When Kendall K. Vertes was around eight years old, her mother Jill received a phone call from Abby Lee Miller, the owner of the Abby Lee Dance Company. Abby wanted Kendall to audition to be a part of her junior elite ensemble team and a cast member of the show “Dance Moms.”
At eight years old, Kendall left Studio 19, where she had been dancing since she was two years old, and became an official member of the ALDC.
For those unfamiliar with “Dance Moms,” the reality show features the Abby Lee Dance Company from Pittsburgh, Pa. They recently relocated to L.A. in the past season. The show has featured dancers ages 6-14 and has produced bona-fide stars. Last year, Maddie Ziegler, another member of the show, danced in Sia’s smash-hit music video for “Chandelier.”
The show features the girls competing at nationwide competitions, and the mothers watching their daughter’s rehearsals, helping with makeup, and oftentimes going head-to-head with their dance instructor, Abby Lee.
With the help of Abby Lee, Kendall – now age 12 – has begun performing as a singer under the stage name Kendall K. She released the music video for her lead single, “Wear ‘em Out.” It went number one on iTunes, even surpassing Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” video.
This summer, Kendall spent a month in L.A. – without her mom or family – putting the final touches on her full-length album. Her team is working on getting her signed to a label.
The music video features a military theme, with Kendall – and her sisters dancing back-up – performing contemporary and hip-hop dances.
For dance, Kendall’s favorite style is contemporary, Jill explained. Kendall’s favorite solo from the show is “Rise and Fall.” Her favorite group routine was “Waiting Room,” a routine which featured the girls waiting to hear potentially tragic news from a hospital.
Jill’s favorite solo that Kendall has performed in “Fool Me Once.” Her favorite group routine is “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves.”
Behind the scenes on the show, the mothers are filming about eight hours a day. The kids film for about five hours a day. This goes on for eight months of the year, with around twenty-eight episodes per season.
Interestingly, when the show isn’t filming, the mothers typically don’t watch their children dancing. “We rarely ever stay to watch a class,” Jill said.
On the show, Gia is the only other teacher featured. However, the children have several teachers in their studio for each style of dance. Jill explained that they also have guest teachers and choreographers.
Kendall attended public school up until this year. The show began filming in L.A., which led to Kendall being homeschooled. Kendall explained that her favorite subject is math.
When not filming, Kendall enjoys spending time at home with friends, jumping on the trampoline, riding her golf cart, and swimming. Her favorite musician, who she finds inspiring, is Taylor Swift. Kendall loves the “Mission Impossible” movies. Her favorite book is Freak the Mighty.
Kendall actually met Taylor Swift backstage at her concert in Pittsburgh. Taylor Swift’s publicist set it up. “They talked about dancing and their kitties,” Jill said.
Jill explained, “Kendall dances all the time, whether she is in class or at home. She is always choreographing some crazy dance. She wants to be a director, choreographer, and star in films.”
It makes sense that Kendall’s dreams revolve around dance, as she has been dancing since she was two. She was put in classes because her big sister was going. “Kendall’s big sister was always in class, so I put Kendall in as many classes as they would allow a two year old to go into,” Jill said.
Kendall loved Studio 19, and she and her sisters were very happy there. “I always knew about Abby’s studio, but never thought about attending there, because my children were so happy at the studio they were attending. I was intrigued about the audition and what the future might hold for Kendall, so I decided to switch studios and try out for the ALDC,” Jill said.
It turns out, the ALDC Pittsburgh studio was actually significantly closer to the Vertes’ family than Studio 19.
Now, with the show filming in L.A., Kendall and Jill stay in an apartment while filming. They still live in the suburbs of Pittsburgh the rest of the year though.
Kendall usually is in class 5 days a week, according to Jill. “Now with all the extra attention the show is getting, all of the extra appearances and traveling and Master Classes Abby sets up, the girls miss a lot of class time,” Jill said.
Jill explained, “I believe the children on ‘Dance Moms’ have given up some of their training in dance to train in other areas of performing. These girls now know the ins and outs of producing a TV show, what happens behind the scenes, and how to perform on camera. They have traveled around the world and seen things most will never see in a lifetime.”
However, the show isn’t all positivity. When watching reality TV, it is important to remember that they are creating characters out of real-life people.
Jill said, “At first, I was really worried and unhappy with how my character was being created. I’m just a mom who wants what’s best for her child, just like every mother in the world. I was coming across rude and insensitive to others and that’s not me at all. I want all of these kids to succeed; they are all deserving.”
For others on the show, the problems have gone beyond representation. Christi pulled her daughter, Chloe, from the show, after a confrontation with Abby in a season finale. Brooke and Paige left the show after their mother, Kelly, allegedly assaulted Abby on camera.
Jill said, “Kendall and I are both sad that we don’t see Christi, Chloe, Kelly, Brooke, or Paige anymore. It’s not deliberate; it’s just that we are so busy, and they live in a different part of town. Our paths don’t ever cross.”
With all the conflicts, the show wasn’t easy for Kendall’s dad to watch during the first few seasons. “Now that Kendall is older, he never misses an episode,” Jill said. Most of their friends and family also always tune in.
If you’re interested in writing to Kendall or Jill, you can send fan mail to the ALDC studio in Penn Hills 7123 Saltsburg Rd. Pittsburgh, Pa. 15235.
Theresa Kelly is a fourth-year student majoring in English literature secondary education. She can be reached at TK780615@wcupa.edu.