Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Stepping Away from the Drama 'Dance Moms' Alumna Focuses on Choreography for Lifetime Show

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Stepping Away from the Drama 'Dance Moms' Alumna Focuses on Choreography for Lifetime Show

Article excerpt

Gianna Martello probably knows Abby Lee Miller better than anyone. As an alumna of the famed Penn Hills studio that is now featured on Lifetime's TV show "Dance Moms," she has spent 20 years with the often brash reality star who helped her transform from a student into a teacher and choreographer.

But even though the 27-year-old Pittsburgh native is a member of the television cast and actually choreographs the dance routines, most people don't recognize her. Unlike the show's other volatile personalities, she is subdued and even-tempered, preferring to avoid the drama and concentrate on the dance.

So what's it like to work alongside the formidable Ms. Miller?

"It's crazy," she admits. "But despite what people see on TV or what people think of her, she's great to work with. She's demanding, but I grew up with her. I kind of know what she's going to say now before she says it."

Ms. Martello freely acknowledges that it isn't your average competition dance studio, where the team perfects one routine over the course of a year. These dancers learn different routines every week, actually in less than two days, since the producers want fresh material for TV viewers.

Although it is seen for 10 minutes or less per episode, the infamous "Pyramid," in which Ms. Miller ranks the girls according to their performances the previous week, takes a day to shoot.

"It's very fast-paced," Ms. Martello says. "And despite the fighting and the nonsense, it's actually really fun."

Even though she has little solo screen time, Ms. Martello feels she makes a difference on the show. She joins Ms. Miller for the weekly creative meeting with the producers and helps her decide who will be featured based on the previous week, although the producers also make suggestions.

Ms. Miller outlines what she's looking for, and together the women pick the music and costumes. Then Ms. Martello will go into the studio and "run with the idea." After a brief discussion and sometimes a few tweaks, they arrive at the final product. …

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