiere party. A week before the premiere, it didn’t look like there was going to be a party, but then on Monday, I was contacted by a producer, who told me there would be one at the DoubleTree in Monroeville.
New See & Be Seen intern Natalie Simon and I entered the DoubleTree lobby on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. and were greeted by Kelly Hyland, Brooke and Paige’s mom, who took us back to the lounge area, where the party was being held.
The crew from Lifetime could not have been nicer. A producer named Aaron hooked me up with interviews with all of the moms, the dancers and Abby. First, I interviewed the moms.
“It’s crazy being a dance mom. Anybody who has a kid in a competitive sport realizes that it kind of consumes your life as a mom,” said Kelly.
Most of the moms were excited about the premiere.
“I am looking forward to the premiere because I remember what happened in the first episode, and I think I behaved myself,” said Christi Lukasiak, Chloe’s mom.
Christi told me life changed a little bit after the first season aired.
“People stop us constantly. I always like to go out kind of ‘ugly’ with sweats and a ponytail. Now, I try to make sure I at least brush my hair, said Christi.
Next, I talked to Melissa Gisoni, whose daughter Maddie wins a lot of competitions and is portrayed as the star dancer in the Abby Lee Company. Melissa and Maddie are often called the “favorites” by other the moms on the television show. Here’s how Melissa responded to that:
“When people say I’m the favorite, I’m just the nice mom. I help everybody. I help Abby whenever she needs help,” said Melissa.
Melissa used to work at the dance studio. She’s now focused on Maddie pursuing her dreams and her younger daughter, Mackenzie, developing her dancing skills.
“It’s wonderful to see my daughter (Maddie) do well. She loves to dance. It’s her life. It’s her passion. I really love to see my Mackenzie on stage, and I’m hoping you’re going to see a lot more of her this year,” said Melissa.
Nia’s mom, Holly Frazier, is the mom “Dance Moms” viewers see at the dance studio the least. She’s a principal at a local school. She explained to me that it’s tough balancing Nia’s dance schedule and work.
“It’s incredibly taxing. As much as much as I try to prepare, it’s absolutely exhausting trying to get everything done in a timely manner,” said Holly.
New this season is mom Jill Vertes, a former Pitt cheerleader who grew up in the Pittsburgh area. Her daughter is Kendall, a musical theater dancer; she’s beautiful and resembles Judy Garland.
“She (Kendall) gets along beautifully with the dancers,” said Jill. “The little ones have been great with me. The moms, not so much. I’m not sure they want me around, but I’m here,” said Jill.
After the moms, I chatted with the all of the dancers, who are absolutely adorable.“Oh my gosh, I think we’re all super excited for the premiere,” Chloe told me.Chloe’s good friend and big competition last season, Maddie, said she’s in a new age division this year.
“This season, I’m against 12-year-olds, so I have harder competition. I really haven’t been winning a lot, but I don’t care about that. I just care about having a lot of fun,” said Maddie.
As I chatted with the girls, I got a sense that is all about the fun. They all seemed close, finishing each other’s sentences and laughing a lot.
I asked them if their classmates in school think they’re famous now.
“Yes,” they all yelled out together.
They went on to tell me that they “feel bad” when they don’t have enough time to take pictures with fans at dance competitions. They also said they “feel bad” when people know their names but they don’t know their names.
It’s obvious the girls find fame fun, but they’re still grounded. I found them to be polite with big personalities. They all gave me hugs after the interviews. So cute!
Abby was upstairs filming for the show on Tuesday night and came down to the lounge area last. She was warm and was hugged her students. She told me she wishes her other students got some television time, but only a few could be selected for the show.
I think a lot of people who watch the show think Abby is too tough, but I told her I get it. I had a super tough twirling coach growing up, but she helped her students win world and national championships. Not only did she help her girls win big titles, but she also built their confidence up and taught them the importance of hard work.
“Look, you’re able to stick a microphone in my face now, and that takes guts,” said Abby.
For those who think she’s too tough, here’s how Abby responds:
“You should have seen me 20 years ago. I was really mean,” she said. “I’ve really mellowed, but I also produce amazing dancers. Check out the statistics. I graduate five or six kids. That’s a small studio, but three of them are going on to work professionally, whether it be Radio City, Tokyo Disney or Broadway. You can go directly from the Abby Lee Dance Company to professional show biz,” said Abby.
Shortly after I wrapped up the interviews, the season two premiere of “Dance Moms” aired on Lifetime. About 100 people gathered around a projection screen at the DoubleTree to watch the dancing and drama start to unfold. The group cheered and booed at parts. I’ll let you guess which parts they booed at.
I was told Lifetime is still filming season two; about eight or so episodes have been taped so far. I look forward to the rest of the season.