"I'd Rather Be There To Take Control Of My Narrative": Chloé And Christi Lukasiak Revealed Why It Was So Important To Be Involved In The "Dance Moms" Reunion

Christi and Chloe Lukasiak in a "Then & Now" promo, both smiling, with a split showing past and current looks

THEN: It’s so wild to think that Dance Moms first aired 13 years ago. Do either of you remember your first reaction to hearing Lifetime was going to make a TV show about the Abby Lee Dance Company?

Chloé: Well, actually, what was different about Dance Moms, was that we've known each other since we were, like, 2. I mean, there were different dancers in our community who weren't cast on the show, so it did kind of change a little bit. But I've known Paige since, I think, our first dance class. And Brooke was her older sister. I saw her around. We weren't close friends because she was part of an older group, but I knew her. We were friends, but not as close as Paige and I were. And I've known Nia a long time. And then Maddie came after. And so, I think that was what's really interesting about that particular cast of Dance Moms — we actually have a really organic bond and a lot of history. And when we first found out [about the show], it was only supposed to be, like, six episodes. So, we were like, "Oh, this will be cool. Maybe it'll be good on our résumé in a couple of years," and then it became, like, a totally different experience.

I remember my mom filming auditions on her little flip camera. I was like, "Okay, yeah, sure, whatever." And then, it was weird because I did not realize I was on a reality show until I was, like, 17. That sounds crazy to say, but I was like, "Oh, that was, like, a show that people watch." To me, that was just my life.

Christi: For me, when they put up a casting call, I was one of the first people to start communicating with the casting director. The whole premise of the show changed as he got to know the studio. And he was like, "Oh, everything I'm looking for is in this one place." He was actually looking for multiple moms across different places. And actually, it was Abby [Lee Miller], who called me in December — Chloé and Paige were having a sleepover at my house. You guys were dancing to "Santa Baby" in some weird outfits — but Abby was like, "Lifetime is interested in the show." And then she's like, "You're gonna be hearing back," and then they came in to film in January.

True story: She actually sent Kelly and me to New York to get out of the way. Just like Cinderella and her stepsisters! She sent us away so we couldn't be taped. But I was talking to all of the producers who knew that we were being sent away, so they came the night before to do our auditions. But yeah, she tried to get rid of us, which tracks so far, right?

Then, it was February 28 — I have a weird thing with dates — that [Dance Moms executive producer] Bryan Stinson called me, and he said the show's been picked up six episodes. I asked who was in the cast. And he said, "Well, it's you, Kelly [Hyland]..." And I was like, "Hooray!" Then he said Melissa and Holly [Frazier], and I was like, "Holly?!" and I said, "Oh, they need someone normal. Got it." Then he said, "And then another woman named Cathy [Nesbitt-Stein]." And I said, "Well, what's she like?" And he goes, "Oh, you'll find out."

We started filming on April 5 — like, six weeks later — and again, it was only supposed to be six episodes; the first half ended up being seven episodes because there was so much drama that happened in the first week that they had to, like, split it. Before we were even on Episode 4, they came to us and said, "The network thinks that this is going to be a big show. And we're going to film six more episodes this summer; pack your bags." I was like, "I have a 1-year-old. What am I supposed to do with her?" And they said, "Bring her!" So it was weird, wild life. But to what Chloé said, we were still living in the same house. We were going to the same studio. We were hanging out with the same people. We were shopping in the same places. The only thing that was different is that they had a crew that they got to be friends with and that they liked.

Chloé: We were still going to school, too. I feel like a lot of young stars start homeschooling and move to LA, but nothing changed for us. So, I think that's why a lot of us are still pretty normal and processing it all as normal as possible.

Screenshot from "Dance Moms"
Barbara Nitke / © Lifetime TV / Courtesy: Everett Collection / BuzzFeed

NOW: And then you both ended up leaving the show briefly — what made you want to come back for this reunion special? Did either of you have any worries about what the reunion would be like?

Chloé: Honestly, and not in an arrogant way at all, but I knew they would be talking about all of the cast members, anyway. So I was like, I'd rather be there and be able to take control of my narrative. Because the reason I was against it is because I felt really anxious, and it felt like something in the past. I was like, "Well, I'm gonna be anxious anyway," you know? And I'd probably be anxious about what's going to happen even if I wasn't on it. So I was like, it's better to just go on and be able to feel assured about everything. I wanted to be able to just go and speak my mind and address some of the issues that we never got to talk about before. It really truly felt like closing the book on Dance Moms, which was good for me. I needed that closure to move on and kind of leave Chloé from Dance Moms in the past and go forward as my own individual self.

Christi: I wasn't there when they filmed the reunion; I had other obligations. I called in and FaceTimed quite a few times because I couldn't stay, not knowing what was going on. So, I was very much still a part of it. I just wasn't on location. But I was getting the details from all sorts of different people throughout the day, like from various producers, from the kids, from the moms. I very much felt like I was part of it for sure. And it killed me not to be there. Because, like Chloé said, you've got to speak up and say your piece. But I knew that if there was something they talked about that was related to me, I knew that she would have my back. And she did. So, it's all come full circle.

Screenshot from "Dance Moms"
Lifetime / youtube.com

THEN: Did you actually know who was coming back for the special before actually coming to set? Or was it a surprise for both of you?

Chloé: No, I knew right away. It was like, we heard about the reunion, and in the group chat it was like, "Okay, who's doing it?" Yeah, lots of calls. Lots of like, "Oh, I don't know..." Lots of play-by-play.

Four women smiling at an event, two in formal attire with visible makeup displays
Courtesy of Lifetime

NOW: From social media, it seems like you’ve both kept in touch with the other girls and moms from the show. How has it been maintaining those friendships with everyone throughout the years, outside of the context of the series?

Chloé: I mean, like, going through an experience like that is unlike any other. Even without the show, honestly, I think I would have stayed in close contact with those girls just because we were growing up on a competition team together.  That already formed a strong bond, let alone going through what we went through together. They're some of the only relationships in my life that I can say are completely unshakable. Like, I could not see them for 10 years, and I'd see them again, and I'd feel completely comfortable with them. Like no time has passed. We might not know what each other has done for the past 10 years, but I know that we have a friendship that can't be broken.

It was really odd to go from seeing each other all the time to [not] seeing each other at all. We all went on our own paths and have our own career directions. Everyone's doing their own thing now, so it's hard to maintain constant contact. But I stayed really close with Nia because we both moved to LA at the same time and started college at the same time.

Christi: I have a group chat with all the moms. I talked to some moms more than the others. We all have different personalities, clearly. I mean, again, like Chloé said, they have a particular bond, like we have a particular bond that nobody would ever understand. I speak to Kelly quite a bit still, and we have our podcasts that we do every week. That's been a really interesting journey for the two of us to go back and revisit those old moments and watch them, but I think it's kind of therapeutic for the two of us to go through it together. We're reliving the fun side that maybe the fans or the viewers didn't get to see, which I think is helpful for us to remember. It wasn't just all the negative stuff that people watched. We had a lot of really good stuff, too.

Those two — [Chloé] and Paige — were always turning up the heat in our room at night because we would have sleepovers. And they would go in and turn the heat up to 95, and we'd wake up in the middle of the night, like, "What is going on?!" and we're like, "Those jerks!" [Laughs]

Chloé: Yes! On Saturday night after the competition, the girls would go in one room, and a mom would have to leave the room and go sleep in another. So yeah, Paige and I often did that — we did a lot of things. [Laughs] We were known as the "twinnies," but then we became "twinnie" pranksters. We were putting toothpaste in Oreos, and we were just honestly menaces to society.

Group of people smiling for a selfie, some dressed in elegant gowns, one in a suit, in a room with a mirror
Courtesy of Lifetime

THEN: Chloé, you had some of the most beautiful dances during the show; are there any that stick out to you as your favorites? Or even any that you’re most proud of?

Chloé: Oh my goodness. I'm trying to think...the memories I have on stage are mainly just the times I forgot the dances. I'd be like, "I don't know how to do improv!" One of my favorites was "Lucky Star." I was in a great costume. They all blend together. Like, they're all the same names and about some stars. I loved "Unchained." That was one of my favorite solos. There was another one, oh what was it called? It was a solo I did. With the fan.

Christi: It was like a Spanish number. It was pretty! You just found that not too long ago.

Chloé: My turns look good! Can't remember the name of the next time you answer. I'll look it up. But I really liked that song as well.

[Reader, in case you're wondering, the name of the dance is "Fired Up."]

Christi: I loved "Into Me," which I didn't realize I loved until later when I went back and watched it. There was something very raw about Chloé at that point. It's terrible to look back on and think about what she could have been going through. But I mean, that number, for whatever reason, was the first dance after the Hylands left. And there was something just really vulnerable about that number that now I look back on, and it, like, tugs at my heart. But I think the one that just stands out to me, because it was still very new, and the show had just started, was "Dream on a Star." So, you had fire, stars, and birds.

Chloé: I don't remember "Into Me." I'm gonna have to watch it.

BuzzFeed: Literally, after this interview, you're gonna have to pull all these dances up.

Chloé: I know, I know! There was a flag dance at one point. I know we danced in boots, which made costumes. I remember a few random tidbits about the dances. [Laughs] I remember I killed a lot of people when I was Black Swan and in "Where Have All the Children Gone?"

Christi: You broke Mackenzie [Ziegler]'s neck in "Amber Alert." You shot Maddie [Ziegler] in "Runaways."

Chloé: [Laughs] I guess something about me just screams homicide!

Christi: We have all the costumes at home. We could go back and take them out and talk about each one.

Dancer in a sparkling costume performs on stage, hand by face in a dramatic gesture
Lifetime / youtube.com

NOW: Chloé, you stepped away from dance, too. What made you want to come back and create your own dance competition, Elevé?

Chloé: I always knew I'd come back to dance in some way. I just didn't know what way that was. I couldn't really see myself turning around and dancing again. Honestly, I think that's just something I have to come to on my own, not really, like I've done it before. It's just a natural progression, eventually, maybe or never.

But I knew that there was something missing regarding the show. Like, I've always been so grateful because it gave me so many opportunities. And it completely changed my life. But it felt like there was some sort of full circle moment that wasn't happening specifically with dance. I went through what I went through, not just on a TV show, but the negativity I experienced from my dance teacher was for a reason. And I was like, "What is that reason?" I really pondered it for a couple of years. And then it hit me.

About two summers ago, we were sitting down and chatting because my mom is also a cofounder of Elevé and our two family friends. And I was just like, "Well, what if we did our own competition, like what if we change the narrative?" Aside from Dance Moms, the dance world is notoriously toxic and pretty negative. So, I thought, what if we kind of create this beacon of positivity and this environment that people know when they come, they'll still get good critiques, they'll still be improving, and still be in the room with great professionals who are judging them, and...

Christi: And also helping them with their careers. I can't tell you how many of our judges have reached out to people.

Chloé: Yeah. They're gaining something from it. They know that when they go, they're going to have an amazing experience. It's going to lift them up, rekindle their passion, and be like a celebration of dance. [My mom] has been a big part of this. We're cofounders. So, it's interesting to put our heads together. A former dance mom and a former dancer, we have two different perspectives.

Christi: And I love first of all, I love how entrepreneurial and business-minded Chloé is; that makes me super proud. I have always felt that that's an important trait to instill in my girls, especially. And she's very young, but you wouldn't know it because her business head is impeccable. When I walk into those competitions, it really is funny because it feels very much like home, like we belong there. I looked around a couple of weeks ago, and I was like, I'm still a dance mom. I'm just a dance mom to a lot of kids now. The minute, like, a child is struggling, she and I, even if we're at the front, are like, "You going or am I?" Can we help? Can we give them a pep talk? It just makes me really proud.

So to me, she said it always felt like something was missing; it feels almost weird to compare it, but you know Silence of the Lambs?

Chloé: [Laughs] Like I said, something about me screams homicide!

Christi: Like, I feel like Chloé, you had to go through a pyramid in order to, like, get to the part where she was a positive role model. [Laughs] But my point is, that you had to go through the trauma you went through in order to inspire others. That's the takeaway! The lamb had to scream, Chloé!

Closeup of Chloé Lukasiak
BuzzFeed / Lifetime / Courtesy Chloe Lukasiak / Align PR

THEN: Almost every fan I’ve talked about the series with agrees that you have one of the best mother-daughter relationships on the show. Were you expecting such a strong fan reaction when you first began the series?

Christi: No, not at all. If anything, I think I was probably really worried about that. Because I mean, fans will come after you for anything and everything. And recently, there were some things that came out that they're like, "Oh, here's a video of Christi screaming at Chloé from back in the day." I'm like, "Yes, I yell at my kids!" Like, I had short-tempered moments, to be honest. But I was always grateful that they would show the positive sides of our relationship and that people identified with it. But I didn't quite realize how many people would hold on to that so dearly. And it's really nice to hear that.

Closeup of Christi Lukasiak
BuzzFeed / Courtesy Christi Lukasiak / Align PR

NOW: And now after all those years on the show and being in the public eye, how has that affected your relationship, if at all?

Christi: I think we're very normal. I think we go through ebbs and flows. I think we go through times when we're super close. I think we go through times where we're like, "Ugh, get away from me." I think one of the things that I really had to do, for me as a mom, and I think any parent will identify with this, is let your kids go through periods of their life where they push away and pull away from you. I especially found this with Clara, who's 14. That happens in junior high. Chloé was with me in junior high, so there was none of that. So, actually, I think that that push and pull happened later for Chloé. But I definitely think we come back together always, because she's my favorite person. Other than Clara, you guys are equal. Nobody's my favorite.

Chloé: I was just going to say that her favorite cat is her favorite kid ever. Her name is Nellie because she's the prettiest cat.

Christi: It's hard, but it's cute. I know I like Nellie the most, but I love you guys, too.

Chloé and Christi on "Dance Moms"
Scott Gries / © Lifetime TV / Courtesy: Everett Collection / BuzzFeed

THEN: What do you hope fans will get from watching the reunion all these years after the series ended?

Chloé: I'm just really excited that they get to hear our perspective. I think everyone obviously formed opinions and drew their own conclusions watching the show. I mean, with reality TV, it's tricky. It feels like there are no boundaries, no lines, like the audience feels like they're as much a part of it as we are. It was just really interesting to be able to speak, or I keep saying this, but speak our minds because when we were on the show younger, we didn't really talk; we just stayed on stage. So, we did have a lot of thoughts. And I always say I wish I had experienced it as an older teen. Kendall even talks about this a lot in the reunion, or maybe it's Brooke. But she said she would have said a lot more back to Abby. We just had to stand there and take it, partly because we were so young and partly because that was just the established dynamic. If we were older teenagers, we could have, you know, been like, "That's not necessary. You don't need to say that."

Christi: You guys are a little bit more politically correct than your mothers. Because we said it, just not like that. [Laughs] I think that what people will take away is that these girls are incredibly well-adjusted, grounded, and really beautiful. I mean, of course, they're beautiful girls, but they're beautiful people, too. I get really excited. I was talking to her friend this morning. And I said, "I love these girls." Like, I love that I get to see them all tonight. And every time somebody has success, I am so proud of them. It's really exciting for me, and for the fandom, to see them as not little girls but these incredible women that they've all become.

BuzzFeed: Absolutely! There's a lot of important dialogue right now about the "toddler to train-wreck pipeline," so it's amazing to see you all thriving in your own lives. 

Chloé: Exactly. Going back to what I said earlier, I think it's because we never had that big shift where a lot of people's lives would be uprooted and moved to LA with new friends and surrounded by adult things as children. It's just a lot. I mean, don't get me wrong, we were surrounded by adult jobs, you know, we're basically working a 9-to-5 every day. But, you know, I still got up at 6 and went to school by 7 and was in school until 3, and then I drove to dance class. And then I went to dance class; there just happened to be a camera there.

So it was a lot less intense of a change at once. Everyone keeps asking, "Why are you also normal?" And I think it's because of that. I didn't move to LA officially until I was 18. And I was like, "Thank God I wasn't here before; no wonder people become so jaded or go down the wrong path." It's a very toxic environment. You just come into it, and it becomes like survival mode.

Christi: And you guys all had really good moms. It's true. Like, even though we always got the bad rap, I still say you guys are reflections of us. And, I will say this about every single mom on the show: Regardless of what my relationship looked like on television, I would trust those women with my children anytime, anywhere. And I do think that there's something to be said about having us in their corner. I'm gonna take a little bit of credit, [laughs] but you guys are amazing. All on your own.

BuzzFeed: Totally! And as a viewer, Christi, no matter how hectic it got, it was always apparent that you were coming from a place of love and protection for the girls. 

Christi: And Kelly really struggles, I think, with that in the reunion, which, again, I haven't seen it. I wasn't there. But she and I've had conversations about it. She carries a lot of inner turmoil about that, and she's going to talk about it in the reunion. So, I think that's going to be an interesting insight for people, too.

Closeup of Chloé Lukasiak
Lifetime / youtube.com

NOW: Finally, if you could go back in time — knowing what you know now about how the series unfolded — would you still want to be a part of it?

Christi: Yep. Because I don't want to live with regrets. That was a really big choice. It was a learning experience that has shaped my family, my children, and my life. I would have done it differently, though.

Chloé: I know I wouldn't change a single moment of it. Because I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason. I'm a big fate person. And it was clearly in my cards to experience that and go through it exactly as I did exactly at the age that I was. Because it taught me a lot about life and gave me a lot of interesting perspectives on the world. I grew a thick skin, learned empathy, and learned to work hard. I think it completely had a hand in shaping who I am. And I wouldn't want to change that, or my experiences. So, I wouldn't change a single moment of it.

A couple of months ago, my sister said to me, like, "I wish I could take all that away from you." I was like, "Oh, I wouldn't trade it for the world." Like, even as bad as it was, I would rather have that experience than maybe an easier perspective or a different perspective. Because every minute of it shaped who I am today, and will affect who I am later on in life. So, no, I'm grateful for every minute, even the really bad parts.

Dance Moms: The Reunion premieres tonight at 8 p.m. on Lifetime, and is available to stream tomorrow.

Reunion poster of 'Dance Moms' cast with six women smiling, posing for a selfie, dressed in elegant evening wear
Courtesy of Lifetime