“Dance Moms” Is Problematic, But The Internet Can’t Get Enough (2023)

Even though the hit series hasn't aired new episodes since 2019, memes and deep dives of the reality show are all over TikTok and YouTube.


by Kailynn JohnsonBuzzFeed Contributor

“Dance Moms” Is Problematic, But The Internet Can’t Get Enough (2)

Olive Burd / BuzzFeed News;Michael Tullberg via Getty Images

JoJo Siwa, Maddie Ziegler,Nia Frazier,Kendall Vertes

The Lifetime original series Dance Moms first aired on July 13, 2011. It followed Pittsburgh dance coach Abby Lee Miller and the dancers on her eponymous junior elite competition team. Filmed primarily in Pittsburgh and then LA, the show served as a launchpad for the careers of dancers like JoJo Siwa and Maddie Ziegler as they competed in weekly competitions. Viewers tuned in every week to see who would win first place in their division, but the show also featured drama about controversial costumes and group dances, as well as explosive fights between Miller and the moms.

While the show hasn’t produced any new episodes since 2019 (rumors loom surrounding a potential ninth season), Dance Moms has had an interesting afterlife on TikTok and YouTube. The hashtag “dancemoms” has 16.4 billion views on TikTok and encompasses all things Abby Lee Dance Company (ALDC), including clips of popular group dances such as 2015’s “Boss Ladies,” the hip-hop number famously known as Maddie and Mackenzie’s final dance; tributes to dancers and their funny one-liners; and intense edits that tell the story of a specific dancer. There’s also the occasional out-of-context Abby Lee Miller scene posted, for pure entertainment value, or a clip of Miller teaching dancer Nia Sioux her 2012 “Working Girl,” which cemented Sioux as the fiercest dancer at the ALDC.

The show sparked many memorable lines. Jill Vertes infamously doted on her daughter Kendall, repeating the cloying expression “My little Kendall” so often it became a default catchphrase. Audio of her instructing Kendall to practice a front aerial, a signature move of the ALDC, was parodied and spoofed, and brands like Varsity Spirit have included it in their marketing. The phrase also caused a Spotify song with the same name to go viral.

Fans of the show still love to post deep dives online as well. Some create video essays in which they explore certain narratives of the show, such as exploring favoritism shown toward a certain dancer, while others refer to cast interviews or other artifacts — including production notes that courted controversy — to provide a more complex understanding of the realm of Dance Moms.

“Dance Moms” Is Problematic, But The Internet Can’t Get Enough (3)

Karolina Wojtasik / Lifetime Television courtesy Everett Collection

A still from Season 4, Episode 1 of Dance Moms, which aired Jan. 1, 2014.

The show’s evergreen virality can be pinpointed to a lot of things. Christi Lukasiak, an OG member of the show and mother of dancer Chloe, attributes the phenomenon to its relatability: “Our kids are literally just a couple of kids from Pittsburgh who truly grew up together, and it’s so interesting to see little girls who all came from the same place, like Penn Hills in Pittsburgh, who have careers now,” Lukasiak told me in a Zoom interview.

Lukasiak explained that the series was originally supposed to run for six episodes. However, once the show aired, ratings skyrocketed, and it was like “lightning in a bottle.” Where else could you watch a mother instructing an empty chair to “do a solo,” or a dance teacher stopping traffic so her students could film a Wizard of Oz–themed commercial? The outlandishness made great television, and Dance Moms’ recent virality demonstrates a longevity that has persisted beyond the girls’ final dance.

Lukasiak has become a fan favorite; she’s the subject of many viral videos, thanks to her much-memed and quotable one-liners, and has also been one of the most candid cast members about her experiences. While she only recently found out that she was considered a “Gen Z icon,” Lukasiak explained to me that Dance Moms had always been a major part of pop culture, even during its original run on the network, which had celebrity fans like Jennifer Lawrence. In her podcast, Back to the Barre, which she hosts with fellow OG dance mom Kelly Hyland, they recap the show episode by episode, sharing their reactions and behind-the-scenes secrets. People who subscribe to their Patreon receive exclusive content such as never-before-seen dances and photos.

Where else could you watch a mother instructing an empty chair to “do a solo,” or a dance teacher stopping traffic so her students could film a Wizard of Oz–themed commercial?

The series was full of personalities that made great TV and moments that now make great TikTok audios. Take, for instance, the Rosa Parks fiasco, which has been parodied multiple times on social media. The episode called “The Apple of Her Eye” aired on March 19, 2013. In it, moms Vertes and Holly Frazier argue with Abby over which daughter should play the civil rights icon. “Since the dance is called ‘Rosa Parks,’ obviously this is a part destined for Nia [the only Black dancer on the show],” Frazier says in the episode. But Miller doesn’t seem so sure. “Don’t assume anything, I have no idea who will play Rosa Parks,” Miller says as she presents the pyramid, her visual representation of how the girls performed the week prior. Vertes advocates that her daughter, Kendall, should be considered for the role as well.

It’s easy to laugh at the absurdity, but culture commentator and YouTuber Toni Bryce cites this conflict in her September 2022 video essay, “Everything Wrong with Dance Moms (racism, bullying, abuse, etc.),” as an example of the show’s more problematic components. “The fact that it was even questioned, or even suggested there would be some form of competition to who would get this lead and that it shouldn’t be implied who this lead belongs to makes absolutely no sense,” Bryce said. “That would have never flown by today. That show would have been canceled real quick if they even tried that.”

“Dance Moms” Is Problematic, But The Internet Can’t Get Enough (4)

Barbara Nitke / Lifetime TV courtesy Everett Collection

From left: Christi Lukasiak and Chloé Lukasiak in Season 2 of Dance Moms

Other unsettling elements of the show have come to light. Dance Moms fans have uploaded production notes on Reddit and Google Drive that they bought at an auction. The notes reveal how much producers wanted to attract controversy with the show. Notes from Season 5 detailing ideas for themes and storylines include “something with a cross, exorcism, something offensive. Possibly license a prayer,” and “child obesity. Possibly overweight.”

In a January 2022 TikTok video posted on YouTube and TikTok, creator Jenna Baker Morrissey, who describes herself as “upsettingly knowledgeable about Dance Moms,” discussed some of these notes. Morrissey originally became aware of these notes after a popular YouTuber, MackZBoss, posted about them in her “Dance Moms Uncovered” video series. This inspired Morrissey to make her own Dance Moms deep dive video series, “The Rise and Fall of Abby Lee Miller,” and also completely changed the way that she interacted with the show. “Of course it’s a reality show, of course these things are produced,” Morrissey told me in a Zoom interview. “It really shows how the producers wanted to spin it, specifically the story producers. … It’s not just people being like, ‘Oh well production just did that.’ It’s like, production did that, and we have proof.”

Miller’s tough teaching style has also been reexamined by fans and commentators — she infamously threw a chair at dancer Paige Hyland and would often take her frustrations with the mothers out on the dancers. Her throwaway comments and proclivity for drama had to be the product of a carefully crafted character…right? In 2017, Nia Sioux told J-14 magazine that “what you see is what you get, but also they don’t even show everything that happens on the show. So, I mean, other people might say differently but from my point of view, it’s much worse off camera. Nothing changes. That’s just her personality.” Earlier this year, JoJo Siwa reacted to a resurfaced montage of Abby Lee Miller berating her in a TikTok that read: “When people hate to try and hurt me but this was my childhood…”

“Dance Moms” Is Problematic, But The Internet Can’t Get Enough (5)

Karolina Wojtasik / Lifetime Television courtesy Everett Collection

Abby Lee Miller in an episode of Dance Moms

According to former cast members, other incidents weren’t as straightforward as they seemed in the show. Dancers sometimes forgot their solos, which would often lead to explosive dressing room fights and a spot at the bottom of Abby’s pyramid. But Fallon Chapman, who appeared on the show in 2014 as a guest dancer, explained in a January TikTok that in an incident where she had “forgotten” her solo, she had actually injured her knee during her dance, so she began improvising the rest. She also said that she ran off the stage so that the camera operators wouldn’t “see her crying and try to make some story out of it.”

Chapman stated that prior to her appearance on the show, she had only done a couple of solos and that she had only done musical theater and lyrical numbers. “This was already a red flag at this point when they told me I was going to be doing, like, a dark and creepy contemporary number, because I never even done that before,” Chapman explained.

While the dancers experienced a whirlwind of emotions and experiences, many seem to be thriving. TikToker Caroline Tsambalieros posts updates on the show’s dancers and explained to me in a Zoom interview that the show was such an important part of so many people’s lives growing up that there was bound to be an audience hungry for life after Dance Moms.

“They were role models for so many other girls that were the same age,” she said. “It’s exciting that it has this longevity even though the show has been over for so long and that original cast has been gone even longer. There was just something about them. They connected with people.”

Lukasiak agrees: “Lots of people grow up and have big careers, but it’s odd that like a group that literally has known each other since they were two, three, four, they all have successful careers. And no one’s a serial killer, which is amazing. They easily could have been, given everything they’ve been through.” ●

  • TV Shows
  • Reality
  • Dance Moms
  • Kailynn JohnsonBuzzFeed Contributor

    Kailynn Johnson is a news reporter and freelance writer based in Southaven, Mississippi. She has written for publications such as Teen Vogue, Refinery 29, Bustle, and the Memphis Flyer.

    Contact Kailynn Johnson at pearlgirl1119@gmail.com.

    Got a confidential tip? 👉 Submit it here


Are Chloé and Paige still friends 2023? ›

In a 2021 interview with Cheat Sheet, Paige Hyland revealed that she still hangs out with the Ziegler sisters and Chloe Lukasiak after leaving the show.

Why did Melissa from Dance Moms sue? ›

'Malicious' Mackenzie Ziegler Sued For Breaking Music Contract. Abby Lee Miller isn't the only Dance Moms star with legal issues! Mackenzie Ziegler and Melissa Gisoni are being sued for breach of contract by record label Kismet Music after allegedly skipping out on recording sessions and working with another producer.

Why did JoJo leave Dance Moms? ›

Although the show made it look like JoJo left the show because of her duet, she actually left because of a contract she signed with Nickelodeon. The elite group dance was based on suicide awareness helplines. The moms handed out yellow ribbons at the competition to mark suicide awareness.

Why is Abby Lee Miller in a wheelchair now? ›

In a new Instagram post, Dance Moms star Abby Lee Miller reflects on becoming paralyzed from the neck down due to Burkitt lymphoma.

Why does Maddie not talk to Abby Lee? ›

“She trained me, she helped me, but also, I knew I would be okay without her and I was sick of being in a toxic environment. I was like, 'This is not for me. I can't do this. ' I haven't spoken to her since.”

Are Abby and Maddie still friends? ›

"She trained me, she helped me, but also, I knew I would be okay without her and I was sick of being in a toxic environment. I was like, 'This is not for me. I can't do this. ' I haven't spoken to her since."

Did Melissa know about Abby smuggle money? ›

so she knew. that Abby was smuggling money out of Australia. and this would also explain why she left. in the middle of season 6 as well, because that was kind of when all the legal.

Who is Melissa Ziegler married to now? ›

Why was Nia kicked off the Irreplaceables? ›

She said her relationship with Kendall, Chloe, and Kalani is great, they are all friends and it doesn't have anything to do with the situation. When it came down to it, the reason behind Nia removing herself from the tour was due to a “family situation.” Listen below as Nia and her mother, Holly discuss the situation.

Where is Abby Lee now? ›

The Abby Lee Dance Company founder now gives workshops and speaks at events in various cities, as well as on Zoom, according to some of her recent Instagram posts. Her Los Angeles-based dance studio is also apparently still active.

Why did Brooke and Paige leave Dance Moms? ›

Even though she was one of the original stars on the show, she and sister Paige left Dance Moms in 2014 after her mom, Kelly Hyland, had a major falling out with Abby at the start of the fourth season. Brooke graduated from high school in 2016. She is now a college junior at the University of Ohio majoring in business.

How much do the Dance Moms pay for tuition? ›

So how much does it cost to be a Dance Mom? A former Dance Mom stated that she spent about $16,000 a year on competitive dance but said the dance tuition was the cheapest part at about $4k a year. Costumes, competition entry fees, and travel expenses make up the bulk of the cost.

How much does Abby Lee Miller wheelchair cost? ›

What wheelchair Abby Lee Miller is using? Pictured above, Abby Lee Miller is using a Permobil F5 Corpus power wheelchair. Some of the features of this wheelchair include ActiveHeight seat elevation, legrest elevation, power recline and posterior tilt. The cost of Permobil F5 Corpus is $13,282.

Is Maddie Ziegler still dancing? ›

Maddie Ziegler

Today, she continues to explore dancing, acting and modeling opportunities, appearing in Sia's directorial debut Music and the 2021 West Side Story remake.

Did Maddie Ziegler talk bad about Abby? ›

Maddie Ziegler Says That She No Longer Speaks To Abby Lee Miller: "For The Longest Time, We Felt So Guilty" "The producer was telling me to say that. I don't think I'm better than everyone else."

Was Abby mad when Maddie left? ›

"She was distraught [when I left]," she said of Miller. "For the longest time, we felt so guilty. She trained me, she helped me, but also, I knew I would be okay without her and I was sick of being in a toxic environment."

Was Maddie really Abby's favorite? ›

From the very first episode of Dance Moms, it was made abundantly clear that Maddie Ziegler was Abby Lee Miller's favorite. The talented dancer started the series at the top of Miller's infamous pyramid and pretty much stayed there throughout her entire six-season tenure.

Who is Maddie Ziegler's best friends? ›

Keddie (Kendall and Ma/ddie) is the friendship pairing between Kendall Vertes and Maddie Ziegler. They have been friends since Kendall joined the Abby Lee Dance Company.

Who is Maddie Ziegler's bff? ›

It seems that every time BFFs Millie Bobby Brown and Maddie Ziegler get together, their true-blue bond is nothing short of goals.

What is Abby Lee dance Company? ›

The Abby Lee Dance Company (abbreviated "ALDC") is a non-profit organization devoted to educating young dancers, named after its founder, Abby Lee Miller. It was founded in 1980. Some of its competition members (along with their mothers) are the focus of the television show Dance Moms.

Who is the most successful singer from Dance Moms? ›

Maddie Ziegler became one of the best known faces from Dance Moms, earning an international audience after starring in a number of Sia's music videos and her film Music.

Did the girls get paid for being on Dance Moms? ›

How much do Dance Moms cast get paid? During the first four seasons of the show, each cast member earned roughly 1,000 US dollar per episode. However, that figure was increased to 2,000 US dollars per episode in the subsequent seasons.

What does Kurt Ziegler do for a living? ›

A businessman, businessperson, or businesswoman is an individual who has founded, owns, or holds shares in a private-sector company.

Who is Mackenzie Ziegler married to? ›

Since August 2020, Ziegler has been dating Tacoda Dubbs.

Did Melissa Ziegler marry Greg? ›

Prior to the events of "Dance Moms" Melissa and her ex-husband Kurt Ziegler divorced. She has since married Greg Gisnoi. After marrying Greg she became the step mother of Matthew Gisoni and Michele Gisnoi. From her marriage to Kurt she has two step sons named Ryan Ziegler and Tyler Ziegler.

Did Kelly get in trouble for hitting Abby? ›

After the brawl, which aired on Lifetime, Kelly was charged with assault on the dance teacher. A judge later dismissed her of all charges, asking only that she spend two days in counseling and agree to stay away from Abby for six months.

What does JoJo think of Abby Lee? ›

JoJo has also previously defended Abby, saying: "It makes me really, really upset that I am one of the few -- there's only a few people -- that really, truly thank Abby, and are thankful and grateful for what she's done for us. Because without her, Dance Moms wouldn't be a thing."

What medical condition does Nia have on Dance Moms? ›

Breaking news: Dance Moms stars Nia and Holly Fraizer reveal the dancer has Reflex Neurovascular Dystrophy, the pediatric form of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome TONIGHT AT 9 P.M. EST on Lifetime. Check back later today, RSDSA.org will have the full story! Diana Cannon and 119 others like this.

Who bought Abby Lee Dance Company? ›

Abby Lee Dance Company, the Pittsburgh dance studio owned by Abby Lee Miller, was sold last month for $300,000. The buyer, Timothy Krise, is the owner of a transportation company in the community and will use the building for commercial purposes, New York Post reported.

How much money is Maddie Ziegler worth? ›

Maddie Ziegler net worth is $40 Million. In the past 12 months, Maddie Ziegler has earned over $3 Million million through Instagram.
Maddie Ziegler Net Worth 2023.
Net Worth:$40 Million
Profession:Dancer and Actress
Age:20 Yrs
7 more rows
Mar 13, 2023

Has Abby Lee always been in a wheelchair? ›

Abby Lee Miller has been confined to a wheelchair since her lymphoma diagnosis in 2018 that left her paralyzed from the neck down.

What happened to Kelly after hitting Abby? ›

In the season four episode Big Trouble in the Big Apple, Kelly got into a physical altercation with Abby. This lead to the Hyland family being dismissed from the team. Kelly and her girls have expressed no interest in returning to the show.

Did Kelly Hyland dance for Abby? ›

She danced with Abby for thirty-seven years from when she was two-and-a-half.

Did Paige keep dancing after Dance Moms? ›

Her mother Kelly was a former student of the ALDC but quit at age 14 to become a cheerleader. As of 2013, around the start of filming season 3 of Dance Moms, Paige and her older sister Brooke no longer dances for the Abby Lee Dance Company and eventually stopped appearing on the show altogether.

How much did Maddie get paid for Dance Moms? ›

Dance Moms put Maddie on the map, and she allegedly earned $2,000 per episode and $400,000 for six seasons.

Why did Melissa and Kurt divorce? ›

Kurt and Melissa got divorced in 2011 with Melissa saying Maddie's dance career put a strain on her marriage. Kurt, who only appeared in a few episodes of Dance Moms, wanted to pull his daughters from the show.

Is Dance Moms still in business? ›

In a new Instagram video, the Abby Lee Dance Studio founder confirmed her Pittsburgh, Pa., studio has been sold and will be turned into a daycare center. "It is very bittersweet for me," Abby Lee shared Jan.

How scripted was Dance Moms? ›

It isn't 'scripted', but many of the moments on the show were instigated by the producers. They egged the moms on to create fights and drama that would not have happened otherwise. They did not hand the cast a script, but they caused much of the drama.

Why did Chloe leave Dance Moms? ›

After the Los Angeles national competition in July 2014 (filmed for an episode aired October 7, 2014), Lukasiak's mother decided that the environment of the TV show along with her own negative relationship with Miller was detrimental to her daughter and they decided to leave ALDC.

How did Sia find Maddie? ›

March 4, 2014: “hey maddie, you want to play me?” The beginning of it all: Sia reaches out to Maddie Ziegler on Twitter to inquire about the “Chandelier” music video. In a later interview with news.com.au, Ziegler marvels, “I didn't even know she was making a video — there was no audition, no anything.

What happened to Maddie Z? ›

Since departing from the series, she kicked off an acting career and has been cast in a few well-known films. She made her animated film debut in a movie titled Leap!, which premiered in 2016. She voiced the role of a ballerina named Camille. “I don't want to always be seen as a reality TV person.

Are Chloe and Paige from Dance Moms friends? ›

The Twinnies are the friendship of Chloe Lukasiak and Paige Hyland. They are known as the Twinnies because of their likeness by many 'Dance Moms' fans.

Who is Maddie Ziegler's best friend? ›

Keddie (Kendall and Ma/ddie) is the friendship pairing between Kendall Vertes and Maddie Ziegler. They have been friends since Kendall joined the Abby Lee Dance Company.

Does Paige end up with anyone? ›

Paige also has romantic relationships with fellow-witch Richard Montana (Balthazar Getty) in season six, and FBI agent Kyle Brody (Kerr Smith) in season seven. In the eighth and final season, Paige marries a human parole officer named Henry Mitchell (Ivan Sergei).

Why did Brooke and Paige quit Dance Moms? ›

As fans of Dance Moms will remember, Brooke and her younger sister Paige Hyland cut ties with the competitive dance studio and reality TV series after their mom Kelly Hyland got into a physical altercation with Abby Lee.

What condition does Chloe from Dance Moms have? ›

In 2015, Lukasiak was diagnosed with silent sinus syndrome, and had surgery to correct the condition. In an interview, Lukasiak said she practices dancing four days a week except when she is traveling. She stopped competing in dance competitions in 2016 due to her growing list of commitments.

Why aren t Chloe and Maddie friends? ›

The 14-year-old said, "It's hard to keep in touch because they're always traveling and our schedules are just really different." Of competing against the "Chandelier" dancer for a Teen Choice award for Choice Dancer, she said, “It's not really different than anything else.

What is Maddie Ziegler gender? ›

Maddie Ziegler
g Maddie Ziegler
Born:September 30, 2002
Zodiac Sign:Libra
23 more rows

Do Chloe and Abby still talk? ›

Two years after she left Dance Moms, the Fallout star revealed that she no longer speaks to Miller. "We don't keep in contact," Ziegler told Us in June 2018.

What happened to Gianna on Dance Moms? ›

She has been on faculty at the ALDC for over 15 years and serves as a guest instructor and competition judge around the world.

What happened to Abby Lee Dance Company? ›

Abby Lee Miller is saying goodbye to a Dance Moms landmark. In a new Instagram video, the Abby Lee Dance Studio founder confirmed her Pittsburgh, Pa., studio has been sold and will be turned into a daycare center.

Are Maddie Ziegler and Jenna Ortega friends? ›

TikTok. is Jen Ortega and Maddie friends? I'm assuming they're talking about the beautiful, wonderful baby angel face, Maddie Ziegler, and the answer is yes. she's one of my greatest friends ever.

Did Prue ever meet Paige? ›

Prue and Paige meet for the very first time in this issue. This issue also marks the reunion of Prue with Piper and Phoebe.

Who does Jacques end up with? ›

Arriving as an early bombshell in the 2022 series, and as Gemma Owen's ex, Jacques set his sights on Paige Thorne and the pair were coupled up to the very end.

Did Craig and Paige break up 2023? ›

After first being romantically linked in April 2021, Paige and Craig made their relationship official in October 2021. The duo appears to be going strong as of February 2023.


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