Entertainment Interview

Gianna Martello Talks ‘Dance Moms’ and Abby Lee Dance Company

Gianna Martello is a world-renowned dance choreographer for the Abby Lee Dance Company, the studio central to the hit television show Dance Moms. The talented choreographer has been with the studio as an instructor for the past 11 years, and a part of the show for all six of its seasons. Martello’s choreography has won regional and national titles, and can also be seen in music videos by Todrick Hall, Kendall Vertes, Alexx Calise, and MackZ. We got the chance to sit down with Martello to talk about her love for dance and her experience being a part of Dance Moms.
Cliché: When did your love for dance begin?
Gianna Martello: I started dancing when I was 4 years old. I don’t think I ever stopped or ever thought of stopping. My love for dance probably didn’t really start until I was competing and training intensively. Once I got more involved with Abby Lee Dance Company, and our close-knit competition group formed, it became serious. We traveled to competitions, stayed in hotels, went on vacations—we did everything together. I loved the bond that we had and the drive we had to win…that’s what made me love it.
When and how did you begin choreographing for the ALDC?
I grew up dancing at the ALDC. Abby is known for teaching her techniques to her older, more serious students, and I was one of those students. I began teaching a mini company class when I was 16 and it actually had Nia and Maddie in the class. When I went to college, I’d come home on the weekends to assist Abby and teach. She began trusting me more and more, and I began teaching my own classes and setting my own pieces!
I’ve seen many of the incredible performances that you have choreographed on Dance Moms. How does it feel when one of your dances wins a national award?
Even though we’ve won time and time again, I still get SO excited when we win. It’s like everything we’re doing and all the time and hard work we put in is paying off. It just reminds me why I do what I do, and this is why I absolutely love what I do.

When people ask me what it’s like being on the show, I always say it’s like being on Survivor.

You’ve watched the ALDC dancers grow over the years. What has been the proudest moment for you as a dance instructor?
The ALDC dancers have accomplished so much and have done so much with their careers at such a young age. It blows my mind how positive and how motivated they stay. What I love so much is no matter what red carpet they walk or what movie they shoot, they always come back to class and train just as hard. They realize they are very fortunate but also still work so hard. It’s exciting for me to see them always eager to learn more and more.
What are some of the challenges that come along with filming a television show while trying to teach a dance routine?
There are so many! When people ask me what it’s like being on the show, I always say it’s like being on Survivor—getting through obstacles and jumping through hoops to meet a deadline and come out on top. We have about three days to create, costume, and perfect four routines. Since we follow child labor laws, we shoot very few hours a day. When Abby or the moms cause drama, that cuts into our rehearsal time, too. Pyramid takes almost an entire day to shoot, and traveling takes another day. We pretty much have the odds against us every week!
What is it like to work with Abby?
A whirlwind! Like I said before, I grew up with Abby, so I get her. I know what she’s going to say before she says it. She will be screaming at someone one minute, and the next minute, she’s telling me she likes my tennis shoes or asking me where we’re going for dinner. It’s so great that she trusts me the way that she does. She and I will bounce around ideas for the routines and then she lets me do my thing. She will come in and add her flare to it, but I already can read her mind and know what she’s going to want.
Dance Moms has already had six seasons and you’ve been a part of it since the beginning. What has been your favorite experience from being a part of the show this far?
I have literally been there since day ONE. It’s really cool going to award shows and doing all the fun stuff, but what’s so awesome is when we travel around the country and see that there are so many kids dancing because of Dance Moms. We went to Australia and had a convention center of 1200 students on the floor. Teaching a class that large was definitely one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Do you. Worry about yourself, but don’t forget where you came from!
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Gianna Martello Talks ‘Dance Moms’ and Abby Lee Dance Company: Photographed by Ryan West

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