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Under the Radar DVD of the Week: 'Dance Moms: Season 1'

Dennis King Published: August 7, 2012

This week, the oddest DVD to appear on release lists is:

“Dance Moms: Season 1”

Every queasy, embarrassing stereotype ascribed to desperate, pushy, backbiting “stage mothers” – not to mention tough-talking talent coaches – comes into play in the snarky but undoubtedly watchable reality TV series “Dance Moms,” whose 2011 debut season is due out on DVD Tuesday.

This Lifetime cable series is set in the hothouse environs of Pittsburgh’s famous (or notorious?) Abby Lee Dance Company, where a gaggle of gangly wannabe child dancers and their grasping moms train under the steely gaze of coach-choreographer Abby Lee Miller.

Much of the show’s focus falls on the demanding Miller, a diva who is many pounds past her prime dancing weight, as she pushes, berates, bullies and whips her waif-like young charges into shape. Miller’s stern tactics and her counseling of young dancers on body image issues and the need to appear sexy cranks up the show’s controversy factor by several notches.

And often competing for camera time with the coach and the dancers are a shrill cadre of preening mothers, who gossip viciously among themselves, second-guess Miller, cajole their would-be starlet daughters and generally make the spoiled  “Housewives of (pick a city)” seem downright genteel.

It all makes for a kind of train-wreck TV experience – uncomfortable to watch, but you can’t look away. That said, there are some potentially talented young dancers who tiptoe through Season 1. Some might even manage to carve out real careers in the dance world – if only their spotlight-hogging coach and grasping mothers will get out of the way.

“Dance Moms: Season 1” is not rated and runs 546 minutes on four discs. It’s being released by A&E Home Video.

- Dennis King