Abby Lee Miller: Dancing to the beat of her own drum

Dance Moms star Abby Lee Miller answers our questions!

Competitive dancing can be a fierce world. How did you end up as a dance instructor and what do you love most about the business?

I grew up in the dance industry. My mother owned several very successful dance studios in Miami. When it became time to hand the reins over to me, I took my mother's concept and expanded it, building a studio in my own vision in Pittsburgh. The thing I love most about working in this business is the feeling that I've helped make a young child's dreams come true.

How did the opportunity for Dance Moms come about?

It all started over Sunday brunch with my good friend, John Corrella. Every summer, I would head to Los Angeles for national competitions that bring together some of the most innovative dance teachers in the country. John lives in Los Angeles, and over the years, he and I would casually discuss the idea of doing a reality show like Dance Moms, because the drama among the mothers is so raw and real and would make for great television. We would think, 'We have to find someone out there who can document this.' I would go back to Pittsburgh and put the idea to rest, but John kept probing to find out if the same kind of 'mother-to-mother tension' existed at other dance studios. Through his investigations, John wound up meeting Bryan Tintin from Collins Avenue, who loved the idea and successfully pitches it to Lifetime.

There are a few competition shows out there that revolve around kids. What makes Dance Moms different?

I think what makes Dance Moms different and jive with audiences is that it's raw and very real. There is a deep history and competitiveness among all the mothers that existed long before the cameras entered my studio. All the fighting and arguments that you see on television are coming from a real place and have been occurring for a long time.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face training the young girls?

I think the biggest challenge is getting the mothers to take a step back and just let the girls dance. Girls will be girls, but the key is to let them work out their issues on the dance floor. The mothers from my studio are so overly involved in their kids' activities and then it becomes more about the hair, the nails, the makeup and less about the dancing.

What are you most memorable experiences filming this series – both good and bad?

The most exciting thing for me is working with the kids that really embrace dance. For example, every time Maddie goes out on stage, she will do a routine that way it's taught to her but make it her own in some small way, and that's a huge moment of pride for me. Another example has been working the MacKenzie, who didn't want to dance at all last year, and this year she's taking it more seriously. I recently showed her a dance number, and in one hour she had it down and I thought, 'That kid has crossed a threshold.'

What do you think audiences around the world will find the most appealing about the show? 

Dance is a universal language and a living art that every culture can respect. Anyone from any country can turn on this series and be awestruck, watching the children work hard at the craft, improve, perform and win. There is no language barrier with dance.

Watch new episodes of Dance Moms every Monday at 9pm.