What the Dance Moms cameras didn’t show you

Ever since Dance Moms first aired on Lifetime in 2011, people have been hooked on the addictive and super dramatic reality show. And, as fans of the series know, the tiny dancers featured on Dance Moms have gone on to enjoy wildly successful careers after leaving the studio. 

Dance Moms follows young dancers — and, of course, the moms of said dancers — as they navigate the crazy world of competitive dance. Even a casual viewer of the show can attest that life at the Abby Lee Dance Company (or ALDC) is always eventful. From the legendary cat fights between the titular dance moms, to the emotional outbursts of the young girls, as well as Miller’s dramatic, made-for-reality-TV tirades — every episode of this show is packed with drama.

But what about all of the drama that never makes it to the screen? As it turns out, some of Dance Moms funniest bloopers — as well as the most controversial moments from the famous Abby Lee Dance Company — were never actually shown on the screen. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at everything the cameras didn’t show you on Dance Moms.

Dance Moms' famous dance pyramid segment could take hours to film

Even though Dance Moms was a reality show, some bits took quite a long time to film — much longer, in fact, than it would have taken in real life! 

For instance, the regular Dance Moms pyramid segment reportedly took two to three hours to film on average — even though the actual segment only seemed like a few minutes to viewers. In a 2019 video, former Dance Moms star Chloe Lukasiak confessed that the segment could actually  be pretty harrowing to film. “When pyramid started, that took about … I wanna say on average two hours to film,” Lukasiak claimed. She explained that this lengthy filming time took its toll on the girls. Added Chloe, “Imagine standing there for two hours listening to your dance teacher talk — and most of the time she’s telling five out six children however horrible they are!” 

Apparently, the long hours led to children and moms getting annoyed, which Lukasiak believes naturally led to even more fights and drama between them. That certainly makes sense to us!

The kids had to audition to be on Dance Moms

The drama on Dance Moms — as is the case for the majority of reality shows on the market –was somewhat orchestrated by producers. However, what many people may not realize is that the Dance Moms cast was carefully selected to appear on the show. 

While one might think the girls (and mothers) featured on the show just happened to be members of Abby Lee Miller’s dance studio, the girls actually had to go through an audition process to get their places on the team. Payton Ackerman, one of the former dancers from the show, opened up about how she and her mom wound up on our screens. 

In a candid video, Payton said that the producers asked various girls to film their everyday lives before they attended interviews with their moms. While Payton’s dance team audition didn’t impress Abby, Payton explained that the producers loved her mom’s dramatic outburst so much that they put them on the show as regulars. 

Payton Ackerman claims she was made to look like a villain in the Dance Moms editing room

Payton Ackerman joined Dance Moms in Season 2 when she was 15 years old (via Woman’s Day). And it wasn’t long before Payton and her mom were quickly established as the new “bad guys” of the Abby Lee Dance Company universe.

In a 2018 YouTube video, Payton revealed the truth about her time on the show. According to the Dance Moms star, the producers of the show were careful to portray the dancer and her mom in a very specific light. “They immediately made us look like the bad people,” Payton claimed. She continued, explaining, “You know, like the crazy ones, the bullies, all that stuff.” Apparently, according to Payton, some of her interviews were even edited to twist the meaning of what she’d said!

Eventually, Payton started to find the pressure of being portrayed as a bully too much to handle, and she took a step back from filming. “It got to the point where I was getting death threats,” she explained.

Some situations were definitely staged on Dance Moms

The team behind Dance Moms always knew how to stir up the drama to create must-watch reality TV — and they weren’t afraid to use every trick in the book. 

In addition to the producers twisting reality in order to paint Payton Ackerman and her mother as villains, it seems producers also used their influence to create some other select situations. As Payton said in her confessional video, “They set up situations that might have not actually happened, which causes a reaction.” 

Nia Sioux also opened up about how certain elements of the show were staged, revealing in a YouTube video, “We had producers, we had things that happened that we didn’t control and that people kind of manipulated.” However, Nia went on to clarify that the show was never scripted despite having the occasional setup. While we’ll probably never know what was real and what was fake, it’s pretty clear that Dance Moms viewers should watch the show with a cautious eye and take everything they see onscreen with a grain of salt.

The girls were tutored together while filming Dance Moms

Dance Moms wasn’t just fun, games, dancing, and drama! After all, the girls still had homework to do.

As it turns out, filming a reality TV show takes a lot of time — which means there’s not much time left for school! However, according to the Dance Moms stars, the young dancers all did their schoolwork together in a doctor’s office across the street from the Abby Lee Dance Company studio. As Chloe Lukasiak explained, the girls all used a nearby doctor’s office as their “base camp.” The office served as a space for breaks, lunch, interviews, and tutoring. According to former Dance Moms star, JoJo Siwa, confirmed that after morning classes and lunch in the base camp, the girls all head to the studio, or “set,” as JoJo called it, to film.

Nia Sioux also spoke about the bizarre schooling setup. “We shared a school teacher across many grade levels,” Nia said. She continued, recalling, “It’s really funny — we all just shared this one tutor for seven years.” 

Abby Lee Miller was actually worse when the Dance Moms cameras were off

As Dance Moms know all too well, no one wants to be on the receiving end of the terror and fury of Abby Lee Miller. 

The dance teacher is famous for her super tough approach to teaching the dancers — and her explosive tantrums and tirades are practically legendary. It would be hard to imagine Abby being any worse than she is on the show; however, according to some of the dancers, the cameras didn’t always show their teacher’s worst outbursts. In an interview with Studio 10, the Dance Moms cast confirmed that Miller’s attitude wasn’t only real, it was actually toned down for the show. “She would be worse when the cameras weren’t around,” Jill Vertes, one of the moms said. Jill continued, explaining that Abby toned it down “because she really doesn’t want everybody to hate her.”

According to Nia Sioux, some of Abby’s rages were even edited out. Nia revealed, “There were some things that they couldn’t air actually, because they were a little hard.” No wonder the kids were apparently “traumatized” by the dance teacher.

The dance solos on Dance Moms weren't actually being judged

Many Dance Moms episodes ended with the team taking part in a dance competition, during which viewers got to see the girls perform their solos and group numbers in front of judges before receiving their scores — and, occasionally, their trophies. 

While everything looked pretty ordinary on screen, the competition dances were far from organic. Instead, former Dance Moms stars insist that even the competitions were set up by the show’s producers.

Nia Sioux revealed in a YouTube video that the dances viewers saw on Dance Moms weren’t actually the real dances that were judged. Apparently, the girls had to do every dance twice — once for the judges, and once for the cameras. “The second time, not for judging, the judges even leave the room,” Nia explained. She continued, saying, “It’s just for the cameras so that they can get shots and angles.” While Sioux’s revelation about the false nature of the competition dances does kind of ruin the illusion of the show, it’s easy to see why they’d need to film some of the dances again from different perspectives. 

Dance Moms' Kelly Hyland was arrested after her blowout with Abby Lee Miller

Dance Moms had plenty of incredibly dramatic moments during its time on air. However, some made more of a splash than others. 

In one of the biggest rows in Dance Moms history, Kelly Hyland, Brooke and Paige Hyland’s mom, had a massive yelling match with Abby Lee Miller. At one point during the confrontation, Kelly even slapped Abby across the face and yanked on her hair. Apparently, the famous Season 4 fight was so bad that it actually resulted in an assault lawsuit. However, the case wasn’t quite as cut and dry as it might appear (via CBS). According to Kelly’s attorney, Kelly claimed that she had been encouraged to hit Abby by the show’s producers. “It was part of the script,” she explained. 

According to ABC News, Kelly was still ultimately charged with assault and ordered to “stay away from [Abby].” For anyone questioning the high tensions on the show, it seems that the “made-for-TV” drama was real enough to result in a shockingly dramatic (and very real) court case.

Dance Moms' Kalani Hilliker was never a part of Abby Lee Miller's studio

Apparently, Dance Moms fibbed about the origins of some of its young dance stars.

Dancer Kalani Hilliker first appeared on Dance Moms in 2014 (via IMDb). However, unlike the other young dancers on the show, Hilliker wasn’t actually a student at the Abby Lee Dance Company. This was revealed in 2014, when Melissa Gisoni and her daughters Maddie and Mackenzie Ziegler appeared on Afterbuzz TV to reveal some little known facts about the show. The family explained that because Kalani lived in Arizona, she was only ever at the studio for the filming — and not because she was attending a class taught by Abby Lee Miller.

According to Melissa and her dancing daughters, the producers created fake groups of dancers for the sake of the show. In fact, Mackenzie didn’t actually dance with the other girls in real life, as she was too young. It certainly seems like the version of reality viewers were fed was a bit further from the truth than Dance Moms ever let on.

The pyramid system was actually invented by the Dance Moms producers

As diehard Dance Moms fans know, one of the most iconic regular sequences in the show was the pyramid scene used to start off each episode. The harsh rating system always seemed like an obvious thing for a cutthroat teacher like Abby Lee Miller to inflict upon her students. However, the setup was actually invented by the show’s producers — not by Abby.

Dance Moms’ Chloe Lukasiak revealed how it all began in a YouTube video, explaining that pyramid began as “chalkboard.” Chloe went on to say, “No, we never did pyramid before the show.” The former Dance Moms star joked that it would have been a ridiculous system to do with no cameras around, saying, “It’s not a normal thing to do.” Chloe continued to sarcastically mock the pyramid ranking system, saying in a mocking tone, “Let’s rank children and tell them how terrible they are. […] It’s so healthy.”

Of course, Chloe makes a good point! That pyramid segment must have been seriously traumatic for the kids, especially if it was only being done for the sake of the show’s drama.

The Dance Moms producers tried to encourage drama whenever they could

A few Dance Moms stars have confessed that the show’s most dramatic and unforgettable scenes were nearly always encouraged by the producers. 

According to Camryn Bridges, who appeared on Season 8 of Dance Moms, the producers told the moms they had to fight if they wanted to get paid. She went on to explain that the producers were “mean sometimes,” and would instigate fights amongst the moms by spreading rumors and gossip. “It is very heavily produced,” Camryn confessed in a YouTube video.

Maddie Ziegler also spoke about the production team to USA Today. “The producers set it up to make us all yell at each other,” she explained. Maddie continued, revealing, “The moms have a fake fight sometimes. Afterward they just start talking and laugh about it.” Of course, anyone who has watched Dance Moms can probably see for themselves that the fights are a little too intense and much too frequent to be 100 percent genuine and organic in nature. 

Camryn Bridges and Kamyrn Smith experienced racism on Dance Moms

Dance Moms rarely touched upon the topic of racism during its television run; however, it’s always been clear that racial tensions ran high at the Abby Lee Dance Company. 

Since leaving the show, some of Dance Moms’ Black cast members have opened up about the discrimination and racist treatment they received while filming. In 2020, Adriana Smith — mom to dancer Kamryn Smith — took to Instagram to explain her experience on the show. According to the mom, Abby Lee Miller once told her, “I know you grew up in the [hood] with only a box of [eight] crayons, but I grew up in the Country Club with a box of 64 … Don’t be stupid.”

Apparently, Camryn Bridges also found Abby’s treatment to be discriminatory. In 2019, Camryn explained in a YouTube video how Abby once made an undeniably racist comment in class. “One time she told me that the bottom of my feet looked weird because the top of my feet were brown and the bottom were white and none of the other people’s were like that,” Camryn revealed. However, these undeniably racist comments never made it to air.

Abby Lee Miller claims Maddie Ziegler was set up to forget her routine in one memorable Dance Moms episode

In one of Dance Moms’ most famous scenes, Maddie Ziegler, who was famously Abby Lee Miller’s favorite student, broke down in the middle of a performance after forgetting her routine. According to Abby, however, the moment was all set up by producers of the show. 

Abby wrote about the incident in her book, Everything I Learned In Life, I Learned In Dance Class “They set the ball in motion at the beginning of the week so that Maddie didn’t have enough studio time to finish learning her solo,” Abby explained (via Radar Online). Apparently, Ziegler was sent out of the studio while she was learning the routine, which meant she had to learn the rest of it the morning of her performance.

According to Abby, the cameraman on the same episode “didn’t know what he was doing,” and caused four other kids to forget their routines. It seems the production team’s influence went a little too far during this upsetting moment.

The Dance Moms dancers only got to be "normal" kids one night per week

Dance Moms stars are no strangers to hard work and long hours.

With school, dance classes, competitions, and filming on their plates, it’s hard to imagine that the kids of Dance Moms had time to do, well, much of anything that “normal” kids had time to do!  In a YouTube video, Chloe Lucasiak confirmed that the dancers didn’t have much time for anything other than dance. According to Chloe, all of the dancers’ time was taken up by schoolwork or dancing — aside from Saturday evenings, which was their only real “day” off. 

“We would watch movies, we would give each other massages, crazy makeup tutorials,” Chloe revealed, explaining how she and her fellow dancers spent their time off. She continued, saying, “That was like our one night of the week where we really got to be kids.” As fun as that sounds, having only one night off after a huge competition day doesn’t seem like quite enough time for young kids to truly kick back, unwind, and just be young. 

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