This week the Abby Lee Miller Dance Company headed to Virginia to compete in Starpower's 25th anniversary event. The episode had all the usual occurrences: Chloe and Maddie were pitted against each other; teenage Brooke had a school dance and decided to leave the team; they performed a group dance; Maddie won; yadda yada yada, the moms were mad. Like last week, Christi (the mom with the utmost esteemed dance background) complained daughter Chloe's choreography was sub par. Who knows, maybe she's put down Fifty Shades of Grey and is now reading Doris Humphrey's The Art of Making Dances before bedtime. 


But the most frequent occurrence that needs a break is Maddie's dance face. Like Zoolander's omnipresent Blue Steel look, Maddie's dance face never quits. In interviews, rehearsals and everyday life, Maddie is a natural and adorable 9-year-old. On the stage, she has two faces: a smile with puppy dog eyes and a kissy face that looks similar to Zoolander's. She is hands down the most talented dancer on the show (sorry Chloe)—she's fearless, flexible, strong, intelligent and she shines on stage. But those faces! My advice for Maddie: Stop "acting" so much and just be a normal girl.


But this mugging issue isn't only affecting Maddie. Take it from principal Pennsylvania Ballet dancer Julie Diana: "Inauthentic stage presence—whether it involves a bunch of awkward faces or a single stiff, pasted-on smile—is one of the most common problems plaguing young dancers." So what are a few tricks to nixing the faces?


- Keep dancers' casting natural

- Ask dancers to make their dancing a conversation. If they were regularly conversing, no one's face would look so crazy.

- Have students watch one another and notice each other's facial expressions.

-Don't choreograph specific faces. Let children figure them out, naturally


And there's many more! Read Julie Diana's full article, "Get Real." Help your students steer clear of Maddie syndrome and give authentic performances.


Photo: Looks like Christi is training Chloe in the elements of Blue Steel to prepare for their "Hunger Games" group routine. She certainly knows how to be vicious.  

Courtesy Lifetime Television

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