Wearing a sparkly two-piece dance outfit and a look of fear on her face, 11-year-old Haley Huelsman made her way to the dance floor. It was her turn to perform a martial arts-inspired routine on Lifetime’s “Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition” in front of head judge Abby Lee Miller, as Miller wielded a large wooden stick.
“I’m really scared, because I’m going up next and I think Abby means to hit people,” Haley said in the episode, which aired Oct. 1.
Haley avoided the stick, which Miller strategically placed in the dancing area so that dancers who correctly executed the steps would physically miss it, but was eliminated from the competition later in show. The Madison, Conn., resident — who trains weekly at the Jennifer Napolitano School of the Performing Arts in Seaford — was told by Miller to “walk the plank.”
Although her elimination was tear-filled, and she’s no longer in the running to win the $100,000 cash prize and a scholarship to the Young Dancers Program at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York, Haley said it was a positive experience, especially in working with the different choreographers and learning various dance styles. Her favorite is still theater.
She also gained new friends in the show’s fellow contestants, who she often texts. A heavy Instagram user, she now has more than 30,000 followers.
“People are starting to recognize me where I go and people want pictures with me,” Haley said. “It’s really cool.”
Haley’s mom, Melanie Huelsman, 36, who was also featured in the show, said it had been a dream of Haley’s to dance for Miller.
“Not many kids can say they lived one of their dreams,” she said.
Every weekday after school, Haley trains for five hours at a dance studio in Connecticut. On weekends, she drives to Seaford, where Haley works on her solo routines with her teacher of five years, Jennifer Napolitano.
“She’s got the star quality,” Napolitano said. “This is just the beginning.”
Haley dedicates most of her time to homework, school and her busy dance schedule because she said she’s committed to performing on Broadway.
Melanie Huelsman said she and her daughter would be open to appearing on Miller’s other show, “Dance Moms,” if asked.
“She loves dancing 24/7,” Huelsman said of her daughter. “I would support anything that she wants to do.”