Dance Moms season 7, episode 19 recap: Dancing for trans youth


LOS ANGELES, CA – JULY 01: Choreographer Laurieann Gibson arrives at the 2012 BET Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on July 1, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Maury Phillips/Getty Images For BET)

In Dance Moms Season 7, Episode 19, Laurieann Gibson used her choreography to highlight the personal struggles of transgender youth. But the moms tried to steal the spotlight with their fighting.

After a quick reminder from Jill Vertes that Christi Lukasiak was, like, totally mean to her in last week’s episode, “All Shook Up” rekindled a beloved (hated) Dance Moms tradition: Pyramid.

Laurieann Gibson isn’t Abby Lee Miller, though, so instead of using a pyramid shape and calling the weekly ranking by its actual name, she made the tradition her own. It’s “The A-List” now, so dancers’ headshots get to be arranged in the shape of a letter A!

Most positions were explained in terms of how much harder Laurieann Gibson wanted the dancers to work, and there was your typical nonverbal commentary from the peanut gallery. Holly Frazier had a particularly disgusted look on her face when Maesi Caes’ supposed “black sheep” status reared its ugly head…But that frown did the world’s fastest flip upside-down when none other than Nia Sioux Frazier found herself at the top of the



More from Entertainment

Oh, and in case anyone really doubted this, Laurieann told everyone she wanted to win. Because coming on Dance Moms to lose is totally every professional’s goal.

Next, Laurieann announced that the ALDC’s upcoming competition would be in Fresno, so Jaime Caes took us on a trip down Fresno Memory Lane:

"Fresno has a curse. I had scissors in my face and was called the B word."

After announcing that Kalani Hilliker and Brynn Rumfallo would be this week’s soloists, Ms. Gibson began to talk about the very real issue this reality TV dance team would take on: the hardships faced by transgender youth.

"They are transgendered, and they are ostracized. But they’re human."

Because of the very serious nature of its subject matter, the minis were not selected to be in Laurieann Gibson’s group dance for Dance Moms Season 7, Episode 19.

Predictably, the mini moms were not impressed.

Stacey Ketchman called the whole thing “a waste of time,” while Yolanda Walmsley made a complete nuisance of herself. First, she tried to talk to the choreographer about how much she had given up to be on Dance Moms.

Because that always worked sooooo well with Abby Lee Miller?

It was around this time, especially thanks to Camille Bridges’ interruption of Yolanda’s complaintfest, that Laurieann Gibson started to need some of those thoughts and prayers we requested in our spoiler post.

When Laurieann dismissed her, Yolanda tried a different method: Emotionally blackmailing Ellie, who has a gender nonconforming friend, into sharing her story with Ms. Gibson. As is usually the case, Ellie was in tears while begging her mother to just leave the situation alone; but when Yolanda wouldn’t shut up, Elliana asked her mom to tell her exactly what to say.

Ellie used Yolanda’s script to tell Laurieann about her friend, so the choreographer decided to add her to the group. But then Stacey was so supportive of her daughter’s teammate that she ratted Yolanda out for telling Ellie what to say.

Insert screaming match between Stacey and Yolanda here. Everyone’s a liar, and let’s decide who’s the bigger “B word!”

This, dear drinkers of Haterade and hate-lovers of all things Dance Moms, was where Dance Moms Season 7, Episode 19 went off the rails.

"But do you hear how cuckoo for cocoa pebble pops you sound?"

(Laurieann totally doesn’t know her cereal slogans, which is kind of depressing.)

Now, remember: Laurieann Gibson’s here, trying for some redemption after a major loss and smartly using the television platform to bring a voice to the trans community. Naturally, that means this is the time for Stacey Ketchman, a psychologist, to make jokes about one of her rival having Dissociative Identity Disorder.

I hate Yolanda Walmsley as much as the next viewer, but did we really have to go for stigmatizing mental illnesses here? I’m not here for that.


Stacey and the other dance moms’ “jokes” about Yolanda’s three inner you-know-whats prompted Yolanda to start screaming at Lilliana Ketchman and Maesi Caes. Lilly and Maesi were the other two children not selected for this week’s group dance, so Yolanda thought that her argument with Stacey was a good reason to badger them about bullying and excluding Ellie.

…they weren’t. If anything, Yolanda was the one bullying Ellie. The kid was, for the second time in Dance Moms Season 7, Episode 19, begging her mother to stop.

Spoiler alert: Her mother didn’t stop. Yolanda just made matters worse. So did Stacey.

Out the door Yolanda and Ellie went, and Stacey stormed after them when she heard about what Yolanda had done to Lilly. The two moms came to blows after screaming incoherent nonsense at one another, and then the rest of the moms came out for our “Dance Moms Loitering In Parking Lots” segment (so happy it’s back) so they could have prime seats for the fight of the year.

Or, well. All of the moms did the parking lot shuffle except for Camille Bridges:

"I want to go out there, too. But I’m going to watch the kids."

(Amazing! Someone’s looking out for the children!)

The next day, the dance moms returned to the parking lot.

Excuse me while I do 100 pirouettes to celebrate the return of my favorite not-at-all staged scenes.

Stacey was busy loitering in her car during rehearsal, but the rest of the moms came to remind her that if she didn’t shape up and accept Yolanda’s fake apology, Laurieann Gibson might leave.

Now, how that was a reminder, when Stacey didn’t hear the original words from Laurieann, is beyond me. Don’t think about it too hard.

Now, back to your (far more important) Dance Moms Season 7, Episode 19 message.

Laurieann Gibson thought that, given all of the drama, she needed to bring the dancers’ focus back to the transgender youth discussion. Earlier, she had described how Camryn Bridges would be playing a transwoman.

At the time, Laurieann had used male pronouns, which was a little bit off-putting. Typically, someone making a male-to-female transition wants to be referred to with the pronouns that fit her identity. Because Laurieann’s entire inspiration for this piece was her experience working with actual trans youth, though, I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt.

Perhaps Laurieann was describing what the other dancers in her piece saw, rather than how the lead character felt?

Or maybe Ms. Gibson was just so “shook up” from all of the drama that she couldn’t get her words together.

Maybe if she borrows Holly’s utterly amazing “I can’t even shirt” next time, she’ll feel better.

The most important words didn’t come from Laurieann Gibson, or a dance mom, or even a dancer, though: They came from Rocco Kayiatos, who according to Laurieann, was “actually living this fight.”

As a transgender dancer, Rocco said his wrestling with identity was particularly awful. He felt like he was in a foreign body, yet dancers rely on using our bodies to express ourselves so often.

"Imagine what it must be like to be trapped in this shell that doesn’t represent you."

Some of the dancers asked Rocco questions about when and how he’d known who he was, and even dance mom Holly asked where others who may be going through something similar to Rocco’s experience might fight a sympathetic ear. Rocco mentioned The Trevor Project and other organizations, and he said it’s up to the younger generations, who “embrace difference,” to fight for acceptance.

Before the ALDC departed for Fresno, Rocco had one more message for the kids:

"…no one chooses to be trans. And no one chooses to be gay, or lesbian, or bisexual."

With bathroom laws like the one that didn’t really get a repeal in North Carolina, and 45’s recent signing of a transgender ban for the U.S. military, here’s hoping Dance Moms Season 7, Episode 19 managed to let Rocco’s voice be heard by at least one person who needed it…even with everything else that went down.

Maybe that person was Dance Moms‘ own Jill Vertes, who looked like she’d been force-fed a particularly sour lemon when the conversation began but later called Rocco brave and an inspiration.

Dance Moms Season 7, Episode 19: Competition day.

Did everyone catch Jill’s princess wave when she stepped off the bus? I think she thought that crowd went to Fresno to see her? Bless her heart.

Anyway. Solos first!

  1. “The Trip,” jazz solo performed by Brynn Rumfallo. Brynn, honey. I adore you? But please, be sharper. Jazz doesn’t work when your arms and legs are wet noodles. That’s to say nothing about the sloppy standing knee on those closing turns or the awkward positions in those leaps, either. Result: Brynn didn’t place, but she thought she deserved to because she “literally couldn’t have done anything better.” Honey, no.
  2. “Savage,” open solo performed by Kalani Hilliker. Blah, blah. Not going to be sixteen forever…stepping stone to professional gigs. Ok, after that awkwardly taped segment was out-of-the-way, it was time to see Kalani take on a completely different character from her usual Dance Moms solo — but still move like butter with beautiful lines. Savage butter, mind you, but butter just the same. Amazing. Result: Second place. The butter was, apparently, not savage enough.

Back in the dressing room, Laurieann Gibson called Byrnn’s solo “magical” before shading lyrical. Let’s not do that, ok?

Then, before the group performance, Laurieann had the chance to remind the dancers what they were dancing for:

"We’re dancing for transgender youth, who do not have the opportunity, sometimes, to speak up with what they’re going through. So, let’s be inspired by the real community that we are representing. These are real people with real questions for their entire life."

Putting the reality in reality tv.

  1. “Q,” ALDC LA contemporary group dance. Camryn Bridges should be very proud of herself, given the amount of wet stuff coming out of my eyes during that performance. And Laurieann Gibson is a genius. As one of the moms said, “every single kid looked great doing that.” Result: 2nd place. Someone send me a video of the winner. (No, really. I want to see it.)

Dance Moms Season 7, Episode 19 couldn’t end on a positive note, could it?


When the ALDC didn’t win, Yolanda blamed Laurieann Gibson and even said she was starting to miss Abby Lee Miller. (I had to take a moment to pinch the bridge of my nose and take two Excedrin after typing that.)

Laurieann, on the other hand, blamed the moms’ drama for distracting both herself and the dancers. The whole thing left Laurieann’s status up in the air, but let’s not kid ourselves here. She’ll be back.

Did the group dance actually make its intended impact, what with Stacey and Yolanda’s fight getting so much attention? Will we ever figure out how Dance Moms manages to do this thing with tackling real-world issues, all while serving up the moms’ bad behavior on a silver platter? Am I applying far too much thought to a reality series?

Answers: Hopefully, nah, and definitely.

Next: Here's something that actually DID deliver a positive message.

That’s it for Dance Moms Season 7, Episode 19. Feel free to let us know what you thought before we return to loiter in the parking lot with the dance moms next Tuesday night.