We’ve reached the end of the road Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition fans. The final curtain. And Abby’s determined to send the best dancer possible to the Joffrey Ballet School on the wings of her good reputation and name. How determined? This determined:
We start with Mads calling dad to report the good news of her place in the final three and to check in on Grandma. Coreen tells us that Madison has been in dance since the age of 3 and competing since age 6. The duo are hoping for victory so Joffrey can be a stepping stone to Madison’s goal of attending Juilliard.
Kris, in Snoopy jammie pants, helps Brianna stretch. Brianna has been dancing for 9 years and has won 30-plus competitions in her division. They hope for victory so Brianna can have access to advanced training beyond her hometown.
Asia has been dancing since she was 2 and competing since age 4. Her biggest win was Star Power Nationals — Asia won Miss Petite at age 5. Asia says if she wins, this thing will turn into Asia’s Ultimate Dance Competition. It already is, dear. Mostly.
The ladies and their moms head to the stage for their last go-round at competition. Abby and Kevin show up and Kevin tells the dancers that they will be judged on solos and a trio. Then he says it’s time for the group challenge, which will be choreographed by one of the most intense choreographers ever. Say hello to her.
Smiles all around! I’m kidding about that. Everyone looks just this shy of throwing up. Brianna says she’s going to try to approach it like any other challenge, even though she knows it isn’t. Abby says the dancers need to impress her with her own choreography — and she expects perfection. The winner gets to pick whose solo goes when. Hubby Rik admires Abby’s use of bike chain as necklace.
Then Coreen points out something interesting. Unlike all the other choreographers to this point, Abby talks the dancers through the routine, but doesn’t actually do the moves — so they have to know what she is asking for. This leaves Asia in the dark much of the time. Hence, the other two girls will be teaching Asia this dance more so than Abby Lee, because the only way she can learn it is to watch them.
Kristie thinks a great idea would be for the three dancers to do the combination individually. Asia last. In other words, no dancers acing the choreography next to hers who might not. Plus a little extra time for Asia to watch and learn. That makes Coreen laugh out loud. Kristie admits she doesn’t think Asia is going to get it.
Asia doesn’t get it.
Abby says the choreography was just over Asia’s head. She says she specifically made the turns doubles for her, and still Asia didn’t nail it. She’s gotten away with tripping up the others during the group efforts only to turn around and get standing O’s for her technically imperfect solos for far too long. She needs to pull it all together if she’s going to win. As for the other two dancers, Madison piked her tilt. Brianna’s feet still aren’t quite there yet, but her tilt was excellent. Abby calls it a neck-and-neck race, but Madison takes the challenge. She says Asia will go first, then Brianna and she will take the final slot.
Then Kevin tells them he has another surprise for them — they will each get mentoring sessions with one of the judges, to work on the weaknesses that are holding them back. Asia says she hopes she gets Abby, because Abby’s all about the technique. I think it’s actually because Robin might make her dance in a martini glass. But that’s just me. Then Abby says she has another surprise for them, which they’ll find out about later.
Molly Long will be choreographing Asia’s jazz solo. Abby says it has lots of technique, but I think if we’re really out to test Asia’s technique, giving her a lyrical solo that limits her ability to mug and tumble her way through it would best serve the cause. Brianna’s contemporary solo, choreographed by Gina Starbuck, will hopefully show off her softer side. And Ricky Palomino will try to bring out the expressive side of Madison in another lyrical solo.
Kris says — and I believe her — that for her, it’s no longer about the prize. It’s about Brianna doing this for herself. Brianna says her dance, about angels, is for her grandparents who have passed on — her grandmother especially. “We’re at the final stage now,” she says, “and she’s at the end of the line, at the door to Joffrey and just saying, ‘Come!’”
I am NOT tearing up. I just have something in my eye is all. Both of them.
Madison says she’s dedicating her lyrical solo to the competition, because if she wins, she will be heading to New York for four years and saying goodbye to her family, friends and dance studio — but really just see you later. Ricky tells her to hum when she does her turns, both to relax her and to give herself expression. She tries it out, and, by jove, it works.
Asia says in her solo she will be the fierce diva Fast Danisha on the catwalk. Who is Fast Danisha? This isn’t like LaQueefa, is it, because if it is, I’m turning this thing off right now… . Oh. Fashionista. She’s a fierce diva fashionista. I like Fast Danisha better.
Kristie says Madison is the one to beat this week and that she and Molly are pounding it into Fast Danisha’s head that she has to show improvement in her technique or else. I’m guessing she knows as well as the rest of us that they can pound until the cows come home, but once Asia gets out there on that stage, she is going to forget all about technique, lock into Robin and Richy and vamp her little mind loose, just like always. Whether that gets her the cash and the scholarship, who knows. But that is what will happen, I promise you right now.
Asia says she feels no pressure to get her solo done because the other two girls will be all “Wooooooooo!” to the bottom and she’ll be all “Wooooooooo-uh!” like this to the top.
Pretty fierce, Fast Danisha. But your mother looks concerned.
Abby’s back with the final surprise. Which is a group number. Brianna would like to know how exactly that is going to work, since they are already doing a trio and that’s all there’s left in the group. Abby reveals that they will be dancing with guests — and would they like to meet them? They would. And then comes the best moment in the entire season of Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition. As Kevin laughs and laughs, a thundering herd of ousted contestants comes roaring down the stairs, Zack and Jordyn in the lead, which makes the three stressed out final contestants look like this:
The kids run pell-mell toward each other, Asia making a beeline for Jordyn, and Madison for Zack. Coreen and Kris sweep Yvette into a hug. And Kristie looks like she is in the middle of one of those dreams where you aren’t exactly sure you’re dreaming because everything’s so real, but you’d really like to wake up in either case. No deal, Kristie. “Ah, sh*t!” says she.
Looks like we have Jordyn, Zack, Lexine, Elizabeth, Amanda and Hadley here. No Tessa, Kyleigh Jai or Tua. Bummer. It would have been nice to see the whole gang reunited one last time. I wonder if they demurred on an offer, or if no offer came.
The mothers quickly fall into old allegiances and differences, and Maria wastes no time in unpacking her grudge. Before the group number can even begin to rehearse, she stands up and tells Abby she still feels there is so much unfairness in the judging. Her Lexine got way too much hip-hop and dancing with Asia. Er, yes, Maria, but Asia’s actually still in this thing, so perhaps that last point isn’t going to go quite where you want it to.
Abby explains that this is a process. She has an opinion. The other two judges have an opinion. And speaking of opinions, do any of the other mothers have one while we’re at it, she wants to know. Gina, Zack’s mom, pipes up that it’s a little strange to compare a 7-year-old to 13-year-olds, especially when Abby is all about technique, technique, technique. “I am,” Abby agrees. Richy and Robin are not. Well, yes, but … whomever you choose as the winner IS going to represent your name at the Joffrey Ballet School, lady. Mystified, Gina just shakes her head.
Abby tells the finalists that they will be judged on the group number, which will be choreographed by Gina Starbuck. Their friends are just there to have fun performing.
Various sorts of defending and detracting from Asia happen, perhaps to the point of excess, then Gina Starbuck, not Gina Zack’s mom, reveals that the kids will be dancing on scaffolding. Though the mothers are nervous, the kids are stoked when they get a look at it.
In the green (with envy) room, Kelly promptly cozies up to Kristie and threatens to nail Yvette with a champagne cork. It’s all funny till someone loses an eye, Kelly. Gina notices that she, Yvette, Coreen, Kris, Maria and Mayelin are pretty relaxed and enjoying themselves over on the happy people sofa, while, across the way Kelly, Kristie and Erin are not so sociable at all. Kristie pronounces herself disgusted. Maria tries to play United Nations and suggests a toast, but no way on earth is Kristie going to raise her disposable cup of tea with the haters. And no way is her surly sidekick going to cross her leader. We get a little unpleasant stroll down memory lane, but really, none of this matters a lick, so I’m going to refill my own glass. Holler for me when something relevant happens.
When I come back, Kelly and Kristie are taking their ’tudes and going home. Or at least out into the hallway to discuss how middle-school the ladies who are all sitting together and nicely drinking champagne are behaving. Hmmm. Calling the other women bitches in a darkened hallway = mature. Raising a toast to the final contestants, which do not include either toaster’s daughter = middle school. I see.
The kids work with Gina on the group dance. Coreen says she’s over all the mama drama and is just going to focus on getting Madison through the final. Yvette says Asia belongs in a toddler competition. Oh, now, now, Yvette. If she can’t master the choreography here, she isn’t going to last too long at Joffrey either, and I am still strongly suspect that ultimately Abby knows that.
Mentoring time. Asia gets Abby and grins from ear to ear. I think this is a lucky thing for Asia, too — especially if technique will ultimately reign supreme in winning this thing. Abby points out that Asia’s feet are sickling even as she sits there on the sofa. No, Abby. Asia’s feet are dangling. That’s what little kids’ feet do when you put them on a sofa. Abby wants Asia to come out there and be a star, regardless of her face. The prospect makes Asia look like this.
Madison gets special time with Richy, which I am happy about, too. So is Coreen. We all know that Madison has technique down pat. Richy can coach her on expressiveness in a way that might be at least semi-comprehensible. And not include “Pussycat” in every other sentence.
That leaves Robin with Brianna. OK, I can live with that. Brianna is technically sound and certainly expressive. Maybe Robin can show her how to have a bit more fun. “It’s not about being perfect,” Robin tells her. Well, it is a little. Robin wants to see Brianna be a little more girlie and soft.
Over in Asia’s session, Abby tries to get her to leap with proper feet, while Kristie takes notes with a pink-plumed pen.
Richy wants to know who Happy Madison is. Ooh, ooh. I know this one!
What? Wrong one? How ‘bout this, then?
Then he wants to see punched-in-the-gut pained, so Madison socks herself soundly in the midsection and emotes accordingly. Then he tells her to scream. Can we just rewind the footage of Zack coming down the stairs earlier in the episode? There was plenty of screaming then. And it’s way more fun than rewinding the footage of Kristie and Yvette throwing down, which we can’t seem to get enough of. Richy demonstrates screaming, throwing his arms open wide. Madison winds up and gives a solid 5 second howl, and the emotional freedom makes the usually subdued O’Connor women look like so.
Newly emotionally aware, Madison says she wants those squirrel fingers from Richy this week.
Robin says that sitting next to Brianna there on the divan, the girl looks angelic — but when she dances, she’s always so fierce and intense. Robin wants the softer Brianna. She teaches Brianna how to strut it like an angel, er, Pussycat Doll. Dance with joy in your heart, says Robin. For once, I agree.
Back with Abby and Asia, Asia executes an aerial with perfect feet and Abby tells Kristie that her kid gets it. She just has to go on the stage and do it. Asia says she is a very smart girl and will do as she is told.
The trio will be called Coming to the Finish Line and will be choreographed by Molly Long. Asia’s roiling confusion makes Molly giggle. “Are you lost?” she asks the child. Asia’s lost. “What part?” The whole thing. Asia says it’s too fast. Madison and Brianna stand by patiently. Coreen says she’s glad the dancers will be judged individually. Asia tells her mother the C-jump is too hard. Coreen accurately assesses the trio as a big, hot mess.
On competition day, the mothers give their daughters gentle pep talks as they get ready. When they get to the vanity room, there’s a welcoming buffet of munchies, plus more booze for the moms. Then the non-finalist moms head out into the audience to watch the festivities.
Oy. Poor Madison has to perform the group dance in what looks like tighty-whiteys and a neck brace made of feathers.
Abby look all purdy and sparkly. She says she’s still all about the technique, but here in the final it’s also about who has shown growth and taken corrections, and who has that entertainment value. Robin says anyone could win this thing. Richy says emotion could be the key, since the technique should be there by now. Well, you know that, Richy. And I know that, Richy. But … oh never mind.
Kevin announces that the kids aren’t the only ones who will be performing tonight. Richy and Robin will also take the stage, as will a quartet of Abby’s former students who are now professional dancers. Then he has the three finalists come out to get a round of applause and say a few last words. We also get a peek at the girls’ proud papas, who are all in the audience, too.
Then it’s time to perform the group dance, which — all costume-related evidence to the contrary, unless the women wear some seriously interesting stuff off-camera that I don’t know about — is a tribute to their moms. Oof! There’s a swear word in the tribute-to-mom song. But it’s cool and very well executed considering these kids haven’t danced together in ages — and how great is it to see Zack out there again? It’s great to see all of them, really.
Abby thought everyone did a great job. She calls out Madison for nailing her eight consecutive turns and Brianna for her cool opening pose. Robin calls out Brianna for her new lightness and Madison for her new fierceness and tells Asia that no matter what happens, she is loved. Hmmm. Is that some foreshadowing, right there?
Then it’s time for Robin to come out and dance with the Pussycat Dolls, which involves a lot of finger snapping, butt shaking, leg extending and hair swirling. Watching from the green room, the girls look mildly stunned. Abby looks like she’d like to hop up there and swirl her hair some, too. She says working with Robin has been an honor because she is a mogul and she is what every young girl should want for their future. Talk amongst yourselves. I’ll wait.
Prepping for the trio, Kristie pleads with Asia to be flowy and watch her feet. Nonetheless, the dance kind of looks like three different dances — although maybe it’s supposed to. And Asia is singing along to the music. Yvette affirms Coreen’s assessment — hot mess. Kelly calls it a disaster. Maria is sorry to say that Asia was the worst, but I don’t think she really is. Let’s see what the judges say.
Abby calls out Brianna’s sloppy feet and Madison’s stoic face when she turns. Robin defends Mad’s concentration. Richy tells Asia she is moving to the words, not the tempo, which makes her look off with the music. “Were you supposed to sing in this number, as well?” he asks. “No,” says Asia. “OK.,” he squeaks. “Pass the mic.” He says that Brianna’s always at the front end of the music, while Madison extends things too long. He’s trying to figure out if anyone was perfectly right or wrong. Abby calls out Brianna and Madison for not being in sync with each other. Well, what about Asia, who wasn’t called upon to sync up all? It’s almost over. It’s almost over. It’s almost over.
Richy’s turn to dance. His dance is about getting into the “circle of freedom” where all genres of dance rule. I expect him to be dressed like a hippie after that assessment, but I’m getting more of a “Vanilla Ice back in the day” vibe, instead.
If there’s a problem, yo, all genres of dance will solve it. Check out Richy while his dance crew revolves it. Oh. They’re actually buggin’ in this club. Abby’s buggin’ in her seat, too, and Kevin’s been dying to see those moves for nine weeks. Afterward, Jordyn’s invited to join the circle of freedom to serve as guest judge. She does a pretty impressive Richy impersonation and pronounces it OK, OK, OKAAAAAY. OK?
OK. Solo time.
Asia could not possibly be less nervous — one of the many benefits of being 7. She says she’s going to prove those judges wrong and be a technical wizard AND a diva, so there. You go, Fast Danisha! From the minute she perches on the stage, though, you can see that Abby isn’t happy with the feet, but Asia’s got 90 more seconds to vamp and mug her way out of it. And Molly wisely worked singing along with the music into the dance, so there’s no calling her on that one either. Still, Abby does not look pleased.
She calls the performance incredible and says Asia brings out the audience participation in all of us, but we already know she’s a natural performer. Then she starts ticking off the technical boo boos. She tells Asia that she has so much talent and she believes in her, but she doesn’t want to see her turn into a little kid who wins everything and burns out on dance by the time she’s in her teens. Sometimes things come too easily for people, you know? And Abby wants her to have it all. All, as in a Joffrey scholarship and $100,000? Or all as in a serviceable career? I guess we’ll see.
Richy thought it was A-mazing and that Asia put everything she had on the line. He asks her to demonstrate her I’m-not-really-wearing-heels-but-I’m-pretending-that-I-am strut, which makes Robin collapse for joy and Abby to look exasperated. Yes, technique, blah blah blah, but this is what Richy wanted in the finale. Robin, too. She says Asia feels it. Maybe too much. She might over-think her “in-betweens.” But Robin’s a massive Asia fan, all the same.
Then Abby asks Asia if she thinks she gave a $100,000 performance. “I gave it all I got,” says Asia, not missing a beat. Then she does her diva walk off the stage.
Backstage for Brianna’s solo, Kris gets teary and tells her girl to remember that Brianna’s grandma and grandpa are watching over her and that this is where she belongs. Brianna’s costume is lovely and the stage lighting dramatic. The dance is powerful and expressive and so is the dancer. Abby beams.
Kevin asks if Brianna thinks the performance was a $100,000 winner. Brianna sidesteps the question and tells the panel and the audience that she came out on stage tonight to show them that she could take their direction and corrections and prove to them that, throughout the entire competition, she was there to win it on the merit of her dancing. She says that in this final solo she unleashed her soul, made her grandmother proud and showed the judges the dancer that she truly is. Awwwww! Seriously. Awwwwww!
That was a good speech, says Asia. Even Kristie looks moved.
Abby says that from the moment she met Brianna, the girl has been open-minded and a warrior and an athlete. Then she picks a few technical nits — just enough to make the girl look worried.
Richy praises her consistency throughout the competition and her ability to sell her characters without ever losing herself. Robin says watching Brianna makes her appreciate being a dancer herself. Then she issues a stern final correction. When she said, “Let your hair down!” she meant it literally. Well, there ya go, Brianna. If Robin is to be believed, all that could stand between you and victory is a hair elastic and a can of Elnet. I high-five myself that this is hopefully the last time I will have to listen to Robin judge anything.
Kris pronounces her daughter brilliant, and backstage even Kristie coos that she did a great job.
And then it is Madison’s turn. Coreen tells her to go out and live it and do what she loves and the judges will see her passion. If anyone in this competition was born to be a lyrical dancer, it is Madison. She moves beautifully and, to my thinking, her expressions are natural and appropriate and beautiful. Her performance, though distinctly different from Brianna’s, is equally impressive.
Abby says the performance was very moving and that Madison was fresh and young and innocent and her expressions open, honest and unrehearsed. She gives one minor technique correction, but says she is totally impressed overall.
Richy admits that Madison hasn’t always been his favorite because of her lack of emotion. But tonight she overcame that. Robin says that she has always been impressed with Madison’s ability to do it all — from Go-Go to ethereal lyrical, but tonight she’s especially impressed with how Madison just danced with abandon. Backstage, Madison cries with catharsis and relief.
Man, I have no clue how this is going to go. I honestly don’t think Asia is going to win — not with that performance in comparison to those of the two other girls. But I could not call a winner between Madison or Brianna. While the judges try to do so, we get that performance from Abby’s former dancers.
Abby says Madison is the best dancer. Richy says Brianna is the best dancer, but Abby can’t get over her feet. Robin tries to pitch Asia, but that gets shot down pretty quickly. Abby says Madison is the strongest technical dancer, but she can’t nail the acting element of dance. Robin says she wanted softer from Brianna and didn’t get it. Richy says Brianna is the most versatile.
Asia says she’s worth $100,000. The debate rages on.
Finally, Kevin comes and asks for conclusion and Abby says they’ve reached one, though the process has torn their hearts out. Then the mothers are given one last chance to make a plea for their daughters.
Kristie says Asia has grown as a dancer and has given her all each week. Coreen says Madison lives and breathes dance and the judges can make her Juilliard dream come true. Kris chokes up and says Brianna has worked her whole life for this and the journey is something they will never forget.
I still have no clue who is going to win this thing.
Abby says she is honored to have the three girls in the finals and that the girls are all destined for great careers. The judges give each of the dancers individual encouragement and assessment. Abby says there is no doubt that Madison will be on Broadway someday and asks her to send Abby a ticket. Hmmm. Is this foreshadowing? We don’t have to wait long to find out.
Then Abby says she wishes she could split the check in three. But she can’t. So it’s time to declare a winner. Asia takes third place, alternately thrilling and infuriating exactly half of the Abby’s Ultimate fan base, if your comments are any indication.
And then she declares the winner — Brianna! — and is brought to tears by the girl’s own overjoyed reaction. The judges hug it out in celebration of their good work. And I think it was good work.
So what say you, Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition fans? Are you thrilled for Brianna? Bummed for Asia or Madison? Give us your assessment of the final results in the comments section below. Then check out my exclusive interview with the utterly charming — and frequently giggly Brianna — and her proud mom, Kris.