During quarantine, I’ve found myself falling down a hole of activities with all the time I now have: baking tons of desserts, going on runs, teaching my dog how to play pattycake, and watching Netflix. However, after watching everything that seemed interesting on Netflix, I felt like I was lacking something. Passion. Drama. Tears and catfights. I was missing reality TV. So, just like many of you, I started rewatching “Dance Moms.” From Abby Lee Miller’s verbal abuse, to the girls dancing, and the Mama Drama, I realized that watching this show had brought some life back into me. That being said, everyone has their own ranking of each mom and daughter in their head, their own mental pyramid if you will, which determines whose side you’re on when there’s a fight, or whose daughter you feel most pity for. In this article, I am going to rank each of the OG Dance Moms, pyramid style.
At the bottom of the pyramid, we have Melissa Gisoni, mother of Maddie and Mackenzie Ziegler. Melissa is a different breed of stage mom, as all the other cast members are quick to point out. Not only has she been caught lying several times to get her daughter ahead (notice how I didn’t say daughters, plural), but she befriends Abby and frequently uses their friendship as leverage against the other moms and girls. As I pointed out, she lies and cheats to get her daughter Maddie ahead. One of her biggest flaws is that she literally forgets Mackenzie exists, and will do anything for Maddie to come out on top time and again, even if it means Mackenzie fails. During confessionals, Melissa has been caught several times saying, “I want what’s best for Maddie” or “my kid,” as if Mackenzie doesn’t exist. Because of this behavior, Melissa has enabled Abby to put Maddie on a pedestal and throw Kenzie in the dust. She also, in turn, boosted Maddie’s ego, making her one of the cockier dancers that not every girl was able to get along well with. One compelling storyline of the show was the time Melissa tried to sue the other dance moms for congratulating her on her engagement, as they were, “not supposed to talk about [her] personal life.” Her terrible attitude and her two-faced lying has earned her an esteemed spot of the bottom of the pyramid. At least now she’ll know what it feels like!
Next, we have Cathy Nesbitt-Stein, mother of Vivi-Anne Stein. Cathy is an icon in every sense of the word. Her “witty repartee,” as Abby calls it, makes the show that much more entertaining. Her quick comebacks, such as calling Christi Lukasiak a “disco ball,” calling the ALDC dancers “test crash dummies,” forcing the dance moms to get face lifts, and always making Vivi “a human prop,” make her appearances on the show memorable. However, she is the ALDC’s biggest rival, and often insults the girls’ appearances or dancing abilities, especially when it is uncalled for. She is extremely competitive and is always out to tear down the dancers, or poach girls from other studios to compensate for her own studio members’ inability to beat Abby. She also uses her dancers for revenge against Abby, who hates Vivi-Anne, instead of focusing on improving their technique, which is probably why the ALDC always wins. While Cathy has never failed to make me laugh, her animosity is unparalleled by that of anyone else in the show, landing her on the bottom row of my pyramid.
Jill Vertes. There’s a lot to be said about Jill, mother of Kendall Vertes. Her most famous catchphrase – “My little Kendall fits right in perfectly” – has culminated into her brand, which is always fighting for Kendall to get the best opportunities. At first, Jill was obnoxious; her stage-mom tendencies often got her to clash with the other moms, as they found her to be strikingly similar to Melissa. As the show progressed, and as Jill began to learn her place at the ALDC, she quickly became lovable and hilarious. One moment that sticks out to me as a viewer is when Jill throws a fit over Kendall’s dance costume, says she’s “sick of this” stuff, and curses out Abby and the moms, all while wearing a funky cowboy hat. As Christi Lukasiak notes, no one “could take her seriously while she was wearing that ridiculous hat.” Since then, Jill has had memorable scenes, like paying people to give Abby and Gianna massages to get Kendall private lessons, tangoing at the girls’ showcase and being crowned as a queen on stage, and begging Abby to let her (white) daughter play Rosa Parks in a dance instead of Nia Sioux (an African American). Jill is unforgettable, but not top tier, landing her the third spot on my pyramid.
On the second row, we have Kelly Hyland, mother of Brooke and Paige Hyland. Kelly is one of the funniest moms at the ALDC, always making jokes about Abby’s weight, her own body, and her experience being a member of the ALDC when she was a kid. She is quick to defend all of the under-represented girls against Abby or Melissa, even if it’s not her child. Kelly has stood up for Chloe Lukasiak, Nia Sioux, and of course, her own two daughters who were easily the most picked on. Her daughters were extremely talented, but always overshadowed by Maddie and Chloe, so Kelly and Abby clashed frequently. Her big blowouts with Abby have been over solos, costumes, unfair treatment, and sometimes nothing! Their hatred stems all the way back to high school when Kelly dated Abby’s crush. Kelly was outspoken her entire “Dance Moms” career, especially when Abby threw a chair at Paige. In fact, when Kelly left the show in Season Five, a lawsuit ensued for emotional distress. Another reason Kelly is one of the elite moms is because of her iconic friendship with Christi Lukasiak. The two never failed to complain about and call out Melissa’s cheating, and always took each other’s sides, leaving viewers to envy their friendship. Speaking for myself, when I’m middle-aged, if my best friend doesn’t stand up for my daughter or sneak out to go to a bar in the middle of a dance competition with me, I don’t want it. Her persistence to give her daughters the best possible opportunities while enduring Abby’s wrath is what puts her in the second row of my pyramid.
In second place, Dr. Holly Frazier, mother of Nia Sioux, is the most educated mother of them all. While the other moms focused completely on their daughters’ dance careers, Holly was balancing the hectic dance life alongside earning a doctorate from University of Pennsylvania and being a principal at a school in Pittsburgh. Because of her intellect, her comebacks are well worded and impactful. Some of my favorites include calling Abby “a monstrosity of evil,” telling Jill that she’s “entitled to [her] wrong opinion,” and telling someone who demanded she grow thicker skin that she “grew up in the Bronx, so [she’s] good.” Another aspect that no one really sheds light on is the amount of racism Holly and Nia faced from Abby. Abby told Nia constantly that she would only ever amount to ethnic roles or being the “token black” character in her career. When Nia had her hair corn-rowed, which Holly points out as a representation of their culture, Abby calls it ridiculous and ineffective. Holly carefully criticizes Abby for her close-minded perspective and always fights for Nia to be treated the same. So, not only is Holly caring, intelligent, and funny, but she is by far the most sane mother of them all, landing her the second spot on the pyramid.
And finally, at the top of the pyramid, is Christi Lukasiak, mother of Chloe Lukasiak. Many fans will agree with me when I say that Christi carried the show, and when she left, the show took a turn for the worse. Christi was lively, outspoken, and the first to represent the underrepresented. She always called Abby out for favoring Maddie, and sometimes even defended Mackenzie when Melissa wouldn’t. Though she got in the most fights with the other moms and Abby, it was for good reason. Her daughter, Chloe, was very talented, some say better than Maddie, but was never given the praise or chances like Maddie had. The moms all felt similarly that the favoritism towards Maddie was detrimental to all the other girls, and Christi was the poster child for this recurring issue. Aside from standing up for the girls, she and Chloe shared heartwarming moments that made viewers fall in love with their family. Chloe was often the recipient of Abby’s bullying, being called a “snake,” a “liar,” and a sore loser, even though Chloe was easily the most humble, respectful dancer. Christi and Kelly also provided lots of comedic relief together. My favorite moments of Christi include when she intervened between a crazy dance mom who called herself Black Patsy and Jill, who were about to get in a fight at a competition. She said this in a confessional following the outburst: “Jill was all like ‘Shut the **** up’ and Black Patsy’s all like ‘F’ Y’ALL’ and I’m just like ‘WOAH WOAH.’” The way she worded the event speaks volumes to her character and charisma. She was also one of the only moms to call out others for overreacting during dance competitions. In one episode, Cathy attacks Abby with a purse, and Christi is the first to call out the reason they are fighting as being ridiculous. Christi’s humor coupled with the show’s outrageous events made “Dance Moms” as entertaining as it was. For that reason, Christi reigns superior.
“Dance Moms” is quite the reality TV show. If you are bored out of your mind and would like to watch hissy fights, memorize good comebacks, and see adorable, kind girls dance beautifully, you can go to mylifetime.com and stream the entire show, all eight seasons, for free. Happy watching, dingbats!