Why Dance Moms Is A Total Sham

In 2011, Lifetime network graced the world with Dance Moms, a reality series that followed in the footsteps of other successful shows starring young girls and their overbearing, bickering mothers. Think Toddlers & Tiaras with a taste of The Real Housewives franchise mixed in for good measure. Dance Moms revolves around Abby Lee Miller's Pittsburgh-based studio, the Abby Lee Dance Company (ALDC), and her junior elite competition team. What drives the show is the consistent yelling and insane demands from Miller, coupled with the drama of the moms. The series showcases a behind-the-scenes look into the world of competitive dance while spotlighting a steady dose of over-the-top chaos.

From the start, many fans of Dance Moms have wondered if some aspects of the show are hyped up for the cameras. As entertaining as the drama can be, how much of it is real? Is the conflict on the series as choreographed as its performances? Let's find out what's really going on behind the scenes on one of Lifetime's most profitable programs.

The show choreographs drama

It's not rocket science to viewers that "reality" TV isn't entirely authentic. Elements of many programs are reportedly enhanced to keep audiences interested, and it seems Lifetime doesn't hesitate to use this method too. Dancer Kalani Hilliker revealed to OK! Magazine that several situations were staged within the show's Season 5 finale.

Generally, the girls on the show are required to perform every week at a new competition. Sometimes, if they land on Miller's good side, they get the opportunity to show off a solo. During the finale, Miller made Hilliker and fellow dancer Nia Frazier compete against each other in a battle to the death to determine who would get the chance to perform a solo routine at nationals. In the end, Frazier was deemed the winner of the challenge. Naturally, Miller's decision caused an on-air rift between the dancers' mothers.

However, several key components of this tense situation were reportedly omitted from the footage that aired on television, such as this significant morsel of info: "I actually did do a solo at nationals," Hilliker told OK. "It just wasn't aired on TV." Yep, all that televised drama was supposedly over nothing since both girls got their moments in the spotlight. Though it's fair to argue that the staged version of the story sounds much more entertaining than the so-called truth, fans may want to keep this tale in mind the next time Dance Moms tries to toy with viewers' emotions.

Its biggest stars says it's fake

Dancer Maddie Ziegler has become a worldwide sensation since starring in Dance Moms. She showcased her abilities for five seasons before making an international name for herself starring in Sia's "Chandelier" video. Miller and the Dance Moms bandwagon certainly catalyzed Ziegler's career, but despite recognizing the show's impact on her life, Ziegler has also confirmed that more than just the dance moves are staged on the show. "It's hard to do a reality show when there's so much crying and drama. The producers set it up to make us all yell at each other," Ziegler told USA Today. "The moms have a fake fight sometimes. Afterward they just start talking and laugh about it."

Even head honcho Miller says the show's crew goes too far. "They just push the envelope with people. They push you to the brink of exhaustion and to the brink of losing your mind," she told TMZ. "I just don't think the show should be overproduced. I think we should just let things happen that happen."

Practice (and reshoots) make perfect

When it comes to TV shows and films, it's not unheard of for scenes to be shot multiple times from different angles, but where does one draw the line with reality TV? You may have heard about Kim Kardashian requesting to have her marriage proposal with basketball player Kris Humphries reshot for E!'s Keeping Up With the Kardashians, but did you know Dance Moms does this too, even at the actual dance competitions?

According to Radar Online, "everything that the girls did was taped multiple times to ensure that the producers got the best possible take for the show." As a result, days were long and the youngsters were often exhausted. The show may air for a 60-minute block, but daily shoots can reportedly last as long as nine hours. The girls allegedly received multiple opportunities to perform dance routines at competitions too, which definitely does not sound fair to the other teams. "The Dance Moms stars got several chances to perfect their dances," Radar reported. "Other participants in the competitions were only allowed one performance."

Still in denial? A reporter from the International Business Times reportedly attended one of the girls' competitions in 2014 and verified the inequity. "I can confirm the [show's] taping did not represent a typical event," the journalist said. "Not only was the number of contestants noticeably smaller than average...production also single-handedly pushed back the start time of the competition awaiting the ALDC team's arrival."

Competitions are manipulated

The seemingly grueling tempo of the dancers' lives on the show has raised eyebrows among viewers. The ALDC girls attend a new competition every week and somehow manage to place with top honors at a vast majority of them. How do the kids pull off such memorable performances while also filming the show, attending school, and trying to lead somewhat normal lives?

By manipulating reality, of course! From the moment the girls arrive at a competition, the entire scene becomes a choreographed event. According to the International Business Times, the competitions shown on the program often lack a lot of actual competition. "ALDC LA swept the competition at Devotion 2 Dance [during Season 6] but it wasn't exactly because they were the crème de la crème," IBT reported. "It appears [Miller's] two teams were the only groups to compete." Adding to the farce, cast members reportedly receive reserved seating for the competition, and crowd reactions are allegedly staged too because they're filmed separately from the actual performances.

And get this: the domineering Miller supposedly doesn't even have much say over the music and choreography you see on the show. Though viewers tune in weekly to watch her coach the girls through magnificent routines, the network reportedly chooses and approves all the music and dances depicted on the show.

Not all of the girls are loyal ALDC members

If a reality show is going to call itself Dance Moms, one would assume the dancers and their moms would be actual members of the featured dance studio, but you know what they say about assuming?

Dancer Hilliker has been an asset to the ALDC studio in Pennsylvania from the moment she leapt onto our TV screens, but did you know she trained with a studio called Club Dance out of Mesa, Ariz. before joining Dance Moms and, at the time of this writing, continues to be an active member of Club Dance? According to USC Annenberg Media, Hilliker only trains with ALDC when the show is filming; during the off-season, she returns to Arizona to resume training with Club Dance. Fellow dancer Ziegler told the International Business Times that Hilliker "doesn't really go to the [ALDC] studio." Hilliker isn't the only part-time member hiding out on Dance Moms. Season 5 addition Jojo Siwa also reportedly trains with Miller only when the show is filming.

So why cast these outsiders at all? Drama, of course. "These new girls' mothers typically start issues with the original mothers, claiming that their children will take the spots of the originals," reported USC Annenberg Media. "Once again, all hell breaks loose."

Fan favorite Mackenzie Ziegler, younger sister to superstar Maddie Ziegler, isn't even a member of ALDC's most elite team. Little sis reportedly only joins Maddie and the rest of the elite squad for filming. "I don't actually dance with them," Mackenzie told the International Business Times. "I dance with a different group so, it's really different." In reality, little Mackenzie spends most of her time performing with dancers her own age. Sorry, folks, the glass is completely shattered on this one.

The jig is up

No matter how much suspense Dance Moms tries to manufacture, ratings suggest that audiences may be seeing through the facade and moving on. During the show's fifth season, ratings began to drop following the departure of several stars, including dancer Chloe Lukasiak and mom Christi Lukasiak as well as sisters Maddie and Mackenzie Ziegler and their mother, Melissa Gisoni. The aforementioned ladies seemed to take a lot of the can't-miss drama with them when they left.

To drum up interest, the series refocused on a cold, hard dose of truth: coach Miller's legal trouble. At the time of this writing, she's facing federal charges for bankruptcy fraud and money laundering. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Miller is "accused of hiding $755,000 in assets from her television shows from bankruptcy proceedings. The case began after the bankruptcy judge saw her on TV in December 2012 and thought she must be earning more than the $8,899 in monthly income she was claiming." The series milked her case on TV, producing a tear-filled moment that implied Miller was leaving the show.

All that foreboding was for naught, however, because Miller didn't miss a beat and was back for Season 6, though we can't say the same for the show's ratings. According to TV by the Numbers (via Radar Online) the series' mid-season premiere brought in only 961,000 viewers, a drop from the 1.3 million who tuned in for the season premiere, leading many to believe the jig (literally and figuratively) was up.

Season 7 debuted in November 2016. Can the cast and crew concoct enough reality to keep audiences coming back? We'll keep you posted.