So, about those Dance Moms lawsuits …

Yes, Dance Moms nation, now that we’ve all seen the Dance Moms “Battle in the Bronx” on last Tuesday’s episode, Kelly Hyland has done something official about it.

In response to the lawsuit filed by Abby Lee Miller following the pair’s November bitey-slappy-hair-pully altercation in New York, Kelly spent Valentine’s Day filing her own $5 million complaint in L.A. Superior Court, alleging non-payment, unlawful working conditions for the children and a litany of other abuses. Both Abby Lee and the show’s parent company Collins Avenue Entertainment are named as respondents.

As first reported by TMZ and subsequently fleshed out by The Hollywood Reporter, Kelly’s complaint — also on behalf of daughters Brooke and Paige — states that “Miller screams at the girls in front of the other dancers, moms and production crew, causing them to cry, and then Miller derides them for being emotionally weak when they do. Miller even tossed a chair during a confrontation with Paige.” Kelly says a school counselor has confirmed Paige’s anxiety and panic attacks because of her interactions with Abby.

The suit also entails other grievances painfully familiar to longtime Dance Moms fans — inappropriate costumes and choreography, racial hostilities, artificially amplified drama for the sake of ratings — and notes that the children were bribed with iPads after one particularly egregious complaint was made. According to the Hollywood Reporter account, the suit also states that a choreographer hired by the show (unnamed in the lawsuit, though this RG Dance-crafted routine is suspect. Episode recap is here.) was subsequently charged with child sexual assault and possession of child pornography.

Eeegads.

For those of us perpetually asking ourselves why the mothers continue to subject themselves and their children to the abuse, well, Kelly said she did complain to her own attorney as far back as Season 2 and was informed that she was under contract to the series and would be sued to kingdom come if she broke it.

Finally, there is the matter in the Bronx.

dance moms season 4 episode 7

Kelly says she only slapped Abby Lee and pulled her hair to defend herself after Abby charged — which the show kinda substantiated — and that Dance Moms producers whisked her and her daughters away immediately afterward, knowing full well that in her absence, a warrant would be issued, ensuring “intensely dramatic television.” She notes she turned herself in and was released without bail, after which Abby Lee defamed her via multiple media outlets, including ABC’s The View.

Here’s where it gets tricky for me.

In that same visit to The View, Abby Lee also stated that Kalani and Kira are now official Dance Moms cast members and that Paige and Brooke are no longer members of the ALDC, along with another dancer that — especially in light of tonight’s episode — is most assuredly Chloe. “They are not members of the Abby Lee Dance company,” she said. “They walk into my studio to shoot the show. That’s it. The other children, Maddie, Nia, Mackenzie, Kendall, they’re there.”

Kelly seemed to confirm that in the filing, saying that she and her daughters refused to participate in the current fourth season but were convinced by producers to make occasional appearances, for which they have not been paid.

After the litany of charges in her lawsuit — all with which I thoroughly agree — what in the slap-happy hell would compel her to bring herself and her daughters anywhere near that studio, contract or otherwise? To crib the words of Phil Donahue, I don’t know; I’m askin’. I’ve never been under contract, nor have I been sued for anything, so I don’t understand firsthand that particular pressure. But I am a mother. And I very much understand that obligation.

So I guess the courts will decide officially whether Kelly unlawfully assaulted Abby Lee (they return to court March 10); whether Abby’s — and, in turn, Collins Avenue’s — treatment of the children and their mothers qualifies as abuse; and if signing one’s name on the dotted line makes it all OK in the world of reality television.

I’ve long-ago learned from your comments on past blog posts, that we, the viewers, have myriad opinions about whether we are condoning everybody‘s bad behavior every time we tune in, or if our collective indignation at what we see and continuing support of the girls (and, in my case, the parameters of my job duties) justifies our part in the show’s continued success. And we’re not afraid let our own behavior get a little iffy when our opinions don’t match up.

But I’ll throw this out there anyway. Can we all agree that when it comes to the behavior that leads to  lawsuits of this nature — both of them — it’s getting harder and harder to back a show that is clearly bending reality at the expense of the wellbeing of its youngest stars, and pretending that we won’t notice? Or, worse, that we won’t care?

New episodes of Dance Moms premiere Tuesday nights at 9/8CT on Lifetime.

About Lori Acken

Lori just hasn't been the same since "thirtysomething" and "Northern Exposure" went off the air.
This entry was posted in Commentary, Reality TV, TV News & Program Updates and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to So, about those Dance Moms lawsuits …

  1. Lynne Markgraf says:

    I was a gymnastics coach, choreograper (studied on Long Island with Vincent Orlando), nationally rated judge and program director for decades. I am appauled by the deliberate antagonism Abby Lee Miller levels at the students and the mothers. $16,000+ per year for this constant berating? She may produce dancers, but I have not heard any famous names coming from her studio (do legal ramifications forbid this?), but I had a motto in all my years with young children “make this the best time of their lives.” I wanted and worked myself to death to help them succeed. There were tense moments and pressure for better and better performancs, but there is a limit. I pray these girls are not permanently damaged. I recall that those in my state went to the eastern Europen coaches if they wanted the stars and moon and these kids had thicker skins than an elephant and a great deal of money. Their goal was the Olympics – and I had to remind my students that only 6 made that team if they could stay healthy.

  2. briana says:

    Abby and Kelly are due back in court tommorow. Hope this whole thing gets settled.

  3. daisydancer says:

    I watched the very first episode to compare Abby’s behavior to the most current shows. She was tough but nothing like what she has turned in to. She really is one of the most dispicable persons I’ve ever had the misfortune to observe. I read a spoiler that she will have a new team by the end of the season but will also have another team consisting of Nia, Chloe, Kendall, and Mackinzie. Other than Maddie and Kalani I didn’t recognize the other names. Don’t care anymore. I hope Kelly sends her back into bankruptcy.

  4. dana says:

    Come on, all said and done its a reality show and the contracts are signed and since season two these mothers knew how Abbey was a tyrant but she loves those girls(in her own sick way) and those moms love seeing their daughter and themselves get the hoos and aahhss when they appear as a group at the dance competitions. The show is the fighting and back stabbing and the stress of winning when theirs no drama no watching by anyone that’s the facts so bring the girls back and the mom and let the fur fly.

  5. cathy carter says:

    I think its a great show, keep all the Dance Moms, and the kids, get a new teacher. Fire Abbie, Brook can sing, the girls can dance. all you mothers should get together sue Abbie, And where all happy

  6. jusayno says:

    WOW! they should have left the HOUSE on top of Abby Lee Miller, what a witch she is!

  7. Josie says:

    As I understood it, Kelly and her daughters will still occasionally pop up on the show – with cameras coming to their home, the recording studio, and even modeling shoots – but not actually show them in the dance studio with Abby. Abby may have kicked them out, but they still have a contract with Lifetime.

    I hope Kelly’s lawsuit is successful in limiting how long kids can be contracted to work (because this is work). Kelly’s talked about leaving for two seasons now, but it seems she’s locked into a pretty watertight contract that keeps her and her kids in the studio for years. But as Lori pointed out in another post, I don’t think I’ve seen a genuine smile on those kids’ faces this whole season. It’s clearly damaging for some of them (if not all?) and they are too young to be obligated to stay in the studio that long.

    And this may be a long shot, but I hope the lawsuit also prevents contracts from limiting what kids can say about their experiences. I have a feeling that Chloe, Paige, and Brooke would have a very different version of events if they were allowed to speak openly, and that Kelly’s allegations of emotional abuse may be more substantiated than the show lets on.

  8. carroll hull says:

    I too feel Abby needs to find a new job without children in it. She is so unfit ,the way she treats children. Was she mistreated as a child? Did she not get help? I have never been with a dance teacher who did or said the things she has. You never down your student you teach, you practice until they get it right and praise them. Kelly was right in standing up for her children. Abby is burnt out needs to quit. I’d like to see the show with a new teacher and all the moms and girls . They would be happier and so would the fans. I know us fans love them,and seeing the girls dance. fond memories for me .I use to dance and with my mom. Abby takes the joy out of dancing and makes it feel like work and unpleasing. I pray for Kelly she is right. I’d love to hug her and her kids. Blessing Kelly and Girls…

  9. debra says:

    Since the beginning I kept watching in hopes that this time things will get better. It never got better but got so off the charts sick, dangerous, I cannot endure more.

    My hope is that Kelly’s suit will prove miller unfit to be around children, all children, and shut that woman down. miller is sick and should be banned from children. I expect Lifetime/collins to back that psychotic woman, to a point, but if it comes down to them or miller, i hope they drop her and let her pay to defend her own cruelty in court.

    Yes, I think she is psychotic, from calling the police on Minister Dawn” because her child had socks on, to now. She pushed forward to Kelly. She tried to bite her. She demands children hug her. That woman is sick and should be banned from being in any contact with children.

  10. Hannah says:

    Bravo, Lori. Personally, I think all of the mothers should file a collective lawsuit to get this nonsense ended. Okay, I know that Melissa won’t, and probably not Jill either. Once, I would have said that Holly would, but now I’m not so sure.

    I want to see the girls dance tonight, but memories of last Tuesday keep coming back and causing sick feelings in my stomach. I keep hoping things will be better “next time” — but I think we can all see that the previews show that won’t be true for tonight’s episode, so I will not be watching.

    I will, however, “tune in” later for your re-cap — here’s to that naive optimism that things will change for the better.

    • Michelle says:

      I swear you were reading my mind Hannah lol, I was thinking the exact same thing. This show is like a car wreck you come across on the highway, you don’t want to look but you can’t help it….

    • paula says:

      I could not agree more! (esp. about Lori’s recaps!!!!)

      Melissa’s girls are the ones I worry about the most. When all is said and done, I think they are the ones who will have the most emotional damage to overcome. The relationship between these two sisters is beyond complicated for their young ages. Maddie doesn’t realize she’s being isolated at an age when she was created to learn how to interact with people and to be compassionate. Mackenzie had to sit and listen to her mom tell Maddie “you’re my best friend” and see the asides in which Melissa agrees that she’s not as talented as Maddie….those girls have a long hard road out of hell looming before them….

      • Anonymous says:

        How about the fact Melissa cheated on her husband with the man she is with now? (Her old boss) And they all live in his house? Where is the kids father at? Exactly like Christi said they have more dirt on her than a broom. Maddie and Mackenzie will definately be damaged by moms behavior. Let alone what we don’t know went on……

  11. Kris Bennett says:

    This whole lawsuit and counter lawsuit is ridiculous…if Abbey really wanted Kelly gone, she should’ve been release from her contract. Now this whole thing’s getting out of control and Kelly’s doing the one thing I hoped she wouldn’t do…putting her own daughters in the mix. I’ll be shocked if Dance Moms get renewed for a fifth time after all is said and done. I feel sorry for the girls more than anything.

    • Hannah says:

      Unfortunately, Paige and Brooke were already in the mix and I think (hope, anyway) that Kelly sees this as the only way out of a bad situation for all of them.

      I’m hoping (again, that naive optimism), that the lawsuit isn’t really about the money, back pay, etc., but about getting her daughters out of there; and that the money was only included to give weight to the lawsuit.

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