Abby Lee Miller may be the face of Dance Moms and the ALDC, but she certainly could not have done it without the help of one very important person — Gianna Martello. Since the Lifetime reality series premiered back in 2011, Gianna has assisted Abby in choreographing the award-winning numbers the Junior Elite Team performs every week on the show.

BuddyTV had the pleasure of speaking with Gianna for an exclusive interview, where she provided a background on her life, talked all things Dance Moms, spilled some show secrets and even discussed the legal issues surrounding Abby.

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Early Beginnings

Gianna developed a passion for dance at a very young age. Since countless members of her family were trained in dance, Gianna decided to follow in their footsteps. “My grandma danced, my mom danced, my aunt danced, my cousins danced, so it was just only right that they put me in dance,” she explained.

What some fans may not know is that Gianna was trained under Abby at the ALDC from the age of 7. Just like on Dance Moms, Gianna was a part of the Junior Elite Team and traveled all around the country. However, Gianna and her teammates traveled only with Abby, and not with their moms. This, most likely, means that there was much less drama than there is in the modern days of the ALDC.

Gianna always had plans of becoming a professional dancer, but after dancing for Abby for about 10 years, she was able to discover her true passion — choreography. “It wasn’t until I was about 16 or 17 that I found my passion for making up routines and assisting Abby and being more creative,” she revealed.

Dance Moms came to be when Gianna was getting ready to graduate from Point Park University with a BA in advertising and public relations. Despite frequently hearing rumblings of a possible docu-series about the ALDC, Gianna was still surprised to hear that the studio she had grown up in would be featured on TV. “Well, we actually thought it was like a big joke,” Gianna explained. “It’s always been in talks, and we would always joke around and be like, ‘Abby needs a show, like these people are crazy!'”

The Show’s Success

At the beginning of the show’s run, Gianna and the rest of the cast couldn’t believe how quickly it was growing. “It’s just so crazy, like how and why is it happening to us in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania?” she reflected.

Despite their initial shock, Abby, Gianna and the rest of the ALDC were, clearly, the perfect recipe for a successful reality show. The show is currently in its sixth season, with the seventh being filmed, and Gianna doesn’t see it slowing down any time soon.

One reason the show has become so successful is the incredible pieces Abby and Gianna choreograph each and every week on the show. With all of the numbers that have been performed, it would seem impossible for Gianna to choose a favorite, but she has a few in mind. One of them is a dance the viewers have yet to see. She revealed that on an upcoming episode, the girls will perform “a dark piece,” featuring Kalani Hilliker taking on the deep role that used to be reserved for the breakout star of the show — Maddie Ziegler.

Maddie is just one example of how successful the show has become. Over the past few years, she has gone on to star in several of singer Sia’s music videos, including “Chandelier;” become a judge on So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation; and even film her first movie.

As her teacher for a number of years, Gianna always knew that Maddie was destined to be a star. At the time of the interview, Gianna had just seen Maddie perform with Sia at the Hollywood Bowl, which was an emotional moment for Gianna.

“I knew from the beginning that she was gonna be big,” Gianna gushed. “She was this little, tiny pipsqueak that never spoke a word in my class, but I knew she was smart. There’s some kids that dance, but there’s some kids that just have a little something else. I feel like that’s what she has.”

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Behind-the-Scenes Secrets

Of course, the drama on the show is one of the reasons why we love it so much. In just about every episode, the moms fight with another in defense of their daughters, or they clash with Abby if they feel their daughters aren’t receiving the proper treatment.

The drama and countless cat fights that go down while filming Dance Moms are elements of the show that Gianna tries to avoid. “I try not to react to it, because I know if I react to it, then I’m going to be brought into it more and more,” she said.

She continued, “I try to just stay focused, because I know that my job is solely with the children, and they shouldn’t be involved in that yelling. They’re here for the dancing, so I just try to keep them focused and always rehearsing, always just having their heads geared towards competition, rather than what’s going on outside of the dance studio.”

Unlike other dance studios, Gianna and the team have very strict deadlines to perfect their routines. The ALDC comes up with and rehearses new routines each and every week, with only a few days to get them down. Gianna can only describe this in one way — like being on Survivor. “It’s like I’m bulldozing through task after task to come out with a win and come out on top,” she stated.

Things become even more difficult when factoring in the girls’ young ages. Abby and Gianna can only allow the girls to rehearse for four to five hours a day due to child labor laws. So, whenever a fight breaks out amongst the cast, that only takes more time away from Gianna’s already short rehearsal period with the girls.

The Truth About Abby

Despite what some fans may think, Gianna loves assisting Abby. She said it is “great” working for her, and they have developed a strong relationship over the past 20 years. “She and I have an awesome relationship. I feel like she and I get each other, and I kind of can read her mind now,” Gianna said. “I feel like I just know what she wants, and I can give her what she wants. Ultimately, it’s her name and her studio and her competition team, so you have to give her what she wants.”

Gianna may be one of the people who knows Abby the best. On the show, fans typically only see Abby yelling at her students and their mothers, but Gianna knows a different side to her, which isn’t seen too often. “I think she’s really fun and one of the most generous people I’ve ever met, so I think the show just kind of skews that sometimes,” she explained.

During several episodes of Dance Moms season 6, Abby has faced criticism from the moms for not focusing on their kids enough. Gianna, however, clarified that this is not a pattern that would continue, and other outside issues may have influenced these absences.

“I think she was just dealing with a lot outside of the dance studio when we were filming that,” she revealed. “What I can tell you is we’re about five episodes into season 7, and she has been more helpful and just so into our rehearsals lately. I’d say more so than ever. It’s a complete 360.”

One reason as to why Abby may have been so absent was due to her legal issues. It has been all over the news recently that Abby has pleaded guilty to charges of fraud, which could place her behind bars.

Gianna did discuss Abby’s legal issues and confirmed that even through all of these troubles, she is the same old Abby. “I’m not that familiar with [her legal issues], as I’m not involved in those situations, but she’s fine,” she explained. “She’s still laughing, she’s still crazy and still the same Abby.”

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Show Spoilers

Of course, we couldn’t let Gianna go without giving us some juicy Dance Moms spoilers. When asked about what fans can expect in the episodes to come, she revealed that Maddie and Mackenzie were not the only two cast members to leave the show during season 6. “I can tell you that we do lose another cast member. I think one that a lot of people love, maybe in the next week or so,” she said.

She also stated that despite Abby’s recent Instagram post discussing their exit from the show, the Mini Team will be back “full-force” in season 7.

Season 7 will also feature a new format to the show, which Gianna described as a “trial-and-error.” Every few weeks, she and Abby will bring in a new member to the ALDC to dance with the team. This means that fans can, most likely, look forward to new moms creating even more drama on the show.

What’s Next for Gianna?

Gianna hopes to remain a choreographer in the future. She would like to continue doing this with a dance studio, but she also has plans of venturing into choreographing movies and commercials as well.

With the show growing more successful each season, Gianna plans on sticking with it until its end. “I’ve been with the show since day one, so I’m gonna see it out to the end,” she said.

In the meantime, Gianna encourages fans to reach out to her on her various social media pages, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, because she does read everything she is sent. “Don’t be afraid to send me a message!” she told us.

Dance Moms
airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on Lifetime. Want more on Gianna and the rest of the cast? Be sure to like our Dance Moms Facebook page.

(Image courtesy of Ryan West)

Jordan Dunnigan

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV