By MIKE CHAIKEN
You say Abby Lee Miller to a young dancer and he/ she immediately knows who you are speaking about.
The Lifetime reality show, “Dance Moms,” is a pop culture phenomenon. It draws in viewers each week to see what the larger than life dance instructor is up to and has made stars of her competition dance company. It has spawned a series of spin-offs including “Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition” and the latest, “Raising Asia.”
Abby Lee Miller has become a brand name in the world of American dance. And Miller’s dance studio in Pittsburgh has become a mecca to ambitious young dancers, who want to see the television setting live and in person.
And from Aug. 14 to 17, a group of local dancers— who train with Triple Threat Dance in Wolcott and are members of the studio’s dance competition teams— had a chance to meet Miller and the dancers from “Dance Moms,” as well as learn from some of the best choreographers in America at “Only the Strong Survive: Abby Lee Dance Company Booty Camp.”
Southington’s Madison Yurgaitis, 15, and Morgan Perschy, 11; Wolcott’s Sarah Hull, 12; Ava Creto, 11; and Hailey Creto, 8, of Cheshire; and Ryan Rabuska of Waterbury, 14, all attended the boot camp in Pittsburgh, Penn. at Miller’s studio.
And were the young dancers fans of “Dance Moms” before the boot camp?
“Definitely,” said Madison.
“Love it,” chimed in Ryan.
“It’s the best show on earth,” said Ava.
So what was this boot camp all about?
Madison explained: “For four days, we did dance workshops with famous choreographers around the country and we got to dance with famous kids … all the famous dancers that you would see on Instagram who have thousands and thousands of followers— along with the girls from “Dance Moms” and the girls who dance at (Abby Lee Dance Studio) as regular competition students.”
Ryan said when the opportunity came to participate he wanted to take part “to get better at dance.” But there also was an ulterior motive. “I wanted to meet all the famous people.”
“I went for the experience and to meet all the people,” said Ava. “If you know me sometimes I just want to go and meet the people.”
“I wanted to go so bad because all I wanted to do was meet the people and dance there (at Abby Lee’s studio),” said Hailey. “It’s smaller on TV actually.”
“It was exciting to learn dances from choreographers you hear about all the time… to take classes with them was really inspiring and motivational and it really made me want to become a famous dancer,” said Madison.
All of the students from Triple Threat had a chance to meet the famous Abby Lee Miller.
But Ryan probably had the most unique and extensive encounter with the reality television star.
“After the first day, we had a Q&A with her,” said Ryan. After the Q&A, Ryan explained, “There was a big line for photos.” So he opted not to wait and opted not to meet Miller.
But on the last day of the classes, on a day when Miller was not supposed to be at the boot camp, Ryan found himself without anything to do because the one class underway was for girls only. So, he decided to get something to eat at the McDonald’s next door.
In the dance studio parking lot, said Ryan, “There was a car parked and Abby Lee was in it. So we looked over and she rolls down the window (and called him over). We had a whole conversation. She asked me if I liked the classes. She asked me if I had met some of the people. She was so happy I liked the classes.”
And before he left Miller, Ryan said, “We took a selfie.”
Hailey took part in a Q&A with Miller as part of the boot camp. And she asked what was it like to have the cameras around all of the time. Hailey said Miller told her it wasn’t always the best situation. “They just come right around with these large cameras into our dance studios and just start recording.”
The Triple Threat dancers also had encounters with some of the “Dance Mom” dancers.
Ava said she had a golden moment with Mackenzie Ziegler-Gisoni.
But Ava said the moment almost didn’t happen.
“I’m not trying to be rude but she didn’t want to take pictures with anybody. All of us asked but she was like, ‘No I don’t take pictures,’” said Ava.
“But on the last day we had a Rockette class and Mackenzie was dancing. And people kept standing in front of her (and getting in her way)… I decided to help Mackenzie and I was telling people, guys move back, move back.”
“And then our Rockette teacher was showing this video and me and Mackenzie were in the back looking at each other, ‘What’s the point of watching it if we can’t even see it,’” said Ava.
“Mackenzie went to the back and said to me, ‘Come over here, I can see it.’ I’m like, ‘I’m good.’ But Mackenzie said, ‘Come over here,’ and then she was like, “I like your top.” And then we took a picture.”
From then on, said Ava, “We were friends.”
Miller and the “Dance Moms” dancers were a definite attraction for the young dancers. But there also were other choreographers. And those encounters also brought smiles to the budding dancers.
“In one of the classes, a famous choreographer from Broadway, thought that I did well enough to ask me if I had an agent…. I don’t have an agent but he said he could get me an agent really quickly because I was a good enough tapper…. He told me I melted his heart like butter.”
Overall, the dancers felt the experience with Abby Lee Dance Studios was positive and hope to attend at next year’s boot camp.
“I liked the whole thing,” said Madison, “not only dancing with all of these famous people but doing it with all of your best friends.”