More drama surfaces as Greensburg woman’s lease of ‘Dance Moms’ studio ends
Filming for season 8 of Lifetime channel’s “Dance Moms” has concluded, but a different drama is unfolding behind the scenes at the Penn Hills dance studio where Abby Lee Miller became a reality TV star.
A rift has developed between Miller and a former dance student who has leased the building for the past three years.
In a photo posted on Instagram in 2016, Miller is seen smiling as she hands over the studio keys to Appolonia Leake of Greensburg. Leake has since been running her own dance company out of the Saltsburg Road building where Miller previously operated her dance company and gained fame during the initial seasons of “Dance Moms.”
Relations between the two dance entrepreneurs have cooled considerably as Leake’s three-year lease on the studio is set to expire and she prepares to move to a new location in Unity.
In an email message criticizing the Tribune-Review’s recent coverage of Leake’s planned relocation to a portion of the former Carbone’s restaurant in Crabtree, Miller objected to changes Leake made to the Penn Hills facility.
“She covered the signage and painted over all the logos inside,” Miller wrote, adding that Leake “even threw all my pictures of previous national winners and professional working dancers out in the trash!”
She said Leake has “15 days to put my studio back exactly the way it was at the time she took possession.”
Leake’s mother, Lou Demosky, who is the business manager for her daughter’s dance company, said Miller’s business logos were replaced with her daughter’s as part of the redecoration of the leased space. Demosky added it will be up to whoever next occupies the building to redecorate after her daughter moves out by June 30.
Leake said Miller’s photos weren’t trashed but were collected by a staff member of a store that shares the Penn Hills building.
“The studio is in pristine condition,” Demosky said. “It’s better now in appearance than it was when we moved in.”
Leake said she was selected from among several instructors who proposed moving into the Penn Hills studio in 2016 after Miller had relocated to California.
Demosky said her family expected Leake’s relationship with Miller to be a positive one. Leake’s tenure in the Penn Hills studio was promoted as ALDC 2.0, referencing the fact that Leake’s business name, Appolonia Leake Dance Co., shares the same initials as Miller’s Abby Lee Dance Co.
But Demosky said many people began to question her daughter’s identity. “They thought that Abby made this person up,” she said. “It was awful.”
Leake said she has since tried to distance herself from Miller, especially since the latter pleaded guilty to bankruptcy fraud charges and served eight months in a medium-security federal prison.
According to Demosky, Miller’s recent history and her association with the Penn Hills studio made it challenging for her daughter to attract new students there. “People didn’t want to take lessons in that space,” Demosky said.
“We managed for three years to tough it out,” Demosky said, noting it took nine months of searching to find a new location for her daughter to lease.
Miller pleaded guilty in 2016 to concealing assets during a 2010 Chapter 11 bankruptcy hearing and failing to report bringing more than $10,000 into the country from Australia in 2014.
Since being released from prison, Miller has battled cancer as well as resuming appearances on “Dance Moms.” In her email to the Tribune-Review, she criticized Leake, alleging she realized a substantial profit through the decision of “Dance Moms” executives to return to the Penn Hills location for filming.
“The production company was forced to rent the studios back from Ms. Leake,” Miller wrote. “She charged them double what she pays me! So she actually made a lot of money from a show she isn’t even contracted to be on!”
Leake questioned how Miller could know what payment she received, noting she entered into a nondisclosure agreement with the show’s producers.
Leake said the filming, which took place at the studio before 3 p.m. weekdays, required her to reschedule some of her dance instruction sessions. “I couldn’t be at my own studio during the day,” she said. “I had to put (Miller’s) logos back. It was a lot of work.”
The filming schedule freed up the studio by 4 p.m., when many of Leake’s students arrived for after-school lessons.
“I didn’t want a crossover because I didn’t want Abby Lee Miller around our students,” Demosky said, citing her landlord’s history. Filming at the Penn Hills studio began in January and wrapped up during the first week of June, Leake said.
Demosky said she is eager for her daughter to move on with her business plans and leave Miller behind.
That includes a name change, to Apple’s Dance Lab, along with the relocation to Crabtree.
“I cannot wait until the total separation occurs,” Demosky said.
Miller didn’t immediately respond to a request for additional comment.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .