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Abby Lee Miller never shied away from playing favorites. During her time on Dance Moms, the studio owner made it clear that she favored some dancers over others. And while Maddie Ziegler seemed to be the choreographer’s number one girl, Miller also seemed to really favor Kalani Hilliker as well. In fact, Miller credits herself for getting Hilliker cast on the show.

Dance Moms cast: Kendall Vertes, Kalani Hilliker, tv personality Abby Lee Miller, dancers Mackenzie Ziegler, Maddie Ziegler, Jojo Siwa and Nia Sioux
‘Dance Moms’ cast: Kendall Vertes, Kalani Hilliker, tv personality Abby Lee Miller, dancers Mackenzie Ziegler, Maddie Ziegler, Jojo Siwa and Nia Sioux | Jason Merritt/KCA2015/Getty Images

Abby Lee Miller and Kalani Hilliker met prior to filming ‘Dance Moms’

Most Dance Moms fans weren’t introduced to Hilliker until her first appearance in season 4. However, she had a relationship with Miller prior to coming on the show. Hilliker competed on season 2 of Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition. The Lifetime Reality TV show, which Miller judged, followed a group of dancers as they competed for a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet Academy and $100,000.

Hilliker competed in season 2 of ‘Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition’

Hilliker was a fierce competitor on Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition. However, during the finals, the dancer fell whilst attempting a front aerial. This caused her to be eliminated and she ultimately placed fourth in the competition. However, there was a bit of a snafu surrounding her elimination. Miller mistakenly said the name of another dancer, Trinity Inay, when she meant to eliminate Hilliker.

Ultimately, Miller had to backtrack and reveal that it was actually Hilliker who would be going home. However, she felt bad about the snafu. In an interview, the choreographer shared that she attempted to right her wrong by getting the Arizona native to join the Dance Moms cast.

Miller made a vow to get Hilliker on ‘Dance Moms’

“I just slipped up and said the wrong name,” Miller revealed. “I knew that Kalani was destined to be a dancer and I vowed in my heart that I would make it up to her and that she would end up on Dance Moms.” It didn’t take long for Miller to set her plans in motion. In Season 4, she brought Hilliker on the show by entering her into a competition where she performed the duet “Two Sapphires” with Ziegler.

Miller also taunted her Junior Elite Competition Team with Hilliker’s presence. She alluded that Hilliker could potentially replace Brooke Hyland in the group dance. This led to MIller’s infamous fight with Kelly Hyland and resulted in the Hylands leaving the show. Suddenly, there was an opening on the team which Hilliker filled. And though she briefly left in season 4, she returned in season 5 and stayed until the end of season 7.

The dancer reflects on her time on the show

In an interview with Dance Spirit, Hilliker admitted that she never thought she’d be a part of the show beyond her initial duet with Ziegler. “I was never supposed to be on Dance Moms beyond that one performance,” Hilliker shared. “It was my first time, but not my last time, causing drama. And it was also the first time I got to meet the other dancers, who have become like sisters.”


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Clearly, Miller found a way to get Hilliker on the show. However, filming Dance Moms meant that Hilliker would actually receive less dance training so, obviously, some sacrifices were made.