11 things you probably didn't know about 'Dance Moms'

  • Lifetime's "Dance Moms" ran for eight seasons, but even big fans might not know these fun facts.

  • JoJo Siwa isn't a natural blonde, and Mackenzie Ziegler didn't really want to be a dancer.

  • The weekly "pyramid" segment took hours to film, and the dancers had to learn choreography quickly.

The stars' "base camp" was actually in a nearby doctor's office.

exterior shot of abby lee studio on dance moms
"Dance Moms" takes place in Pittsburgh.Lifetime

In a 2019 YouTube video on her channel, "Dance Moms" star Chloe Lukasiak said the girls spent a lot of the filming days hanging out on the top floor of a doctor's office.

When they weren't filming scenes at Abby Lee Dance Company studio, they'd go to this "base camp" across the road.

"That's where the tutoring room was, that's where a lot of the crews' offices were, that's where the interview rooms were, that's where we had lunch all the time," she said.

The show was initially pitched as a documentary.

Cathy dance moms
"Dance Moms" was originally supposed to be a six-week docuseries.Lifetime

According to another former cast member, Nia Sioux, the show was originally developed as a documentary series.

"It was supposed to be a six-week documentary, and obviously it turned into much more than that," she said in a 2018 YouTube video on her channel.

At the time, 9-year-old Sioux had already been dancing at Miller's Pittsburgh studio for about six years, and she eventually convinced her parents to let her do an open casting call for the show.

Abby Lee Miller isn't mentioned once in her prized student's memoir.

abby lee miller dance moms lifetime
Many of the dancers had complicated relationships with Abby Lee Miller.Lifetime

"Dance Moms" fans were strongly divided on their feelings toward Miller, the show's polarizing dance instructor. Her brash, demanding teaching style often led to intense confrontations with both her dancers and their mothers.

Maddie Ziegler, who was a clear favorite of Miller's throughout her run on the show, said it wasn't the easiest environment to be in.

"I was stressed at 11 years old, which shouldn't happen," the dancer told People in 2017.

To further distance herself from the "toxic environment" in the dance studio, when Ziegler wrote her 2017 memoir, "The Maddie Diaries: My Story," she didn't mention Miller by name in the book.

Ziegler told Cosmo in 2022 that she's "at peace" now after dealing with that as a kid.

The girls were required to perform each competition dance twice.

A screenshot of Nia doing a standing split as a child.
Nia Sioux performing on season two of "Dance Moms."Lifetime

In her 2018 YouTube video, Sioux explained that the girls had to perform their dance routine twice for each competition to provide the producers with enough raw footage for the show.

"Once for the judges, so that was the time where they could actually judge you, that was like for real," she said. "And then the second time was kind like the do-over so that they get the shots for camera."

Sioux even said the judges left the room for the second performance.

Ziegler said she's never seen a full episode of the show.

dance moms Maddie Ziegler
Maddie Ziegler was one of the biggest names to come out of "Dance Moms."Lifetime

In her 2017 interview with People, Ziegler said she's never watched a full episode of the show.

"We lived through it, so I feel like we don't have to watch it, and it was just so much drama that I don't want to see it again," she said.

Filming the pyramid each week took a while.

nia's photo on the top of the pyramid on an episode of dance moms
There's a pyramid segment at the start of most "Dance Moms" episodes.Lifetime

The "pyramid" scene, where Miller ranked the girls' previous competition performances, quickly became a hallmark of "Dance Moms" on seasons two through eight.

In her 2019 YouTube video, Lukasiak said the dance studio didn't use the ranking system before they started filming the show. She also said it took about two hours to film the segment.

"Imagine standing there for two hours listening to your dance teacher talk — and most of the time she's telling five out of six children how horrible they are," she said.

The show isn't scripted, but some parts were apparently dramatized.

moms chatting in the observation room on an episode of dance moms
"Dance Moms" wasn't a scripted series.Lifetime

Payton Ackerman, who appeared on the show for three seasons alongside her mother, Leslie, said the show wasn't scripted in a 2018 YouTube video on her channel, but it was heavily edited.

"Reality television isn't scripted, but it's not reality," she said.

The dancer said she and her mother were portrayed as villains from the very start of her time on the show and said she even received death threats.

"Things are set up," Ackerman said. "They never hand you a script, but all I can tell you is that they set up situations that might have not actually happened, which causes a reaction to something that happened that wouldn't have if they didn't set it up."

The girls had to learn their dances very quickly.

all the girls learning a group dance number with abby lee miller on dance moms
Each episode focuses on a different week of competition.Lifetime

The girls had to quickly pick up their weekly dance routines, sometimes learning choreography in a couple of days or mere hours.

Sioux explained in her 2018 video that they usually started on Wednesday, finished it Thursday or Friday, and competed on Saturday. And if the girls were performing in solos or duets, they'd have to learn multiple dances in that time frame.

"The shortest amount of time we learned a dance was right before we went on stage," she added later in the video.

JoJo Siwa started dying her hair blonde at a very young age.

jojo siwa dance moms
JoJo Siwa joined "Dance Moms" on season four.Lifetime

Before joining "Dance Moms" on season four, JoJo Siwa appeared on the spin-off series "Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition" in 2013. On season two, episode seven, she was picked to perform a Rapunzel solo dance where she had to wear a long blonde ponytail extension.

During the episode, the dancer revealed that she isn't a natural blonde.

"I have been dyeing my hair since I was 2, maybe 1 1/2," Siwa said on the show while her mother, Jessalynn, applied the hair dye. "I'm not a natural blonde, I'm actually a natural brown — I get brown roots — so I have to dye it so it looks like I'm a natural blonde."

The dancers were apparently a superstitious bunch.

moms getting their daughters ready for a dance competition on an episode of dance moms
The girls had a few rituals they'd do before performing.Lifetime

Like many athletes, Sioux explained in her 2018 YouTube video that the young dancers had several superstitions and preperformance rituals they followed.

"If your dance was number 22 it was like really good," she said, adding that it was considered the "lucky number" for the studio.

The dancer also said that they had a handshake they'd do before performing, and they always knocked on wood if they accidentally said something that could jinx them.

One of the Ziegler sisters didn't dream of becoming a professional dancer.

dance moms Mackenzie Ziegler
Mackenzie Ziegler is Maddie's younger sister.Lifetime

Mackenzie Ziegler spent six years on the Lifetime reality series alongside her older sister, Maddie. But the younger Ziegler wasn't as enamored with the dance world.

"Dance was always fun cause I got to dance with my friends," Mackenzie said on a 2021 episode of the "Pretty Basic" podcast. "But it was never something I wanted to pursue in life."

She said she never really wanted to do competitive dance, and that she even tried to quit to play soccer, but the producers denied her request to get out of her "Dance Moms" contract.

In 2018, Mackenzie also wrote in her book, "Kenzie's Rules for Life: How to be Happy, Healthy, and Dance to Your Own Beat," "I didn't feel like I was good enough — at least, not compared to everyone else."

This story was originally published on August 12, 2023, and most recently updated on November 1, 2023. 

Read the original article on Insider