A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this tv show.
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.
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?
For kids who love reality television
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