The dance. The dream. The drama. It’s all in a typical day for Jeanette and Ava Cota, who have starred on the hit television show, Dance Moms. We spoke exclusively with Jeanette and Ava about what the dance world is really like, Dance Moms, and making it all work.
How did you get involved in Dance Moms?
Jeanette: Season 3, we got a call from a mutual friend of Abby [Lee Miller, owner of Abby Lee Dance Company] and ours, and said to get Ava there right away, that they were auditioning for ALDC and for Dance Moms. So we packed up the car and drove to Pittsburgh on a whim. She auditioned; she was 10-years-old. She made it to the final 2, and they decided to cut her because they said she didn’t have her aerial, which was fine. Abby said that she wanted to see her at another competition, and to keep practicing her aerials, which she did.
Then after that, Abby and I grew a friendship and she wanted Ava at a lot of things, so we did that. Then Season 4 came around and we found out that they were doing auditions to bring on a whole new team. So she auditioned for that, and made it to the top 20, and we kept getting callbacks. After lots of callbacks, interviews, and paperwork, she wound up making the select ensemble team, which brought us into Season 4.5.
You have your own dance studio, so let’s talk about that.
Jeanette: Yes, I’ve had my own dance studio since Ava was 2. I put her in dance and went to a recital and thought, “There’s no way that I can sit and watch someone else teach Ava. There’s no way.” So I opened my studio and I trained her ever since. It’s been amazing; the show has brought in a ton of opportunities.
We live in an area that has a lot of dance studios. I call it Dance Studio Central because there’s an overabundance of them. We have about 100 students, which is a good size for me. Every month I get busier with her, so I bring in extra instructors instead of me trying to do everything. I opened the dance studio for her, and I’ll keep it open for her. But I have little 18-month-olds coming in, too, so it’s nice to offer those opportunities to other students as well.
Ava, it’s nice to have a mom who really is involved and has your back.
Ava: I love it because she’s the one teaching me. She’s been in the industry; she knows how it works. So she’s helped me get a lot of opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Jeanette: I think what makes a strong dancer is to learn from many other teachers, so I’m constantly taking her to conventions or ballet studios or gymnastics.
So let’s talk about this season of Dance Moms. You’re back on it!
Jeanette: It’s about working hard and moving forward. Ava has extreme talent; she sings, she’s recorded two singles so far. Obviously, she dances and she acts, so she really has all of those qualities.
I have to say, Ava, that you hold yourself very well for someone who is just 12.
Jeanette: She truly is a role model for kids who are both younger and older than her. Wherever I take her, the teachers talk about her dedication and her humility. She’s like an old soul.
Ava: She said that if I ever let it go to my head, she said that she’s going to shut it down! [laughs]
What was it like for you to be on Dance Moms, Ava?
Ava: It was great because I looked up to all the other girls, especially Chloe and the other girls who are older than me. I remember the first time I met them, I was shaking. I wanted to take pictures with them. It’s really cool; I’m still getting used to it.
As a parent, Jeanette, how do you deal with the grueling schedule?
Jeanette: I have a family at home, so in the morning I make dinner, separating it for my husband and son, and then by noon, she’s off to the ballet studio or at my studio, or off running solos, and then we start dance up at 4:00, and I’m there until 9:00. We usually eat our dinner at the studio at 4:00, but that’s just the studio side. Then you put trying to get her to voice lessons and recording studio time and my son’s stuff on top of it, and trying to really balance that. Plus, I still dabble in modeling, but that’s gone out the window because now we’re in convention and competition season! So I have all these kids at the studio now counting on me, too. It’s a lot.
How do you do it all?
Jeanette: I have a great staff. If I didn’t have that, it would be very hard for me to run my studio. I have a very supportive husband who helps me and understands that I have to travel a lot and so he’ll help out at home a lot. We get through it; it doesn’t mean that we’re not exhausted at night as we come through the door. But it’s all worth it. Every day.