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The Rise and Fall of Dance Moms

Exploring the success and failure of hit reality show Dance Moms and how fans are engaging with the show today.

Cast of 'Dance Moms' at Nickelodeon's 28th Annual Kids' Choice Awards held at the Forum in Inglewood, USA on March 28, 2015.
Credit: Shutterstock Tinseltown

Dance Moms is trending on TikTok, with fans sharing their favourite moments of the show, unpopular opinions and reminiscing on the show that dominated reality television.

Dance Moms was a reality show in 2011 focusing on a competitive dance competition team of girls in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Abby Lee Dance Company became known globally, highlighting the reality of dance competitions. The show was infamous for its turbulent relationships between the girl’s Mothers and tricky teacher Abby Lee Miller.

Dance Moms surpassed any expectations for a reality television show, it’s legacy lives on in the success of its cast members and its recognition within pop culture. The popularity of reality television is the ability to tap into feelings of familiarity.

 Reality television, in particular, gives us a false sense that we really know the people we see on the screen each week. Over time, we come to see the folks portrayed on the screen as friends. We identify with their struggles and triumphs

Dr. Jana Scrivani,

Dance Moms had the two elements of a good reality TV show: a captivating cast and lots of drama.

Captivating cast

Undoubtedly, Dance Moms became hugely successful down to the likeability of the Mothers. Fan favorites were Christi Lukasiak and Kelly Hyland. The pair were known for their bold humor and stubbornness against Abby Lee Miller. Their popularity remains today, with their successful podcast, Back to the Barre, by recapping each episode of Dance Moms. By discussing the highs and lows of the Abby Lee Dance Company, fans can gain nostalgia and appreciation for the iconic duo.


Abby Lee Miller was known for her harsh teaching methods. Ranking her dancers weekly through a structured pyramid creating a hierarchy of winners and losers. The cut-throat competition environment was in the studio, with dancers as young as six years old forced to compete against their friends for first place. The arguments between Abby Lee Miller and the Moms were extreme, sometimes ending in physical altercations. In 2014 Abby Lee Miller took fan favorite Kelly Hyland to court and sued for assault and defamation.

The drama continues today, with most of the cast members no longer speaking to Miller after she was exposed for fraudulent activity and accusations of racism. Former member Adriana Smith called out Miller for suggesting she was from ‘the hood’, as one of the few black dancers on the team.

The criticism led to Miller’s virtual reality show ‘Abby’s virtual dance off’ cancellation. An anticipated spin-off to Dance Moms, where Miller would return to the harsh critiquing of dancers around the country. Subsequently, Miller has fallen from her dance empire, with cast members negatively reflecting on the show. Alumni Maddie Ziegler branded the show as toxic and is “at peace,” never talking to Miller again.

Dance Moms Popularity

Abby Lee Miller recently sold the famous ALDC studio in Pittsburgh. She ran an online auction for costume and prop memorabilia, a contrast from the ALDC franchise that once dominated. Abby Lee and her dancers took the world by storm, doing master classes, meet and greets, and selling mass amounts of merchandise.

The cast went on to big projects, including Maddie Ziegler, who starred in several Sia music videos and Oscar-nominated West Side Story. Jojo Siwa is a notable alumnus who created a successful business empire. Selling over 80 million of her famous ‘JoJo Bows,’ the young star has ventured into every creative avenue, including singing, dancing, and a successful Youtube channel.

The Downfall of Abby Lee Miller

Since the show aired, Dance Moms has been no stranger to criticism. The fans and cast members have criticized the constant drama, exploitation, and inappropriate behavior. Abby Lee Miller was known for her teaching methods involving screaming, belittling, and comparison.

Since the show ended in 2018, Abby Lee Miller has struggled to maintain the franchise amidst her financial and fraudulent activities. After a year stint in federal prison, Miller sold both her Los Angeles and Pittsburgh studios.

“It is very bittersweet for me. I didn’t sell my name. I didn’t sell my brand. I didn’t sell my life work. I sold brick, motor, and cinderblocks”. Abby Lee Miller

Mike Vulpo

Dance Moms Fans

Dance Moms amassed a considerable fan base over its run. The Dance Moms fandom on TikTok reflects a participatory culture where fans feel free to participate and discuss the show. The numerous fan edits and viral Tik-Tok sounds to iconic Dance Moms moment reflect the show’s longstanding popularity. Despite the problematic basis the show carries, fans come together to express themselves and their relation to the show. The current trend on TikTok where fans repost their unpopular opinions of the show has gathered 3.8 million views alone.

With the help of digital technology, opinions are able to infiltrate the entertainment that fandoms love and to grow the content to new areas that might not have been possible without the more active role consumers are able to now take.

Regina Flynn

Although Dance Moms as a reality show experienced a rise and fall, its legacy lives on in digital culture, and it’s fans.

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Written By

Hello! My name is Rachel, I'm from Manchester and I'm a Journalism student at Cardiff University! I love writing anything related to popular culture and entertainment.

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