'Dance Moms' Abby & Kelly's Legal Battle Shows the Darker Side of Lifetime's Series
Even when the show wasn't on the air, Dance Moms gave fans plenty of drama. In November of 2013, Paige and Brooke's mom Kelly Hyland was arrested for assault after Abby Lee Miller called the police on her, launching a legal battle between Kelly and Abby. Abby alleges that Kelly attacked her, following a heated exchange backstage at a dance competition in the Bronx, New York. During the fight, Kelly called Abby a bully, then accused Abby of trying to replace her daughters with a new dancer, Kalani Hiliker. Abby denied that was her plan and became increasingly enraged, eventually striding into Kelly's personal space, pointing her finger in her face and screaming. She also called Kelly a "dingbat," which is a great insult to use mid-fight because it's just so weird that it'll momentarily confuse your opponent and cause her to drop her guard.
The fight continued, and Kelly yelled back at Abby to get her finger out of her face. When Abby didn't back down, Kelly slapped Abby, pulled her hair, then slapped her again. After they broke apart, Abby said, "She's crazy," to which Kelly responded, "No I'm not crazy, she's eating my face." The fight lasted less than 90 seconds, and afterward Abby called the police.
Based on the video, it seems clear that Abby provoked Kelly by shoving her finger in Kelly's face and forcing her to step backward. But Kelly physically touched Abby — attacked might be too strong a word — so Abby may have the upper hand in her suit. Of course, all of the footage viewers saw has been edited for reality TV. What actually went down could be very different. The trial began in early May, and it's possible that whichever side feels the full, unedited video will benefit their argument could subpoena that footage as evidence.
Though the case has now been in court for several months, there's been little news about a possible verdict. Honestly, the fact that this trial has been inching along, clogging up our court system is pretty ridiculous. Kelly barely hurt Abby, and there was obviously no lasting damage. But the case continues to drag on, in part because on February 14, 2013, Kelly filed a countersuit against Abby and Dance Mom's production company, Collins Avenue Entertainment. That's right, we're getting two for the price of one, folks.
Kelly is suing Abby and Collins Avenue for $5 million because she alleges that she and her daughters "were mistreated on the show, their contract has been breached, and they have not been paid for the fourth season and were intentionally subjected to emotional distress—among other charges," according to The Hollywood Reporter. Kelly said that Paige even had to go into therapy because being in the Abby Lee Dance Company gave her anxiety, and that Abby's constant yelling and her demeaning rants caused Paige to have panic attacks. I'm right there with you Paige. Abby can be scary, and she's known for being overly harsh and often downright nasty.
Kelly's suit also includes several other allegations, including that the girls were overly-sexualized and that one dancer was "subjected to racial hostility." Those charges are much more difficult to prove (and while reprehensible, not necessarily illegal), but they certainly don't look good for Dance Moms or Lifetime. Neither does Kelly's most worrisome allegation: that one of ALDC's choreographers was "later charged with chid sexual assault and possession of child pornography." If that proves true, fans are going to be screaming for cancellation, and Abby's career may be over for good.
When it comes to the girls' treatment by Abby, the moms of Dance Moms are also responsible for what happens, considering they put their daughters on the show. But Kelly says she tried to pull Paige and Brooke out after Season 2, only to be told by producers that she'd be sued if she broke her contract. Well, Kelly's finally got her wish: none of the Hylands are in the Season 5 cast, though Kelly will make brief appearances, for which she has not been paid, according to Channel Guide Magazine.
In this situation, pretty much every adult involved is at fault. In the future, I'd suggest they take some legal council from one Tastee Jefferson.