Monday, Apr 21 2014 05:41 PM

'Dance Mom' diva keeping Bakersfield dancers on toes

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    By Lifetime

    Tough-love dance coach Abby Lee Miller, one of reality TV's most polarizing personalities, is bringing her unique teaching style to a Bakersfield dance studio for "Abby's Studio Rescue."

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BY KELLY ARDIS Californian staff writer kardis@bakersfield.com

Tough-love dance coach Abby Lee Miller, one of reality TV's most polarizing personalities, is bringing her unique teaching style to a Bakersfield dance studio.

Taking a break from Lifetime's "Dance Moms," Miller is taking her spectacle on the road with a new spin-off series, "Abby's Studio Rescue," in which she'll help struggling studios around the country dance their way to competitive glory.

Miller and her crew have been in town about a week shooting an episode that will feature dance instructor Ephraim "E-Baby" Penn, who owns PennPoint Dance Academy on 18th Street, and his students. The visit culminated in a performance Monday afternoon at the Fox Theater, where about 200 people lined up to get inside.

A woman with the show's production company, who identified herself only as Amy, said the episode should air in June. She declined to give any further details and said Penn and others connected with the shoot have signed confidentiality agreements that will be in effect until after the show airs.

Miller has generated a love-her-or-hate-her cult following on "Dance Moms" with her cutthroat approach to instructing children, some as young as 8. Miller has taught dance for more than 30 years and on her show, which premiered in 2011, she motivates her dancers with a brutal honesty some might consider bullying. One choice quote from the season two premiere:

"Are you crying? No tears. You save those tears for your pillow, in your room, alone. You're going to humiliate yourself in front of everyone in this dressing room. Do not cry. Suck it up, kid. You are here, you're healthy, you are one lucky little girl. Act like it."

But one Bakersfield dance mom said her daughter had a great time under Miller's tutelage.

Gina Medina was interviewed before entering the theater to see her 13-year-old daughter, Raymie Juarez, perform -- and before being required to sign the show's confidentiality form.

"She was at practice all day yesterday," Medina said. "She didn't mind that she would be missing Easter."

Medina said she is proud of her daughter, who has been dancing with PennPoint for a couple of years.

"We got a little taste of how things would be if she was dancing professionally," Medina said. "It's a lot of practice, but she loves it."

Elsewhere in line was Kristi Wilkerson, who has been watching "Dance Moms" since it premiered. She heard about the performance through a friend and wanted to see the tough-as-nails teacher in person.

"She's got lots of dancers on Broadway," Wilkerson said of Miller. "Her method works. She has to be this way to challenge them." And with reality TV, "You gotta have drama."

Andrea Hansen, a dance instructor at Poise Pilates+Barre and a member of the Fox Theater Foundation board of directors, came out after hearing about Monday's performance on Facebook and invited her mother, Valerie Hashim, to accompany her.

Hansen said she's caught a little bit of "Dance Moms" on TV but she was mostly interested to see the behind-the-scenes aspect of the new reality show.

Hashim was familiar enough with Miller's show that the performance piqued her curiosity but said, "I wouldn't appreciate her yelling at my kids (like that)."

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