Season 1 | Episode 1 | “Abby to the Rescue” | Aired June 24, 2014
We all know Abby Lee Miller from Dance Moms, where she yells at tiny dancers and can barely disguise her disdain for their mothers. Now we get to see her in a new role — as a rescuer, a hero, a white knight with a mission to save dance studios in need. This is Abby’s Studio Rescue.
We start with a brief segment where Abby introduces herself and the show’s premise. Then we’re treated to a fabulous opening sequence that features Abby with a construction hat and a golden sledgehammer along with the show’s tagline “This might be your last chance to dance.” Did I mention the glitter graphics? There’s a lot of glitter … and I LOVE IT.
This week’s featured studio is Triple Threat in Warwick, Rhode Island. Marlaina, the owner, tells us she opened a new 5,000-square-foot facility in 2013. The building has numerous plumbing, electrical and cosmetic issues to be fixed. In addition, the stress of dealing with the moms has taken a toll on her, and she breaks into tears talking about it (hey now, save your tears for the pillow, Marlaina!).
Dance instructor Bethany does an interview where she lays out one of the major issues with the studio: Marlaina is never there to run the business. Bethany (who is only 18) admits that she’s overwhelmed and feels like they need a better ballet teacher with a firmer grasp of technique.
Just when we think all hope is lost for Triple Threat … Abby swoops in to save the day, walking into class looking like a member of the Night’s Watch in her Muppets-inspired black fur coat. It’s comical how surprised everyone looks. Their expressions are a mixture of excitement and abject terror.
When Abby asks to see the owner, we discover Marlaina is not there. Oh no, this is not a good start. It’s tense as Bethany calls, begging Marlaina to come in, only to be turned down flat. Abby resorts to making the call herself and instructs Marlaina’s horrified-sounding husband to get her to the studio (or else)!
Initial Assessment and Owner Meeting
Abby asks the kids to dance for her and notes the lack of technique. Then Marlaina walks in, and Abby sarcastically snipes, “Thank you for coming.” (Awkward!) Abby explains that she’s there to help, but in return they have to spend the next four days preparing to host a showcase so the community can see the new and improved Triple Threat.
Abby then has a sit-down with Marlaina, and Marlaina admits she struggles with anxiety related to the financial strain and stress of opening the new facility (not to mention dealing with the moms!). It’s so severe, she has difficulties even coming into the studio. Abby consoles her, but then tells the camera she’s concerned that Marlaina may be too “weak” to turn this place around (ouch!).
Abby brings all the dancers into the main studio and gently chastises them for their poor technique. Whoa, the kinder, gentler Abby is out in full force this episode! She then gives them their assignments for the showcase.
First up are the Mini Elites. (They are so tiny! I want to put them in my pocket!) She assigns them a contempary routine that will be choreographed by instructor Bethany. She also calls up three older girls (the “Seniors”) and assigns them as leaders for the group’s big production number. Marlaina will choreograph. Abby reminds them they only have three days until the showcase, and Marlaina looks like she might throw up.
The Inspection and Studio Moms Meeting
Abby and Marlaina do a walk-through, where they see electrical chords hanging out of the ceiling and another large, unfinished room that’s in terrible condition. They then get to the main studio, and Abby exclaims, “It’s gross! It’s disgusting! It stinks!” (Tell us how you really feel.)
Abby checks in with the moms to get their take on things. They all agree that technique is an issue and reveal there’s no consistent schedule of classes. Most admit they’ll probably be gone once their contract is finished. When Abby asks if they get along with each other, the floodgates open as the women begin arguing amongst themselves (doing the original Dance Moms proud!).
Owner Follow-Up (2 Days till Showcase)
Abby has another sit-down with Marlaina to talk about the scheduling issues, but Marlaina thinks the moms are exaggerating and complains that Abby is judging her. Wait a minute! Isn’t judging her the whole point of this endeavor? We’re all judging you, Marlaina! Just go with it.
Mini Elite and Group Number Rehearsals (2 Days till Showcase)
Abby works with the Mini Elite group and recommends doing more choreography that communicates the lyrics of the song. She then observes the group rehearsal, where we find Marlaina yelling at dancers and giving us serious crazy eyes. Abby calls the studio dads in to stay overnight and help fix up the studio, announcing, “I am gonna turn this junkyard upside down!”
Studio Reveal (1 Day till Showcase)
Abby brings everyone into the studio to reveal the results of their all-nighter, and the difference is kind of amazing. Studio A has silks and ballet bars and new floors, while Studio C (the former abandoned room) is unrecognizable. There are ballet bars, mirrors, completed walls, and a state-of-the-art floor that’s shock-absorbent. The suppliers who donated the materials are named in some brilliant bits of product placement, and now I’ve learned that a Marley floor is the stuff of dreams.
Mini Elite Final Rehearsal
Bethany is working hard with the Mini Elite girls while the moms chat in the waiting room. Abby comes in to check on them (oh, this room’s been jazzed up too!), and they complain that Marlaina hasn’t seen this new routine yet. This inspires Abby to find Marlaina and tell her she needs to crack the whip. Abby tells her, “It’s your time to set the boundaries. Those people are the reason that you’re hiding in your house and can’t get better … now is the time to face that fear!”
Marlaina takes Abby’s pep talk to heart and walks into the waiting area to tell the moms to stop talking behind her back. She assures them that she has seen the routine, and she’s back for good. But she also warns them that if they’re not onboard with that, they’ll have to go.
Side note: While these ladies don’t seem like sweet summer peaches, I don’t know why we’re supposed to feel their concerns are unjustified. Yes, they could be less catty, but why shouldn’t they be worried when Marlaina herself has admitted she’s frequently missing in action? It seems to me she needs a lot more than one day’s attendance to prove she’s truly turned over a new leaf.
The theater is packed, the dancers are dressed and they’re only 20 minutes from showtime. Abby pats herself on the back, telling the camera she gave Triple Threat a safe studio space while Marlaina shut down the “mama drama.” Abby then decides 20 minutes out is the best time to ask Marlaina if she’s created the new schedule. What? Is now the right time for this? Luckily Marlaina is ready for her: She pulls out a clipboard, shows the new and improved calendar to Abby, and promises she’ll stick to it.
Mini Elite Performance
Most of the girls are dressed like mini extras from Britney Spear’s “Baby One More Time” video. (Why? I don’t know!) I’m not sure what story they’re telling, but they’re so cute that I don’t care. Abby is happy with the girls’ progress, and the audience seems to love it.
Group Number Performance
In true Abby Lee Miller fashion, the dancers are all covered in dirt and blood and wearing torn clothing (all but one girl in red), doing a very dramatic routine to weird, pulsating music. The whole thing is really dynamic (if a bit scattered), and both Abby and the audience give them a standing ovation.
Marlaina then brings Abby onstage and gives a speech, saying, “She’s tough. She’s intelligent. She knows what she wants, and she set me straight!” Abby shares that she’s very proud of each and every one of them, and Marlaina begins to cry again. (We’ve been over this, Marlaina! Save your tears for the pillow!)
Abby ends the night smugly telling the camera, “Let’s face it, I make dreams come true!” Yes you do, Abby.
Next week: Abby goes to West Coast Dance Studio and works with what appears to be a very harried studio owner, who screams, “You’re driving me crazy!” I can’t wait.
What do you think of the show so far? Is Abby making a meaningful change, or is this all just a smart way for these studios to get some refurbished rooms? Let me know in the comments below, and come back next week to talk more about Abby’s Studio Rescue.