'Dance Moms' preview third season at Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh

The show is called "Dance Moms," but make no mistake: The spotlight was on Abby Lee Miller.

Ms. Miller was front and center Tuesday night at the Rivers Casino, where more than 300 friends, fans and Rush Rewards contest winners gathered for a red carpet event in the grand ballroom.

The show -- featuring the bigger-than-life owner/head instructor of the Abby Lee Miller dance studio in Penn Hills -- follows the weekly reality TV show "sturm und drang" of a young competitive dance team and its outspoken moms. It is set in Pittsburgh.

Promo for season premiere of Lifetime's 'Dance Moms'

Lifetime released this promo for the Jan. 1 season premiere of the Pittsburgh-set "Dance Moms." (Lifetime video; 12/23/2012)

'Dance Moms' gather at Rivers Casino

The "Dance Moms" gather at Rivers Casino to talk about their Lifetime television show. (Video by Nate Guidry; 12/27/2012)

The first of three limos rolled up to the valet entrance of the casino around 6 p.m., and given the falling temperatures, the actual red carpet area was moved inside.

The Moms, in varying measures of sparkle, arrived first: Christi Lukasiak with Holly Hatcher-Frazier, Melissa Ziegler-Gisoni and Jill Vertes with Kelly Hyland. The kids were left at home, none of whom are even close to the legal casino age of 21.

At last, like a bride to the church, Ms. Miller made her entrance. The show is produced by Collins Avenue and broadcast on Lifetime, and it's a big hit for the cable network. Ms. Miller has since been given a second show -- "Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition" -- which is not only a testament to her star power, but to the continuing fascination certain reality television holds.

Cameras clicked amid the background cacophony of slot machine bells and pop music. Debbie Spisak of McKees Rocks happened to be at Rivers Casino with her husband and came to watch.

"I know [the show's producers] like to stir up a little bit of trouble, but I really just live to watch the girls dance," she said. "And, if you're going to watch a reality show, it might as well be one that's local," she said.

The party was part of a promotion to kick off the third season of the show, which was projected on big screens after photo ops, dinner and a toast. None of the subjects had yet to see the first episode ("I see the show when you see the show, so that's scary, seeing it together," Ms. Miller told a reporter).

But if form held, viewers knew they would be in for a night of tears and accusations, put-downs from Ms. Miller and who knew what else? The dance instructor and the Moms agree on one thing: They are constantly taken aback by the editing of the show, where a weeks worth of drama yields perhaps 43 minutes of programming.

"I'm not surprised to see things I say; I'm shocked to see things other people say [about me]," Ms. Miller said cheerfully.

Befitting her status, Ms. Miller was given her own little green room, where crudites, Merlot and a bottle of bubbly on ice awaited. Cast members were allowed to bring friends and family, and Ms. Miller's guests were two women she described as "wonderful dance moms."

Sandy Powers and Diana Corbett have known Ms. Miller seemingly forever. Both had children in dance, were involved in setting up trips, procuring costumes and raising funds, and now they work at the studio.

Accompanying Ms. Miller as she prepared for the meet-and-greet photo sessions at the casino, they laughed and said that life with Abby is always full of surprises. "It was that way, even before the show," Ms. Corbett added.

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Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG. First Published January 2, 2013 5:00 AM


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