When I heard about the planned group dance for Dance Moms 7×07, I was nervous — to say the least. But if Dance Moms season 7 has been successful in any way, it has been in its ability to constantly keep me guessing. After the reality tv series’ horrible treatment of Nicaya Wiley’s tribute to Harriet Tubman earlier in the season, there was absolutely no reason to be optimistic about a sensitive treatment of the racial issues present in The Help, which served as the inspiration for Abby Lee Miller’s choreography this week. Despite some extremely awkward moments, though, Dance Moms 7×07 did one thing right: It gave dance moms Holly Frazier and Camille Bridges a place to speak; it let their voices (hopefully) be heard by viewers tuning in to an otherwise mindless show about competition drama. And, if Holly’s optimism after a tense conversation with dance moms Jill Vertes and Ashlee Allen was anything to go by, it might have even opened a couple of pairs of eyes. Check out our Dance Moms 7×07 recap to find out what happened when the ALDC snuck in a serious discussion on racism.
The ALDC takes on racism. It still exists. Picture this: It’s time for pyramid at the Abby Lee Dance Company. You’re ready to hear all about how Abby Lee Miller thinks the title-winning group number from last week wasn’t that great. You know Abby will share her distaste for Maesi Caes’ feet, a rehash of Brynn Rumfallo’s lack of acting skills, praise for Nia Sioux Frazier and hopes that she’ll keep going. Maybe you’ll even hear about the latest Dance Moms season 7 assignments. All is going to plan until Abby announces that the ALDC will be doing a character piece, inspired by award-winning novel and film The Help…And then it gets very, very awkward.
I want to give power to the women that were the help. So, it’s about the change in the times. Change in the way people look at other people.
If you’re me, you’re watching Dance Moms 7×07 and scratching your head at this point. Because “change in the times?” Really? So, like, we didn’t just have an election without the Voting Rights Act? And the election wasn’t marred by racially-motivated voter suppression? There wasn’t a confirmation hearing held just today for Jeff Sessions, who was considered too racist to become a federal judge in the ’80s, to become our Attorney General? (To be fair, Dance Moms 7×07 was not aired live or anything, so the weird irony here couldn’t have been predicted). I guess Abby Lee Miller thought we were living in this so-called, imaginary unicorn of a thing called “post-racial America,” which President Obama shot down this evening during his farewell address, which — also ironically — took place as Dance Moms was airing its new episode on the east coast. (Yes, I watched that before picking up the dvr remote and getting my reality tv fix. Because priorities.)
After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America. Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic. For race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society.
The first person to speak up about the sensitive nature of the ALDC’s group dance was dance mom Holly Frazier.
Yeah, that just makes me very nervous. Can you really convey the sensitivity of a complex issue like that without making a mockery of it?
As you might expect, Abby Lee Miller didn’t hear her out. But don’t worry, Holly! Your daughter will have the pressure of being responsible for the entire group’s success because she has a pivotal (typecast) role to play! Yay!
Wait. The real “girl, no” moment came (let’s all pretend to be surprised) when dance mom Jill Vertes got involved. After dance mom Camille Bridges — the only other Black dance mom in the room and a recent addition to ALDC — mentioned how terrible the South
is today used to be, dance mom Holly reiterated how sensitive the subject matter was. And in a move that should surprise no one because she is absolutely The Worst, dance mom Jill Vertes started talking over Holly about how the team was just “playing characters.” And the more Holly tried to get her point and her experience across in that moment, the more a white woman tried to silence her. Finally, Holly was able to speak up — because she had the strength, probably gained through experience, to not back down.
You know what, Jill? Until you are put in that situation, it’s easy to say ‘we’re just playing characters.’ There are certain characters which are just…it’s a little too close to home.
A surprisingly large portion of the conversation in Dance Moms 7×07 came back to this point. Admittedly, I wish there had been more – -especially because Holly and Camryn did such a good job of laying down facts, no matter how much Jill may have tried to gaslight them — but perhaps it just took the one powerful chance to “get deep” on the bleachers, as dance mom Holly called it, to plant the seeds of change.
— Holly Frazier (@DanceMomHolly) January 11, 2017
While the ALDC learned their group dance, the dance moms were uncomfortable. Camille and Holly were concerned about the backlash they’d get for letting their daughters, Camryn Bridges and Nia Sioux Frazier, be maids. After all, it’s 2016; they don’t need to be maids anymore. (Tell that to some of the twitter eggs dropping racist garbage all over the place.) But dance moms Ashlee Allen and Jill Vertes were worried about their own daughters because “no one likes to be typecast.”
Ok, I’ll give them that. But then…Then, things got so bad that I had to pause and take to twitter for some jokes. Like, actual jokes. Not, “I think it will be funny because we can laugh at it. We can laugh at the exercises,” as dance mom Jill said regarding the group dance. She actually said that.
I think we’re taking this a little too lightly.
So, some of the dance moms (guess which ones) thought that the concept of racism was outdated. Even when dance mom Camille Bridges explained what it was like, living in the very racially-divided Missouri, dance mom Jill just couldn’t wrap her head around the idea. Camille shared that she lived in a 90% white county, complete with a 95% black city. And Jill couldn’t understand how that was considered segregation. Gaslighting 101, people: Tell someone their experience isn’t real. Deny, deny, deny. Ask leading, yet incredibly stupid, questions. Such as: “Are you not allowed to live on the other side?” Camille’s answer:
They will run you off.
Jill looked incredulous. I needed aspirin.
Is Jill the type of person who sees Black Lives Matter protests and thinks “wow, why are those people protesting? Why are they tearing up their cities” instead of “wow, what we’ve put these people through is wrong. I should get out there and support them” or whatever? I’m betting yes. Those people have probably never had to worry about their unarmed loved ones getting killed by police for minor offenses — if any at all — like Michael Brown, Tamir Rice (wow, a toy gun in an open carry state! So dangerous!), Trayvon Martin, and countless others have been. And, as Dr. Holly Frazier, Ed.D, described it so eloquently, they’ve never had to worry about being treated like thieves when shopping.
You’ll probably never worry about going to a store and having somebody following you around and asking you, ‘do you need help? Do you need help with that’ because they think I’m stealing something. But that is my life. And that is my experience. And because it is, I have to raise my kids to know that is going to be their life, and that is going to be their experience as well.
Holly also went on to say that the entire situation made her feel like she was back in grade school, when the entire class would turn to her during discussions of slavery.
Imagine living like that because of the color of your skin, Ashlee, and then worry about whether or not your white skin causes people to assume you’re a racist. At least Holly thought the conversation turned out to be productive in the end. To be fair to dance mom Ashlee, she did seem genuinely affected by what Holly had to say; but I’m not sure that I can say the same for Jill. That drawn out “woowwwww” or whatever and complete refusal to wrap her head around the issue had me like:
And then there was this:
We would never know that.
It’s all because of the color of your skin? Is that what you’re saying? All? No matter where you are, who you are, what you are…
Seriously. Turn on something other than Fux Newz, even.
Also, Jill didn’t get off the idea of the group dance being funny or whatever until after, you know, the ALDC won…but I’m getting ahead of myself. As I do.
Where was I? Oh, right. This is Dance Moms 7×07. I guess I should talk about dance drama. It was the usual. I really don’t think it has any place in this discussion, but since y’all watch Dance Moms season 7 for other reasons, here’s a basic rundown:
- Abby Lee Miller needed the group dance to have six dancers, but she didn’t think that Elliana Walmsley, Lilliana Ketchman, and Maesi Caes were the right dancers for the subject matter. So, she brought Daviana Fletcher back for the week. No word in Dance Moms 7×07, despite much drama following the competition, on whether Abby would make Daviana a permanent part of the ALDC again or not. Considering she’s back so soon after being dumped, I’d guess the odds are decent.
- Lilly was completely benched for the week, while Elliana and Maesi worked on a duet. Mama drama ensued. Biggest pointless mama drama: Yolanda Walmsley brought up Jaime Caes’ jokes about Abby Lee Miller’s potential trip to the slammer…and then couldn’t fathom why that made the ALDC’s fearless leader so upset. Gee, I wonder. If Jill Vertes wasn’t The Worst, Yolanda totally would be. (Everyone’s replaceable, even The Worst!) Thanks to all of the crazy, Elliana and Maesi were scratched. Oh, and then Ellie had to apologize to Miss Abby for her mother’s behavior. I’m tired of Yolanda making that kid cry.
- During Brynn Rumfallo’s duet rehearsal, Abby talked about wanting her to have more strength. “This frail, little ballerina is not cutting it.” I felt so attacked…but not as attacked as the rest of the dance moms felt when Ashlee brought up the same, tired drama about finding the new face of the ALDC.
- Abby Lee Miller’s best bit was when she told Jaime Caes to back off and called her a bitch, then said Maesi Caes “needs to know what she’s living with.”
Nia needs to convey the voice of people who didn’t have a voice at that time.
- “Tango Para Tres,” specialty duet performed by Kalani Hilliker and Kendall K. Vertes.
I really have no idea about this whole “tango with an imaginary boy” idea or whatever, folks. And the gap in technique was obvious for most of the duet (if not in the one gif I could yank from the Dance Moms tag on Lifetime’s tumblr). Knees, feet, posture…standard things. I talk about all of that a lot, though, so let’s move on. Result: 2nd place teen duet. So much for the team with the K names being undefeated.
- “Snap That,” jazz duet performed by Brynn Rumfallo and Camryn Bridges. I didn’t expect this to work as well as it did, but here we are. Camryn and Brynn were actually well-matched as partners, probably because they’re both so technically strong. With that being said, that moment when I felt attacked by Abby because she talked about Brynn being the frail ballerina? I kind of saw what she meant when watching the duet. Brynn needs some muscle behind those limbs — especially the arms. The best thing about this duet, though, was actually seeing both dancers look like they were having fun. That doesn’t seem to happen much at the ALDC. Result: 1st place teen duet. Boom.
Before discussing the group dance, I’d like to share these words from Abby Lee Miller:
When the girls step on stage, I want them to do something that means something. It’s not to ever offend people, but you know what they say: ‘A well-behaved woman rarely makes history.’
- “Good Help Is Hard To Find,” ALDC group contemporary performance. Maybe it was knowing the story, having both read and watched The Help. Maybe it was from looking at the current state of America and thinking “no, really. Wtf” on a daily basis. Maybe it was having just heard Obama’s farewell speech…But watching the ALDC’s latest group dance made me a sobbing wreck. Honestly, even without all of those things, the performances by those dancers — who should all be very proud of themselves — would have been touching. Nia Sioux Frazier never had to worry about the pressure of the group’s fate being on her shoulders; she was absolutely amazing in her featured part at the end. It felt like the entire audience was holding its breath by that point, which doesn’t tend to happen and include total silence very very long at competitions. But when it does, you know something important has happened. Moments like these are what dance is here for. I often harp on the technique because that’s the most objective thing to discuss — and ok, bad feet REALLY bother me — but every so often, I’m reminded of Martha Graham’s wise words: “dancers are not great because of their technique. They are great because of their passion.” This group of six girls brought their passion. Every single one of them did, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t blown away by Nia. Result: 1st place overall group. Well done.
That’s it for our Dance Moms 7×07 recap. Join us for the next episode of Dance Moms season 7. We’ll probably be back to your regularly-scheduled wondering whether or not Ashlee owns a mirror. Because why else would she close out an episode by complaining about moms who fight with each other???
Yeah, Dance Moms 7×07 ended with that.1 of 1