By Marie Goldstein, Staff Writer

If you think  Abby Lee Miller’s Dance Moms is merely scripted, entertaining reality TV you are wrong. This is actually how competition dance works. Your best friend is your worst enemy, your mom is way too invested in the competition, you spend hours every night at the studio, and as much as everybody says school comes first it just doesn’t.

I lived this life through middle school and high school, and though I’m glad I did it, looking back on it I am shocked at how absurd it is.

Let’s start with the schedule of a competition dance student. My dance day started after school at 3:30 p.m. and I didn’t leave the studio until 10 p.m. every day other than Friday, leaving me hardly any time to do homework or to have a social life. Because of the time commitment, the studio is your home and your classmates became your best friends. The sense of community at my studio was amazing and I rarely felt like I was competing with my friends because they did a good job making sure we all got our chance to shine. However, this is not how most dance studios run, as you can see in the popular reality TV show, Dance Moms. The busy schedule was the least crazy of the insane things that I had to do as a competition dancer. In a way I thought the busy schedule was good for me because it taught me early on how to manage my time effectively and as my mom always said as she paid her “Dance Mortgage” as she like to call it, “I rather have you in the studio than on the streets.”

The expenses of competition dance seriously makes me question my career choice and makes me want to open up a studio of my own. At my studio you were required to take two ballet classes a week and on top of that I took private lessons. Classes, travel expenses and costume fees become extremely costly. Many students have to work at the studio to pay their bill every month. I learned at a young age how much it cost, and how lucky I was to have parents who supported my dancing. It also made me more accountable, since each class was costly.

The experience of competition dancing made me grow up quicker than some of my peers. I had to go to competitions on my own at a young age. At the age of 10, I could do my own competition makeup including fake eyelashes, which was both bizarre and impressive.

Though the cost was high, the benefits were too. And as someone who has lived through competition dance life, I’m here to offer you some insight for the next time you tune into the TLC favorite.