This week's two-hour edition of Dance Moms
has a promising start. Like all episodes, though, it quickly dissolves into conflict. The moms play nice during the first half, prepping Abby for her date with a scruffy Italian gas station attendant (!), helping Melissa find a wedding dress for her third marriage (!!) and even having some real talk with the kids about gay rights (which is really tremendously awesome). If that doesn't exactly make the show a virtuous experience, at least it makes it a little less toxic.
Of course, nothing gold can stay. After the girls finish seventh in the group dance competition, Abby turns her company into a boot camp for the tiny dancers and their stage moms. Inexplicably, everyone's to blame for the camo-clad hip-hop disaster but the teacher/choreographer. It's funny how that works.
"Don't Ask, Just Tell"
The theme of this week's group dance is a little confusing, I must admit. "Don't Ask, Just Tell" is a play on the former military policy "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which prevented LGBT servicemen from discussing their sexual orientation with collegues. While DADT required secrecy, Abby's policy demands that the girls be proud and speak up for themselves, which initially sounds like a great lesson. Unfortunately, in Abby's language, "Speak up for yourself" means "Stand up to your moms and defend my choices." Abby goes on to say that people with secrets (say, closeted homosexuals) are really liars, and liars have no place in the Abby Lee Dance Company. I'm not super keen on shaming people who are timid to come out with the new "L word." If you're gay, by all means, take your time coming out. And if you're a child in a dance class, don't feel like you need to spill the details of your home life to a dance dictator who picks up guys at the gas station. (More on that in a moment.)
As much as "Don't Ask, Just Tell" is a mixed message, I do think Abby's heart is in the right place when she tells the girls to be proud of who they are -- as long as they aren't stiff dancers who drop their hats mid-performance. (Abby's looking at you, Chloe.) The DADT theme even encourages some of the moms to talk about LGBT issues with their kids. Kelly especially impresses me. First, she makes a strong point in telling her daughters that as dancers, they're likely to work with at least a few gay male colleagues as they progress in their careers. She adds that gay people make some of the best friends (and Brooke chimes in, "They're so funny!"). Finally, Kelly tells her daughters that they are free to love whomever they love without fear of judgement from their parents. Wow. Please forget any bad thing I've ever written about Kelly. I take it all back! (Well, for now, anyway.)
Romance and Girl Talk
If Abby's charitable activism seems out of the blue, maybe it has something to do with the charming Italian voice on the other end of her telephone line. Abby chats away on her cell phone at the ALDC while the moms listen in, gathering that Abby's met a guy. Melissa, Jill and Holly are all happy and supportive, as usual. Kelly just hopes Abby gets laid so she lightens up. Christi wants nothing to do with any of it, throws her hands up in the air and declares, "Don't ask, don't tell!"
Abby went on a speed-dating adventure last week and didn't have much luck. Randomly, though, she met a shockingly well-dressed Italian man at a gas station on her way home from the event. Yeah, that's a gas station outside Pittsburgh, and he's a guy who wears a bow-tie with jeans and a leather jacket. Just go with it, I guess. Suspend your disbelief.
The moms jump at the chance to help Abby get ready for the dinner, giving her pep-talks and advice while she gets a manicure. Abby waves away the chatter, claiming she doesn't need input because she's a size 6 Prada inside or whatever, but you can tell she kind of enjoys having the ladies around. She's also amused by Jill's randomly enthusiastic bump-and-grind dance in the salon, as am I.
The moms don't just bond at the salon this episode. The also accompany Melissa to a bridal boutique, where they sip champagne and watch the sweetest mom play Say Yes to the Dress with rhinestone encrusted sweetheart necklines. Everybody oohs and aahs over the dresses, and Holly observes that the outing is a real milestone for the group. Nobody's snarking, throwing water or slapping each other with handbags. It's truly a red letter day!
Dance Boot Camp
The episode can't be all sparkling wine at the salon, though. The dance competition brings tension as usual, especially since this week's dance is a hip-hop routine: not exactly the ALDC's forte. To make matters worse, Mackenzie drops out with a sprained ankle, only to be accused of faking her injury to avoid the dance. The girls take the stage with one joyful, proud performance of "Don't Ask, Just Tell," but it's not enough to earn them a top prize. The group takes seventh place, while Kendall snags fourth place for her solo, Maddie grabs second and Brooke takes second in her age category. In other words, no one wins the gold, so no one in the ALDC meets expectations. Abby lines the camo-clad dancers up and asks them to do push-ups as penance. I suspect the boot camp theme will carry over into next week's episode.
Dance Moms airs on Tuesday nights at 9pm on Lifetime.
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(Image courtesy of Lifetime)