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Dance Moms

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Dance Moms TV Poster Image
Arguing and drama in kids' competitive dance world.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 40 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 116 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

This series highlights the worst aspects of competitive dance, playing up infighting among the dancers and their overbearing mothers and putting on display an instructor’s controversial methods of motivation. It also illustrates the importance this culture places on fitting a physical image, as the dancers’ appearances and actions are under strict scrutiny at all times. On the upside, the show celebrates the kids’ dedication to their craft and the pride they take in doing a good job.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The instructor uses controversial tactics to motivate her students, often belittling them in front of their peers and their parents, and pitting them against each other. She’s equally cruel to the moms and often puts the students at odds with their parents when her demands aren’t met. Most of the moms pressure their kids to excel at dance, even when it’s clear they’re more motivated than the kids are, and they show affection and pride only when the dancers do well. In some cases, mothers do advocate for their kids, but the instructor usually has the final say on every detail and expels students whose parents cause her too much trouble.


Some dance moves are designed with sexy in mind, and the instructor encourages the dancers to play up their appeal.


Heated exchanges between adults sometimes get explicit, but most of it ("s--t," "damn," and the like) is bleeped. Name-calling includes words like "stupid" and "idiot."


The Abby Lee Dance Company gets plenty of notoriety from the show.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some moms drink wine and mixed drinks, and it’s implied that doing so helps them cope with the pressures of this high-stress atmosphere. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this docuseries sensationalizes the pressure-filled world of competitive dance and features tense exchanges among a strong-willed instructor, her young students, and their motivated mothers. The show offers an intriguing glimpse into an image-centric culture that encourages young girls (and sometimes boys) to adhere to a rigid image and to play up sex appeal to score a win. This isn’t a show for kids, and there’s very little of substance it offers to older viewers, but it’s riddled with controversy and explosive personalities, so there’s no denying its entertainment value. Expect some strong bleeped language ("s--t," "damn," and the like) and some inadvertent messages about using alcohol as a stress-reliever.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byanti-abby lee dance July 13, 2011

cancel this show

It is abusive the way the children are talked to by Abby Lee. Ive never seen anyone tear down a childs self esteem like she does. Pitiful mothers to allow it a... Continue reading
Parent of a 1 and 8 year old Written bySteffauri516 August 9, 2011

Horrible mothers! Just more TV trash~

Just like the title of my review says, it's nothing more than TV trash. I'm actually disappointed and a bit shocked at Lifetime for airing a show like... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byBtheDancer. July 13, 2011

Awesome show!!!! Looking forward to more!

The fact that people are saying that Abby Lee is 'tearing down a child’s self-esteem' is absurd. Abby Lee has a point, I am a competitive dancer of 13... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old August 25, 2011

Appropriate! :-)

Dance Moms is a great show. Everybody thinks Abby Lee is way to harsh. Do you know what? I agree, but look where it has gotten these kids. They either win first... Continue reading

What's the story?

DANCE MOMS takes viewers behind the glitz and glamour of the competitive dance culture as it plays out for the members of the renowned Abby Lee Dance Company. Professional choreographer and dance coach Abby Lee Miller hasn’t built her revered reputation by accident, but her controversial methods of motivating her students -– some of whom are as young as 6 –- don’t always sit well with the dancers or their parents. This explosive series follows the dance company’s quest for a coveted national title and examines the physical, emotional, and financial sacrifices the families make for their kids’ success, all the while raising the issue of whether the rewards outweigh the struggles for the young stars at the heart of the mayhem.

Is it any good?

Dance Moms squeezes entertainment value out of tense verbal exchanges between adults, infighting among the dance company members (both adults and kids), and Miller’s extreme coaching style that often wreaks havoc on the students’ emotional well-being. Watching her berate her dancers and encourage competition among them is downright uncomfortable to watch at times, and it’s impossible not to feel for the kids when the adults –- some mothers included -– disregard their emotions. It also raises the question of how much pressure is too much to put on kids and what effect the dancers’ perceived failure will have on their self-confidence.


This series lends itself to discussions about body image as well, since so many demands are placed on these young dancers to look and act a preconceived part. Sex appeal is a stated goal in some of the dance moves, which creates tension between Miller and the dancers' parents and forces the kids into the middle of the exchanges. Most strong language is edited, but drinking alcohol is presented as a reliable method for adults to cope with the stresses of the competitive atmosphere. Ultimately this is just another example of sensationalized reality TV, made more offensive by its willingness to thrust kids into the spotlight, but it's still bound to draw viewers who like to watch controversy unfold. It does, however, expose viewers to a little-known atmosphere of dance competition and includes some fleeting celebratory moments when the dancers achieve their longstanding goals.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about self-image. How do outside factors like other people’s impressions of you affect how you view yourself? What messages does society send to you about what’s acceptable? Is it difficult to challenge those guidelines?

  • What are the benefits of competition? What life lessons can be learned from competing? How does it feel to win? To lose? How can losing motivate us to improve?

  • What do you expect in a role model? What character traits are important to you? Is success always a factor? What about things like compassion, inspiration, and generosity? How are those traits viewed in our society?

TV details

For kids who love reality television

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