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Recap: ‘Abby’s Studio Rescue,’ We’re In The 21st Century Edition

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Recap: ‘Abby’s Studio Rescue,’ We’re In The 21st Century Edition

If Abby Lee Miller faced a challenge last week with a wimpy, anxiety-ridden studio owner, “Abby’s Studio Rescue” showed the tougher side of the famous dance instructor in its second episode on Lifetime. Norine, the studio owner, was successful years and year ago, but is trapped in her own past.

Just in case anybody forgets that Norine was a dancer and choreographer for lots of television shows and other things 25 years ago, West Coast Dance Theatre in Northridge, California still sports (and uses) record players for some of their music and has an outdated look that would make most people avoid the front door. And her choreography shows her age.

Let me tell you, after she survives Abby’s remake of her studio, Norine needs to sign herself up for “Hoarders.” If that’s what her office looks like and it’s visible to the public, can you even imagine her house? Ugh. Gives me shivers.

The dance studio was hot 20 years ago, but classes have dwindled from 150 students to 50 because the owner refuses to enter her dancers in competitions. She says she doesn’t believe in competition teams, but it’s abundantly clear she doesn’t believe in herself or her dancers either.

“I do not participate in competitions. I never have. I never will,” Norine brags, like it’s a good thing. NOT. She knows she’s in a mess, she just won’t admit the cause of it.

“If somebody doesn’t come in and help, this studio is going to close,” Norine says before Abby arrives. “I’m in desperate need of help. Absolutely, I need help.” Unfortunately, she doesn’t actually mean that she WANTS help. She just wants to bitch about needing it.

Her students want to compete. Her dance instructors and choreographers are ready to quit because there aren’t enough students in the classes. The parents are angry she hasn’t properly maintained the property or kept her choreography up to date.

“Norine is stuck way back in the past… we’re in the 21st century,” instructor Jennifer explains. That doesn’t explain the record player, but maybe she believes in teaching the dancers about history as well as dancing.

Abby Lee Miller’s arrival on the scene generates mad excitement for everybody, for a few minutes. Even though Abby starts out by busting on Norine for the tiny number of dancers there in front of the whole crew (that’s Abby’s MO – embarrass your ass into doing the right thing), at first Norine plays along.

“Do you want my help? Are you going to listen to me?” Abby challenges her.

“Abby, I respect you. I admire you. I will always listen to anything you have to say. And yes, I will accept your help,” Norine declares. But she doesn’t mean a word of it.

The moms are immediately concerned because Norine doesn’t take criticism well. Which means the studio tour next was a complete disaster.

The studio is a filthy, giant, fire hazard. Norine’s own office looks like a bad episode of “Hoarders” combined with “My Strange Addiction.”

“Who EVER is going to wear these big ugly tap shoes?” Abby holds up a pair of while patent leather monstrosities that date back to Ginger and Fred. They were probably faves of Norine in her heyday based on the look on her face.

While they tour, Norine doesn’t respond to Abby’s feedback.

“The fact Norine hasn’t said a word is telling – she’s been in denial for years. If Norine doesn’t listen to me and take my suggestions, West Coast Dance Theatre will be a memory of the past,” Abby says.

She needs to have a competition team to make her studio regain a decent reputation, but she’s not willing to budge.

“Nobody teaches technique better than I do!” Norine declares. “I don’t need to be judged.”

“Life is a competition. You are competing against every studio in this town… your way is no longer the best way… times have changed and it’s time that you change,” Abby blasts her.

“Norine is so old school. I can’t believe how she lives in the past…. This studio is about to go under,” Abby doubts her ability to change Norine, not the studio. “I have a feeling [fixing things] is going to be nothing but an uphill battle.”

Frustrated with the facility and its owner, Abby checks out the actual dancing taking place at West Coast Dance Theatre.

“I’ve seen Norine’s outdated mess she calls a dance studio. But now it’s time to see what type of dancers she’s actually producing,” Abby says. “I think Norine is going to be very sensitive about her choreography.” Thanks you Mistress of the Obvious. She was offended Abby didn’t like her tap shoes, criticism of her teaching is going to set this lady off.

And, as we all expected, Abby tears apart Norine’s girls’ performance.

“You gotta open your mind up, I’m telling ya,” Abby announces. “Norine cannot produce a competition routine that can win.”

When she starts talking to the dancers and the moms, all hell breaks loose.

“That’s my Maddie,” Norine says about a new girl who is a threat to the other moms, and everybody starts attacking everybody else. The little girl they’re fighting over sobs while Norine holds her. Play favorites much, Norine?

“I’ve got news for Norine. There’s plenty of competition going on right here. Too bad it’s the moms,” Abby says. “Norine, this stuff happens because you allow it to happen.” Yep, it’s another famous public lecture. Abby announces that she’s “taking control.” Everyone is thrilled – except the studio owner.

“She was hot stuff 25 years ago… maybe she’s too old school,” Abby says in interview. We’re all thinking it’s time for Norine to retire.

“Is everyone up for this challenge?” Abby asks. And the instructors and parents and kids cheer. And then Norine-the-buzzkill speaks up.

“I don’t believe that,” Norine tells them all. What a lousy leader. OMG.

At my company, our crew has a joke from “Bob the Builder.” On particularly challenging days when it’s hot and sticky and things aren’t going well at a wedding setup, somebody will randomly yell out the question “Can we do it?” Without exception, everyone within earshot responds – enthusiastically – “Yes we can!”

Without that kind of attitude, Norine is sunk. Actually just seeing that makes me wonder whether Abby can help her. You can slap paint on the walls and create a new updated logo for the dance studio, but if Norine isn’t willing to admit that she sucks, everything will return to status quo as soon as Abby leaves. Doesn’t matter how well the showcase goes if Norine isn’t truly invested in change.

Abby’s ready to review the routines and then clear the building so she can get it fixed up overnight. Maybe cleaning out Norine’s past will help move her into the future. This woman is still showing the original tapes of the first shows she choreographed 25 years ago. She has garbage everywhere. I don’t know why any parent would use that dance school unless they couldn’t afford anything else. YouTube is free. And cleaner.

The hip hop number impresses Abby and she gives tips to Jennifer for the solo routine she’s choreographing, but Norine isn’t open to constructive-criticism. At all.

“Abby, no one changes my choreography… now if you can remove yourself from the rehearsal so that we can continue,” Norine tosses Abby out of the studio. Hold up, wait a minute… is this the same woman who was BEGGING for help and sooo committed to the rescue by the woman she respects and admires? Methinks Norine is tripping over her own outdated ego. #sorrynotsorry

Abby’s ready to walk out.

“All I get from Norine is resistance,” Abby complains. So she builds her personal army by talking with the moms about what’s wrong with everything going on. Dirty pool, but it might work. It’s the moms who pay the fees after all, and they’re not happy. Norine’s constant insistence that she doesn’t believe in competition is killing her business.

“Competition… it’s not a religion. It’s part of your business,” Abby lectures her.

The studio reveal is good. Repaired floors, fresh paint, she even passes out t-shirts with the new logo to everyone. The students are proud to call it their studio for a change.

“She has a great space right now. She just better keep it that way!” Abby warns. She even installed a trophy shelf in Norine’s office as inspiration. Her hope is that Norine will stop holding her students back.

Too bad Abby couldn’t update Norine’s 1980s hairdo while she was at it. And that outfit she wore for the big showcase probably would have looked appropriate on her 20 years ago. This lady needs to dress her age but embrace the current trends. Clearly, she’s struggling with both.

The showcase was pretty good – I definitely liked the hip hop number best. The little Asian kid with the Mohawk was adorable. The audience was entertained.

While the studio owner is basking in the glow of the applause, Abby puts Norine on the spot on stage asking if she’s ready to start a competition team and all she’ll do is commit to “thinking about it.”

Seriously? For real? With a whole roomful of potential clients sitting there, you won’t commit to the one thing ALL of these future professional dancers want? Just shook my head at that one.

But it turns out Abby has already entered them in a local competition in three weeks just to spite Norine, and to help the kids and the studio. Abso-freaking-lutely hilarious.

Not a damned thing that woman could do except be gracious about it on stage. Let’s just hope that Norine can hold it together for three whole weeks and won’t back out before the competition. I’m not betting on them actually competing.

“Only Abby could have done this,” Norine finally says, being nice about everything she’s been so resistant to for the past four days.

I agree – because I wouldn’t have been able to deal with the whiny, boo-hooing studio owner for that long. Abby didn’t smack her when she deserved it. I’m a little disappointed because I was hoping it would knock Norine off her boat on the River De-Nial… but Abby maintained her professionalism throughout the entire studio rescue. Even when Norine didn’t deserve her respect.

I’ll declare this show a winner for Lifetime – I’d watch it again. Love that it’s created so we don’t lose too much if we miss an episode, but after you catch “Abby’s Studio Rescue” on your TV, you’ll probably go to the web to get caught up on the ones you’ve missed.

Sandy Malone is a reality TV star, expert wedding planner, and internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast's BRIDES and The Huffington Post, in addition to Monsters... read more
Sandy Malone


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