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.
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.
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.