NORTON: A Norton dance studio has pulled out of the national competition that will step off this weekend at the Akron Civic Theatre over a planned appearance by the team featured in the reality TV series
Wayne Betchel, of the Starmaker Performing Arts Center on Greenwich Road, said he withdrew his team from the Nexstar competition to take a stance against the show that follows the trials and tribulations of Pittsburgh’s Abby Lee Dance Company. Fights between the dance studio’s moms are common on the Lifetime show.
“Our issue is with the show … it’s a philosophical issue,” said Betchel. “In our opinion, the show intentionally portrays dance studios, owners and parents in a bad light, creating drama. And it’s a show, I get that, but it directly affects our industry using children and parents to create the drama.”
He said it saddens him to think that a child may not get a chance to grow up in a dance studio, have fun and pursue dreams because of parents seeing the reality show and figuring that’s what it’s really like.
Betchel has also turned to the Internet to voice his displeasure.
“[The show] creates drama for the sake of ratings and calls it ‘real,’ says a message on the Starmaker studio’s website. “It exploits children. It drives parents away that might have otherwise tried out a dance studio or a competition team. The show intentionally negatively portrays a profession that we know and love and uses parents and students to do it. Therefore we cannot support it in any way. As a studio, we will not go to any competition where the show will be filming.”
It was a week ago that Betchel learned that the reality show planned to tape the Akron competition.
Betchel said he met with the dancers and their families to discuss the decision.
About 700 dance students are in the club and about 35 were affected by the dance studio’s position to skip the competition.
“When we met to talk about the decision to not compete the first thing I thought about was the money, will we get our money back,” said 15-year-old dance student Lani Skelley of Akron, who said her family invested more than $200 in registration fees.
Lani, who has been dancing since she was 3 and has been a member of Starmaker for four years, was relieved to hear the money will be refunded.
“I’m not worried about missing out on the competition. I do feel bad for my younger teammates who are trying to build their confidence and won’t be able to compete this weekend, but there will be other competitions.”
Betchel said there are typically five to seven competitions a year for the team to choose to compete in.
The Akron competition begins tonight and runs from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The competition is organized by a Xenia-based organization that hosts events throughout the country.
Nexstar officials say they were not aware of any dance group withdrawing from the Akron competition over the appearance of the Abby Lee Dance Company.
“I do agree with [the] decision, that reality show frustrates me,” Lani said. “Our studio is nothing like that show. A lot of people don’t respect dance competition. I know people judge me because I dance. They don’t see the good things about it, just the bad things on TV.”
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or email@example.com.