Monday, April 1, 2013

The Dance Moms Experience


Spoiler Alert: Reality TV is not real. Shocker;).

This past weekend, my daughter's dance studio was invited to participate in a filming of Dance Moms, the reality television show that follows the lives of young dancers in the Abby Lee Dance Company here in Pittsburgh. Having never experienced this sort of thing live, I didn't quite know what to expect. I was expecting to have the opportunity to witness just how fabricated the show's drama is for the sake of ratings. I wasn't disappointed.

First of all, the thing that bothered me the most about the whole ordeal was how these women were treated as celebrities. Yes, I get it. The show makes a lot of money. A lot of people watch it. But what are they really famous for? Putting their children into situations with a shark like Abby Lee, being catty, stabbing each other in the back, and fighting as much as possible on camera. And they really believe they are famous. They stop the cameras and have their makeup touched up, for chrissakes. They wear skimpy dresses (one woman had on a red, strapless, body-hugging affair that was decidedly more appropriate for a night in Vegas), super sky-high heels; the hair is perfect. When I attend a competition, I am usually in sweat pants and a t-shirt representing the studio, and I'm lucky if I get to touch up my makeup once throughout the entire 14-hour day. Let's just say that for this event, I was severely under-dressed.

Fake argument #1, with the organizer of the "competition." 
At one point, the producers corralled the mothers of both the ALDC and Candy Apples (only a few of the ALDC mothers were actually present; none of the ALDC girls, or Abby Lee, showed up) in a hallway, turned on the cameras, and had them go at it. While the cameras were rolling, the shouting filled the hall, complete with a few choice words, attacks on each others' children, etc. As soon as they stopped rolling, the participants calmly made their way up the stairs as if nothing at all had happened.

Fake argument #2. 
The sheer number of contrivances we were able to witness from afar (dances being run twice "for television purposes," bright lights shining directly on the dance moms' (and dads') admiring faces, moving around audience members to make the venue look fuller than it actually was, being told to cheer for this and that person, and being slightly scolded when we weren't cheering loud enough, long spans of time during which nothing could be said in the auditorium so that the sound didn't interfere with the fake fights occurring in the hallways) gave me a real sense of just how fake it all is. I know this seems like stating the obvious, but it's not something you can fully realize unless you watch it unfold. Even when the women are talking with one another on camera, which might seem somewhat realistic through the TV set, their acting is something to see.

It takes a lot of energy to do this sort of thing day in and day out. Is it possible to maintain some sense of who you really are when you are constantly putting on a mask, all the while pretending to be yourself? The whole effect was just weird. Also, what effect does it all have on the kids involved? I've been told that, often, the kids aren't even there, as they were not last weekend (to the utter disappointment of my daughter), which is a good thing. But the Candy Apples kids were there and in tow as their parents were duking it out in the  hall. How is that a positive influence?

As for me, I'll keep my innocent little girl, thank you very much. They can have their money and their short-lived fifteen minutes. The whole production felt a heck of a lot like it was rooted in selling one's soul. ~Alice


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