‘Dance Moms’ choreographer Gianna Martello shares her secret to creating winning routines

US hit dance reality TV show Dance Moms is watched by millions, who tune in to see young dancers from Abby Lee Dance Company (ALDC) prepare for intense dance competitions, against the backdrop of obsessive dance moms.

Award-winning choreographer Gianna Martello is a much-loved star of the show, with over 1.2 million Instagram followers. The Wonderful World of Dance talks to Gianna about her love of dance and experience on Dance Moms.

How did you get into dancing and when did you know you wanted a life in dance?

I have a long line of dancers in my family, so I think I was born into it. It wasn’t until high school that dance became really serious. It became my passion very quickly and I knew that this was what I was supposed to do.

What inspired you to start choreographing and become a professional choreographer?

I was always the girl in the group that knew the counts and the musicality better than anyone else. I liked making up routines at home too! I started assisting Abby (Abby Lee Miller, ALDC) and teaching mini classes when I was 16 years old. I would either sit in the room and play the music for her or demonstrate the steps if she was working with a younger dancer. Sometimes she would let me clean the routine, add to a section she already started or just “make it all work!”, as she would say.

For Dance Moms you choreograph so many different dances. How do you maintain originality every week?

Some of the turn or jump sequences are actually similar because they are steps the girls do well, but the routines have to be so vastly different or else the viewers would get bored. So even if the steps are repetitive the style, the timing, or the arms are different.

Where do you get your inspiration for your choreography?

Usually from the piece of music. Sometimes on the show we are given music that isn’t the best so I have to dig deep! The girls inspire me, what’s happening in that current moment inspires me… all different things!

You choreograph ballet, contemporary, lyrical and more. What is your strongest and/or favourite?

My strongest and favorite are probably contemporary and lyrical. I grew up always doing lyrical so I think I’ve taken what I knew as a young dancer and put my twist on it.

What do you love most about choreographing?

I like to find an interesting piece of music that I can do a lot with the artist’s voice. I like to create phrases that go against music. For example, if it’s slow then I do fast stuff. I also like to push kids to their limits and allow them to figure out how far they can go.

Gianna Martello, Choreographer, Dance Moms

Gianna Martello, Choreographer, Dance Moms

How would you describe your approach to choreographing a new piece?

I listen and edit the music beforehand and come up with the story and the theme. Usually I start choreographing and setting steps with the chorus or the main dance section in the middle of the piece, then continue through to the end. After that I go back and do the beginning.

What has been your biggest challenge on Dance Moms?

I think my biggest challenge on “Dance Moms” is just creating pieces in a time crunch. We have to create so quickly and compete against routines that have been practiced and rehearsed for months when we’ve only had a few hours.

What has been your favourite moment or highlight so far on your Dance Moms journey?

Getting to do something I love! I still get excited every week when the kids perform their routines. Not a lot of people get up in the morning and are excited about their work day like I am.

What would be your dream choreography job?

A tour, movie choreography, commercials… all of it!

Youve been with ALDC for 20 years. Where do you want to be in the next 5 – 10 years in your dance career?

Hopefully still working with kids… touring with dance conventions, judging, choreographing videos and commercials.

You inspire young dancers every day. What advice would you give to young aspiring dancers?

I wasn’t always the Maddie (Maddie Ziegler), the first overall winner, all the time but I knew dance was something I couldn’t live without. The win wasn’t always my obsession, getting on stage and performing was. If it’s something you love to do then don’t ever stop doing it.