A very Fosse group dance.

We’re back to one-hour “Dance Moms” episodes, which means the focus is on the dancing instead of the moms’ drama. Hurrah! Here are my top three AWESOME and AWKWARD moments from this week's show:

AWESOME: Rachelle Rak makes a guest appearance! Rachelle, or “Sas,” is Broadway royalty, so us DS editors were already obsessed with her. (Check out her “Letter to My Teenage Self” here.) But seeing how well she works with my favorite kiddos makes me love her even more. The group routine, “Gold Digger,” is Fosse-esque, so the moms freak out that the kids are dancing with turned-in feet (the horror!). The choreography is great, and the kids pick up the new style in a snap, rocking those turned-in feet and hip swings. But the best part is that Rachelle isn’t afraid to stand up for Mackenzie when Abby tries to kick her out of the dance. Abby may have taken all the credit for their first place win, but the true winner at this competition is definitely Sas.

AWKWARD: Of course, Rachelle looks unbelievable in her classic high-waisted black leotard, so the moms get jealous. They have a party to wrap their body parts in seaweed or something, which is supposed to help them tighten up their “problem areas.” The idea that Rachelle’s years and years of dancing (not some strange organic beauty product) may be the source of her awesome bod doesn’t seem to occur to them, so instead they strip off their clothes and choose which body part deserves a little special treatment. Mom Holly even wraps her face, which is just confusing. They all look exactly the same afterward. I think it may be time to sign up for a dance class, ladies.

AWESOME: Chloe’s new rocker look. It’s her first solo since being suspended, so she comes back in style. “Black Heart” shows off her rock n’ roll side—crimped hair, pleather pants and all. At first, I wasn’t sure she could pull it off (this isn’t the ethereal bunhead we’re used to), but she totally nails it! First place!

Careful, Chloe: Faces like that will get you in trouble.

AWKWARD: Whatever Abby’s doing with Kendall. Sure, Abby gives her a solo, but then she makes her jog in place to “work on her stamina.” Last week it was all about Kendall’s faces, this week it’s all about her endurance. I think Abby’s sudden interest in Kendall may be more about punishing Mom Jill than it is about improving her daughter’s dancing—but there’s no harm in a little extra attention, right? Then, just before Kendall goes onstage, Abby makes her “sit the wall.” Kendall’s flapper routine is cute, but it could probably have been better if her thighs weren’t exhausted from that pre-performance workout.

AWESOME: Maddie and Mackenzie do a duet! As soon as Abby assigned this routine, I knew it would make it to the “awesome” list. Turns out, the choreography is kind of blah, but the combination of Maddie’s talent and Little Mac’s cuteness is just too much amazingness for one dance. Obviously, this sister act snags first place. Go Zieglers!

AWKWARD: Abby is the ultimate Debbie Downer. In the end, the girls sweep the competition once again and everyone’s thrilled—except Abby, who’s “appalled.” She tells Kendall she behaved badly in the wings and chastises Chloe for giving an in-character exit. Ugh. Just let them have their shining moment, Abby.

And now, the QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

“I don’t like when Abby is always comparing me to Maddie, because I’m not Maddie. I’m Mackenzie.” —Mackenzie, who will hopefully never stop being proud of herself

Maybe the arrival of newcomer (and “Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition” alum) Asia Monet Ray will lift Abby’s spirits next week. I know I’m looking forward to seeing this little munchkin again! Until then, let me know what you thought of this week’s episode in the comments.

Rak as Sheila in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of A Chorus Line (Jerry Dalia)

Rachelle Rak is the quintessential Broadway gypsy. Over the course of her 25-year career, she’s had featured parts in everything from Fosse to Oklahoma! on the Great White Way, as well as leads in a myriad of off-Broadway shows. (You probably also saw her courageous, though ultimately heartbreaking, audition for the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line in the documentary Every Little Step.) Whatever the role, whatever the venue, she lives to be onstage.

Rak trained from the age of 2 with her mother, Rosalene Kenneth, at the Rosalene Kenneth Dance Studio in Pittsburgh, PA. When she was still in high school, she went to an open call for the national tour of Cats—and booked the job. It didn’t take long for her to become a familiar face on the musical theater circuit.

Today, in addition to performing, she teaches in NYC, gives master classes throughout the U.S. and U.K. and judges for Access Broadway and Dance Educators of America. She’ll be back in the Broadway spotlight this summer as Tess in the new production of Flashdance: The Musical. —Margaret Fuhrer

Dear Rachelle,

Rak as a young student

I want to let you know that I am here for you. You are loved. That will count for so much as you grow up. When you doubt yourself, jump in. When you are tired, push harder. And when you need to rest, rest.

Winning a medal is a great accomplishment, but don’t let it become everything. Titles hold no real truth about you. Don’t think of yourself as only a dancer—you are so much more.

When your mother buys you a piano and piano lessons, don’t quit. Learn about music. It’s a language you will want to understand—it will become a big part of your future. Embrace it and don’t be intimidated by it. Start harmonizing now. Oh, and focus more in English class, too. Mr. Fazio is a great teacher.

You have great drive and passion. They might disguise themselves sometimes as a need for stardom and fame, but don’t be fooled. There’s so much more out there to do and love. And when you do start having those life-changing days, breathe, say a little prayer and then go for it. Full-out. Don’t ever mark.

Your mom is in your corner. Be a sponge. She will teach you so many wonderful things. Don’t fight it; just listen. Can you tell by now that you may not always want to listen? Haha. But really, listen to your parents. They love you and want what’s best for you.

Have a lot of tricks in your back pocket. Start roller skating and learning poi balls now. And remember: “A cartwheel cut-through is always a crowd pleaser.”

Don’t let anyone put you down or hurt you. Keep God close, and when you lose sight of him, always remember that he is with you. And for your own good, try not to be so bossy.

I love you,

Sas

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