“Kids should cry when their arm is broken and it’s hanging off or when somebody dies. That’s it,” says the ever-empathetic Abby Lee Miller on this week’s episode of Dance Moms. This one was a little difficult to watch. I guess a big Broadway casting agent coming to town really brings out the worst in people. Paige is made to do pushups because she’s scared to ask for a rubber band for her hair (I’d be scared, too!) Lil Mackenzie (still our fave) is yelled at for being too shy to sing in her Broadway audition. (Three cheers for the agent who tells off Abby Lee!) The moms get drunk (again). Everyone gets mad at Maddie for being ridiculously talented. (How dare she!) And Brooke is told to “Stop crying and run your dance” after she winds up with a giant lollipop stick up her nose. (Ouch!) This episode had me questioning whether to call social services to get those children out of there.
Speaking of giant lollipops… let’s talk about this Sugar Daddies choreography. Super cute, right? The only problem is that the props are twice as big as the girls, aren’t finished the night before and one is broken and unusable on the day of the performance. But don’t let this scare you away from props for good. There are ways to incorporate them gracefully. Here are DT’s tips:
* When working with younger students, you’ll need props scaled to little bodies—think short ribbons, small scarves, teddy bears or balls—instead of gargantuan boxes on sticks. Otherwise, the sky is really the limit, as long as the prop is safe and durable.
* Have props ready to go as far in advance as possible. Gluing fabric over lollipops the night before a performance is never a recipe for success. If kids have plenty of time to practice with the real deal, they’ll know exactly how heavy it is, and you can be sure that parts won’t come flying off as they dance.
*And don’t bring props that take an hour and a half to assemble on stage. Even if a competition doesn’t have a time limit, no one (especially the judges) wants to sit around and wait during an already too long day. And it just adds extra stress for your dancers.
* Keep a spare prop handy. If one prop goes missing or breaks on the day of the show, no dancer should have to go propless—even if they are as talented as Maddie.
* Don’t use props to distract from rough technique. Having a cool prop is not an excuse for dancers doing choreography that they just can’t handle. And remember, dancing only gets harder when there’s a prop involved.
* Use your props as much as possible in the choreography. Or else, why do you have them? And be creative. Challenge yourself to see how many things you can do with that prop—and hitting each other in the face doesn’t count.
And, as always, a quote to live by: “Abby got mad at the girls for the reading comprehension, but she always says, ‘Dance needs to come before school,’” says dance mom Melissa. “I kept saying, ‘Our kids don’t even go to school.’ They miss school all the time for dance.”
(Some tips based on “Play Ball” by Hannah Maria Hayes and “Dos and Don’ts for Competition” By Erika Jacobson)