Even if you’ve never watched Dance Moms, you might be aware of the controversy around Abby Lee Miller, the dance instructor the Lifetime series focuses on. Back in 2010, shortly before premiere of Dance Moms, the choreographer filed for bankruptcy for owing around $400,000 in taxes. Last fall, she was indicted for fraud, because she hid assets, essentially committing bankruptcy fraud. While she only hid around $755,000, she could be fined up to $5 million, and face five years in prison.
Her legal team convinced the judge to extend the deadline for her response five times over the past few months. March 31st was the last time the deadline was extended, and federal judge made it clear she would be issued any further extensions. However, the May 31st deadline has come and gone, with Abby Lee Miller asking for yet another extension. On June 21st, her judge announced she was scheduled to plead guilty on Monday, June 27th. While we wait for that date to roll around, let’s look at how the Dance Moms star got to where she is.
The Abby Lee Dance Company
Abigale Lee Miller was born in Miami, Florida, in 1965. Her mother was also a dance teacher, so during her childhood, Miller studied dance and choreography. She developed a passion for choreography, preferring it to actually dancing.
When Miller was 14 and living in Pittsburgh, she created the Abby Lee Dance Studio. Later, she took over her mother’s studio, and renamed it Reign Dance Productions. While Reign Dance Productions focused on teaching teens and other young adults, Abby Lee Dance Company specialized in teaching dance and choreography skills to young children.
After several decades of working as a choreographer and instructor, Lifetime approached Abby lee Miller, because they were interested in producing a show with her. The show followed her taking her Junior Elite Competition Team through dance competitions, leading up to the National competition, but gave a special focus to the rivalry between the dancers’ mothers.
However, shortly before the start of the show, Miller filed for bankruptcy, to avoid paying nearly $400,000 in back-owed taxes. Her bankruptcy filing was successful, and at least for the time, she was absolved of the debt and free to pursue her new venture with Lifetime.
Dance Moms premiered on July 13, 2011. Set at her Pittsburgh dance studio, the show followed the instructor taking her pre-teen dance team through several competitions across the country, with each season ending with the relevant national dance competition. Reviews often credit the show’s success to the competitive attitude cultivated by Miller, especially how often she gets the mothers to fight each other.
While Miller has said that the atmosphere of absurd competitiveness was introduced by the show’s producers, that hasn’t stopped her from pushing the young girls. During the fourth season, tempers got so bad that a mom assaulted the dance instructor at a competition. Later that year, one of the girls left the competition because her mom felt Miller was being unnecessarily insulting. Another girl, Paige Hyland, sued Miller because of emotional distress. The lawsuit was dismissed, because the judge didn’t think Miller was doing anything more than what any other high-pressure dance instructor would.
Despite the controversy, the show has been a major success for Lifetime. There’s been several spin-offs, starting with Dance Moms: Miami and Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition. The Miami spin-off only lasted one season. Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition focused on a dance competition hosted by Miller. In 2014, Miller started yet another TV program, Abby’s Studio Rescue, where she and her team helped out various American dance studios. There was even a British version of the show, Dance Mums, which followed the same format as the original Dance Moms.
What’s Abby Lee Miller Doing Now in 2018 – Fraud Updates
On October 13, 2015, Abby Lee Miller was indicted by a grand jury on fraud charges. The charges allege she hid more than $755,000 in earnings from the IRS and bankruptcy courts. The earnings would have come from Dance Moms and its spin-offs, tuition for her other classes, and merchandise sales. The full indictment included bankruptcy fraud, concealment of assets, and false bankruptcy declarations. If Miller is found guilty, she would be fined $250,000 for each of the 20 charges, and sentenced to up to five years in prison.
Following a request from her lawyers, Judge Terrence McVerry allowed Miller to delay filing her paperwork in response to the charges. And again, until she’d requested and been given a delay, five times, eventually postponing the filing date to May 31st, 2016. It took almost a month after the delay had past for her judge or lawyers to give any public updates.
On June 21st, additional charges were filed against Abby Lee Miller. She was accused of violating a law against importing currency back in 2014, when she brought an unknown amount of Australian money into America. (The minimum the charges require is $10,000, and the court is asking her to forfeit $120,000, so it is likely that is how much money she brought into the country.)
After Judge McVerry released the updated charges and her scheduled plea, her lawyer, Robert Ridge, released their statement. She said that the past several months had been hard on her students, friends, and family, but that she was going to “accept responsibility for the mistakes [she] made,” making it clear she did plan to plead guilty.
However, Miller’s publicist, Sheryl Main, made it clear that Miller was planning on continuing her work, as a dance instructor, choreographer, and TV personality. Which is good, because Dance Moms is about to air the second half of their sixth season, though the exact premiere hasn’t been scheduled. While ratings dropped for Season 5, they picked back up during Season 6, perhaps due to the controversy around Miller. It’s unclear if the show will return for a seventh season, but it’s not ruled out. Depending on how the second half of the current season goes, and what the results of Monday’s hearing are, we might see Dance Moms next year.