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Behind-The-Scenes, 'Dance Moms' Is More Staged Than The Routines The Kids Preform

For seven seasons, Dance Moms entertained viewers with some incredibly talented young dancers, but most of the entertainment comes from the intense drama among the show's adults. It's true that much of the drama is faked, but with multiple lawsuits and criminal arrests, there's still plenty of drama off-camera. 

Maddie Ziegler has made a name for herself after appearing in Sia's music video for “Chandelier” and several other performances with the musician. But not everyone has found the same level of success.

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  • Miller Actually Has The Ability To Be Nice

    Instructor Abby Lee Miller is known for being strict with the dancers on the show—many consider her criticism way too harsh and personal. However, that's not the real Miller—at least not all the time.

    While attending a competition in 2014, writer Rebecka Schumann reported that Miller was actually pretty nice. "While I originally brushed off her polite words to the other competition guests as phony, her kindness never faltered," she said. However, Schumann added that Miller could have been putting up a kind front for the general public.

  • The Moms Turn Up The Drama For Camera

    The Moms Turn Up The Drama For Camera
    Photo: Dance Moms / Collins Avenue Entertainment

    One of the biggest draws of Dance Moms is the fighting and drama, particularly from the moms themselves. But is it all played up for the cameras? Absolutely. Producers encourage the moms and Miller to up the drama once the filming begins, according to one of the show's breakout stars, Maddie Ziegler.

    "The producers set it up to make us all yell at each other," she said. "The moms have fake fights sometimes. Afterward they just start talking and laugh about it."

  • Miller Watches The Other Competitors For Possible Replacements

    When the kids on Dance Moms perform at a competition, they generally do their routine, and then wait backstage. However, Miller typically sticks around to watch the other competitors. It could be that she loves dance so much that she wants to take in as much as possible.

    Or it could be that she's simply scouting talent in case she wants to replace any of her current students.

  • Miller Went To Jail For Bankruptcy Fraud

    Miller Went To Jail For Bankruptcy Fraud
    Photo: Dance Moms / Collins Avenue Entertainment

    While she was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Miller attempted to hide some of the income she made, including $775,000 from her spinoff series Abby's Ultimate Dance. It's a federal crime, and once she was caught, Miller plead guilty in June 2016. She was sentenced to a year in prison starting the following May, but she got an early release in March 2018.

    While in jail, Miller reportedly made use of her time by taking a real estate class.

  • Miller Quit The Show Because She Was Frustrated That It Was Staged

    Miller Quit The Show Because She Was Frustrated That It Was Staged
    Photo: Dance Moms / Collins Avenue Entertainment

    When Abby Lee Miller quit Dance Moms, she went out in a blaze of glory. She fired off an angry Instagram post, which read, "FOR THE PAST SIX YEARS/SEVEN SEASONS I HAVE ASKED, BEGGED, AND EVEN DEMANDED CREATIVE CREDIT FOR ALL THE IDEAS, AWARD WINNING ROUTINES, THEMES, AND COSTUMING - TO NO AVAIL!" However, the problem wasn't just a lack of credit—she was upset that the producers staged drama that was hurting her reputation with off-screen clients.

    She said she had 50 students who weren't part of the show in her studio when "the producer... [had] this psycho crazy woman—who [she's] never seen, never talked to, never met—stalking me through the audience stating things like, ‘All your team left you. They want nothing to do with you,’ in front of 50 families from my studio.” After that moment, Miller quit.

  • Miller Was Sued By Paige Hyland For Abuse

    Miller Was Sued By Paige Hyland For Abuse
    Photo: Dance Moms / Collins Avenue Entertainment

    In 2014, Abby Lee Miller was sued by former student Paige Hyland. Just 13 at the time, she alleged in her suit that Miller was physically and emotionally abusive—the harshest accusation was that Miller would often pinch her students, sometimes until they bled. Miller also allegedly threw a chair at Paige.

    The verbal abuse consisted of Miller insulting Paige "on an almost daily basis, including cruel name calling, insults about Paige's physical appearance and making offensive false and defamatory accusations about Paige’s family." However, a judge threw out the suit in 2015, citing a lack of evidence.