Over the summer I swapped the hard wooden chairs of the Rad Cam for the far more welcoming embrace of my sofa; where I stoically ploughed through 2 seasons of the amazing and wonderful world of Dance Moms. If you haven’t yet watched it- do. Its a life changing experience.

I love it so much not just because of the drama of the ‘moms’ hemorrhaging at the thought of their special darlings not getting to perform a solo, or the thrill of watching dancers like Ava be criticised to the point of tears about the length of their arms. Subliminally, I think I love it because Dance Moms is actually a carefully constructed metaphor, designed for Oxford students to consume. It is obviously made to give us something to relate to; to feel comforted by. In fact, VERSA is currently undergoing investigations to find out if the Abby Lee Dance Company is in fact funded by the Chancellor. Perhaps this is the reason they could not afford the cost of removing the Rhodes statue?

So stick with me, as I laboriously hammer home the point: Dance Moms is Oxford.

Your tutor= Abby Lee Miller. Abby Lee Miller charges into the Dance Studio, often 15 minutes late. She isn’t interested in her students. Teaching them pays the bills, but she has other interests like writing her book or managing her more experienced students. Sound familiar?

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“Your essay is 5 minutes late?”

Essay is set. Abby Lee Miller then tells the girls what dance they will be doing this week. It is often a traditional lyrical routine. The Dance Moms complain that they need to decolonise the curriculum perform different dances, like jazz numbers and contemporary routines. Abby Lee ignores them.

Essay reading and writing. The girls are given a mere three days to learn and perfect complicated choreography for an upcoming dance competition. This seems ridiculous. Surely this is not enough time? Some of the dancers arrive early to the studio and perfect their routines, putting hours and hours into it. Abby loves these dancers. Others faff about, arrive late and give rehearsal a half arsed attempt- just so they can secure a place in the top 5 at the competition. They don’t care about getting a 1st…dance_moms_grupo_elite_junior_temporada_4_episodio_27

Extra- curriculur activities. Nia decided to start a music career alongside her dance studies. Abby is horrified and tries to undermine it at every turn. Dance comes first, she reminds her.

Tutorial– The girls perform their dances. Even if they win or get a perfect score from the judges, Abby tells them that its not good enough and that they need to work a lot harder. Some of the girls cry. Abby Lee tells them to suck it up. Empathy is not in her vocabulary.

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We’ve all been there…

Post tute. Pyramid. Abby ranks the girls according to how successful they were in the competition. This pits the students, who are in a team, against each other. They begin to work in private, they do not help each other. An atmosphere of distrust and suspicion is created. Abby Lee is oblivious to the scars she is leaving on the children. She sets the next dance. The cycle begins again, ad infinitum.

And so it seems clear. While you may have thought that you were watching an entertaining show on American network TV, you were actually looking through a window into the world of Oxford. There is a bit of Maddie, Mackenzie and Kalani in all of us, really. Maybe series 8 will just be continuous footage of a mirror? Whatever happens, I know that I will be watching, with a song in my heart and a smile on my face.

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