Gianna Martello Explains Why There's More Than One Side to the Story on 'Dance Moms'
Updated: Apr 13, 2020
I last spoke with Dance Moms star Gianna Martello in early December. At the time, she talked about the public misconceptions about her mentor Abby Lee Miller and what the reality personality had contributed to her career as a teacher and choreographer.
In the last few months, things have blown up behind the scenes with Miller’s personal issues, her exit from the show and the temporary addition of choreographer Laurieann Gibson and Dancing With the Stars pro Cheryl Burke. The press went nuts.
With so many people involved from the kids, parents, choreographers, teachers and the behind-the-scenes creative team, there are many sides to this story.
When Gianna approached me to share her side, I jumped at the opportunity because it’s important to understand how reality TV works. It’s not as simple as picking up a camera and shooting what’s happening — producers do have input into the action and the storylines.
Gianna summed it up best by saying, “People have no idea. People are going to read what they want and they are going to believe what they want, but they have no idea until they’ve lived it."
Dance Dish: Why did you decide to leave Dance Moms?
Gianna Martello: It wasn’t anything negative. The show is going in a bunch of different directions that weren’t associated with Abby Lee Dance Company. From my point of view, it was time to say goodbye.
DD: There’s been a swirl of news that behind the scenes things weren’t so rosy on the production side. What were you seeing?
Gianna: Abby is so used to being her own boss at the studio that when we have a production team telling us what we have to do, she kind of pushes back on that. That’s where it all started. But, it’s understandable. I can see where she’s coming from.
They were giving us ideas that we just didn’t want to do because they weren’t making us or the girls look good. This isn’t what we do and this isn’t what we stand for.
DD: How are the girls and their moms handling all of this change?
Gianna: The girls and the moms are never in situations with the producers. It’s always me and Abby and the creative team. So who knows what stories they are getting from the producers.
I know the first week the show brought in Laurieann Gibson to guest for a few episodes; I had no idea that they were bringing her in. The girls kind of pushed back and didn’t understand why I wasn’t doing their dance.
I told them that the show doesn’t want me to do their dance, but I am here to help them. They wanted Laurieann in for those few weeks on the show. She was given the Abby role while I was pushed to the side.
I didn’t agree with that and I could see the girls didn’t like it at first, so that kind of upset me, too.
DD: After Laurieann came in; did you know Cheryl Burke was coming in?
Gianna: No, I left the show the same day that Cheryl was announced. I read everything online. The Junior Elite team, the older girls, had not been with Abby for a few weeks, so Cheryl is focusing in on that. She did not factor into my decision about quitting because I didn’t even know about it at all.
DD: What are your thoughts about Chloe Lukasiak coming back on the show?
Gianna: I found out again on social media. Abby and I were not there for her return. The internet blew up. I think it’s awesome for the show.
I didn’t get to work with her, but I did get to see her and say hello to them and it was nice.
DD: What are your thoughts on Maddie Ziegler’s new book and what she had to say about her time on Dance Moms?
Gianna: I haven’t read the book! [She laughs]. I always thought Maddie was above and beyond. I always thought her brain was the same age as my brain when it comes to dancing. She’s always been so mature. But I haven’t read it; don’t tell her!
DD: Are you still under contract at Lifetime even though you have left the show?
Gianna: No, I have the same contract as the crew would have. So I don’t have a contract like the kids do. I am not bound to anything.
The past four weeks, I should have left sooner, but I didn’t. When the show put me to the side when Laurieann came in, they didn’t consider telling me. That kind of hurt me. I should have left and I didn’t.
DD: It must feel like a break-up since Dance Moms gave you a platform to showcase your work.
Gianna: I’ve been doing this for five or six years. It wasn’t bad when I left — there was no screaming or crying. I just got to the point that this was it.
DD: What is Abby’s mindset right now with her upcoming sentencing? [Editor’s Note: Abby’s sentencing is currently scheduled for May 8, 2017.]
She always has her mind doing a hundred and fifty things. Now I’m not sure if that’s because of what’s going on, or if that’s because she’s Abby, but the studio is still up and running. She recently went to New York. We just did the annual photoshoot at the studio.
Nothing is getting her down. Around me, she’s the same old, same old, which I think she has to be at this point to keep her mind off the crazy stuff. She and I went out in West Hollywood the other night, so she’s not feeling down or anything.
DD: Are there any plans in place for you to take over any of the studios for her if she goes to jail?
Gianna: No, that hasn’t been talked about. I am officially moving to Los Angeles at the beginning of May. I always said I would do it after the show and I’ve been back and forth between here and Pittsburgh for so long because we never knew where we were going to end up filming.
I will be at the LA studio full-time. So if worse comes to worst, I will be around and I will be there.
DD: What are your plans now that you are done with Dance Moms?
Gianna: I’ve had to turn so many things down since I wasn’t available before. I can’t wait to get into anything and everything once I am in LA permanently.
I want to cross it off my bucket list and teach at a big convention. I want to dabble with that. Then I want to get into everything from film to music videos.
DD: What was the biggest lesson you learned from Dance Moms?
Gianna: Stay true to yourself because reality TV can sway you in so many different directions and you can end up looking back on it and thinking who was that person? What was I saying?
It might look like I’m quiet or I don’t speak up on the show, but it was just because I was doing my job. I was put on the show as a dance instructor and choreographer. I was not put on the show to cause drama. I’m glad I stuck with that. I think I survived. I think I came out OK.
For weekly dance insight that goes beyond the surface, join our Patreon page for weekly dance news, twice-a-week podcasts and dance-industry analysis: Patreon.
Need a gift idea for a dance lover? Check out my Amazon page for gift ideas. If you make a purchase using the link included, we may earn a small commission.
Looking to join a dance community? Dance Dish with KB is on Facebook! Don't forget to answer the two questions for admission to the private group.