The Lifetime reality series premiered in 2011 and followed the Abby Lee Dance Company’s junior elite competition team as they rehearsed and performed rigorous new routines each week. Originally, the team consisted of Maddie, Mackenzie Ziegler, Nia Sioux, Chloe Lukasiak, Brooke Hyland and Paige Hyland. While the talented tots put their moves to the test, their mothers bickered about how to get their child to become a star.
Dance Moms originally ran for seven seasons through February 2017 and inspired several spin-offs, including Dance Moms: Miami and Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition. In March 2017, studio owner Abby Lee Miller announced that she was leaving the series amid ongoing legal troubles. Two months later, she was sentenced to one year and a day in prison, followed by two years of supervised release, after pleading guilty to fraud charges.
Abby’s ups and downs didn’t end there. In April 2018, she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and was ultimately left wheelchair-bound after several surgeries. However, the longtime dance instructor took her own advice and “saved her tears for her pillow,” making a triumphant return to an additional eighth season of Dance Moms in June 2019.
Before new students swarmed the Pennsylvania-based dance studio for season 8, original dancers Maddie and Mackenzie were ALDC favorites. Us Weekly confirmed in December 2015 that Maddie was leaving the series — and the dance studio she grew up in — as her career took off.
“Acting is something she’s really excited to pursue and [Maddie] is in high demand,” a source explained at the time following the young dancer’s impressive collaborations with Grammy-nominated artist Sia.
The Music star’s younger sister and their mom, Melissa Gisoni, departed the Lifetime show soon after. In a candid personal essay for Cosmopolitan published in June 2016, the mother of two opened up about the unexpected challenges that came with raising her kids in the spotlight. Though it was hard to leave the studio they loved behind, Melissa knew it was time to say goodbye.
“Dance Moms was really a great platform for my kids, but they were pretty much done with it,” she wrote at the time. “It’s the same thing over and over, week after week. My kids told me they didn’t want to do it anymore. When my kids aren’t happy anymore, I don’t care about anything else. It was also holding the kids back. … My kids are very happy. They miss the girls but they don’t miss the drama.”
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