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If you’ve seen Lifetime’s hit show, “Dance Moms,” then it’s impossible to miss Abby Lee Miller’s sidekick, Gianna Martello. Although there are episodes where she doesn’t say much, she plays a vital role in not only Abby’s life, but the dance students lives as well. From her creative vision, ability to take risks, and her not wanting to become complacent, Gianna has continuously choreographed for Abby for 10+ years.
“Dance Moms” revolves around mothers who want their dancing daughters to be on top by any means necessary. This causes a lot of drama not only between the mothers, but between Abby as well. Gianna has taken note of that and stays away from unnecessary drama.
Like many girls on the show, Gianna built her relationship with Abby from being one of her former students. Gianna began dancing at the age of four and was trained by Abby in multiple dance styles: jazz, ballet, contemporary and lyrical. It comes as no surprise that Gianna is able to choreograph countless group routines and solos, as she was a former competition dancer herself. The world is able to see how Gianna’s thought process has expanded on “Dance Moms,” from seasons one to seven, to be exact.
Gianna and Abby are always thinking of routines that will resonate with an audience. Some of their dance themes have been about racism, reckless driving, dealing with a loss, abusive relationships, the pressures of society to change yourself, and many more. These dances have included props such as dancing with dolls, dancing in a bubble, with a trophy, or a piece of cloth. These routines not only challenge the girls physically but mentally, which is ultimately what Gianna and Abby aim for every week.
Gianna believes that the best thing about dance is the ability to express herself. She knew dance was a major part of her life when she was competing in dance competitions every weekend. She explained everyone should dance because of the valuable lessons the sport teaches. From her very long and successful dance career, she’s learned that as an artist, she can always improve. In her eyes, dancing humbles and teaches lessons in one of the most artistic ways.
I had the opportunity to speak to Gianna about her relationship with Abby Lee Miller, her favorite dances, and the future of Lifetime’s hit show “Dance Moms.”
Dayna: When did you start dancing?
Gianna: I started dancing when I was four years old. I just went to a little studio in a church basement so it was super tiny. I didn’t start focusing more seriously on dancing till I was about nine or ten.
At what moment did you realize dancing was going to be a major part of your life?
Probably in high school. Once my team formed, it was a select five or six of us, that Abby took underneath her wing. We started traveling and I got to meet a lot of professionals and other dancers that had the same interests as me. I thought to myself that I could do this for a living. This is a job that people do.
Was your mom once a crazy dance mom like the ones on the show?
NO. I always say I probably wouldn’t have been casted on the show. My mom wasn’t crazy. She definitely loves to watch me dance. She took me to every convention, every audition, and everything I had an opportunity to go to. If I didn’t win, it wasn’t an uproar in my house. If I got second or third place, we were still so excited.
You went from being Abby’s student to her choreographer. Can you speak to how she chose to transition you into that title?
I don’t know if she necessarily chose me. She used to train all of her older students to think like her. She would hire them after they graduated, so they would all teach her lessons. So I started training with her, assisting her, and I guess I was the first one she trusted the most. She just let me do my own thing. Because I trained under her, I always knew what she wanted. I could read her mind or give her exactly what she was looking for.
What have you learned from working with Abby for so many years?
I’ve learned so much more from Abby other than dance steps and technique. When I was ten years old, she took me to New York City and taught me how to hail a cab. “Put your arm out and if you don’t get it then we’re not taking one.” She taught me how to pump gas, how to tip at a restaurant, she’s taught me so many things. She taught me life lessons rather than just dancing.
Have you ever looked back on a dance and thought to yourself, “I could’ve choreographed that move a little different?”
I always do. Because we have to choreograph and the turnaround on “Dance Moms” is so quick, we get a few hours to create a number. I’ll go back and watch it and be like “I should’ve put that in. I would’ve liked that better.” So yeah, I always do.
As fabulous as some of your group dances have been, there are a few that haven’t won. One specifically, “The Waiting Room,” which was a nationals routine. What were your thoughts then and now? Do you still feel as if you guys were robbed of the win?
OMG, 100%. I honestly thought that was one of the best routines we’ve ever created. I personally created that song. So I took a bunch of sounds in my music editor and put the song together myself, so it was really close for me. I definitely think it told a great story so I thought we had that one.
What are your favorite group dances that you’ve choreographed from seasons one to seven?
Where do you and Abby constantly draw new inspiration for the routines?
Just anything really and everyday situations. If we’re walking by a store and we see a dress we’ll say, “This has to be a costume, it would look so good on one of the girls.” We go to a lot of dance conventions too, and we see all the new and popular stuff that’s out there. Just anything really.
What can fans expect from season 7B?
NONSENSE [she laughs]. A lot of cast members coming in and out, some old people, some new people, some really good dances, some not really good dances, just chaos.
What are some of your future career plans?
Hopefully, I’ll be permanently relocating to Los Angeles. Right now, I’m splitting my time between Pittsburgh and L.A because my family is still in Pittsburgh. So I’m making the move first and foremost. But I am going to see the show out till the end. I always say I’ve been on the show since day one and I need to see it out till the very last second. I’m definitely going to be at the ALDC as long as it’s up and running, because I grew up here. The sky’s the limit.
Lastly, describe in three words the way you feel when seeing your choreography on stage.
I’m always really nervous for them [competition elite team]. I always feel like I’m on stage with them. Joy, whenever I see them complete a piece, I can tell on their faces that they’re happy with what they did. Excitement, because I get to do what I love as a job. My job was once a hobby and now I’m living it.