Abby Lee Miller previews her guest judging turn on DANCING WITH THE STARS

ALMTonight at 8/7c, Abby Lee Miller is bringing her no holds barred critiques to the ballroom on ABC’s DANCING WITH THE STARS and it sounds like the professional dancers should be as concerned about what she has to say as the celebrities.

“Derek and Mark, you know, they have a lot of things to say about me, so they better make sure that their toes are pointed, their feet are turned out, or watch out!” she told me when we spoke late last week about what to expect from her turn in the guest judge chair.

Read on to learn about her take on the competition, the dancer she missed out on meeting, and why shows like DWTS are so important.

I was watching DWTS last week, and I heard Tom say that you’d be joining as the guest judge, and found myself saying out loud “oh that will be good!” I think you’ll bring important feedback for the dancers.
Not just the dancers that are celebrities. The dancers that are the dancers! DANCING WITH THE STARS, their wonderful fabulous producers have invited me for two years to be a celebrity on the show, and we shoot at the same exact time on DANCE MOMS, so there is no way that they would let me out to do that, so I said to somebody at one point, if you ever need a judge, give me a call. Now they’re doing this guest judging thing, and they called me. And I’m thrilled. I couldn’t be happier.

Were you a fan of the show, had you been watching all these years?
My mother, who just passed away in February, it was her absolute favorite show of all time. Even more than the original HAWAII FIVE-0. It is just killing me that she’s not here to see me be on the show. She would go crazy! We’ve been to the show, I’ve watched it live several times, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. And now I’m going to be judging! I’m so excited! I think a few of the dancers might be a little nervous. But, too bad, right? They have to take it! Derek and Mark, you know, they have a lot of things to say about me, so they better make sure that their toes are pointed, their feet are turned out, or watch out!

Is it hard to go in, having watched the full season, knowing how they’ve been dancing? Would it be better to go in cold? What’s your approach to judging in this situation?
You know, you’re only as good as your last performance. Anything can go wrong. The thing that I find intriguing about DANCING WITH THE STARS, after having been there in person. In ballroom, you do it in the round; you’re dancing in the round. I think most of the choreography is set up for the cameras. It’s hard to explain. When I usually judge, I’m sitting center, in the audience, and the stage is directly in front of me, and the performers are performing for me. The angle of the big leap, or the turn section is right smack in the middle. It’s done for the judges. I feel like on this, the judges are on the side and they get a weird angle at everything. I have a problem of that; it makes me crazy!

Is there a theme, do you know what the dancing will be this week?
I don’t know that I should say! I had said something a while ago, I said something like, “I hope they do some contemporary or lyrical when I’m on the show,” so it’s a little bit more my forte.

I think that the show started as a strictly ballroom show – they’ve branched out; they’ve done so well to embrace the different genres.
I think it’s really difficult for some of the ballroom dancers to do lyrical and contemporary. It’s so against everything – the plié, the contraction of the body. The release of the shoulder. It goes against everything with the whole ballroom posture and the stance, and the carriage. I think it puts the professional dancer and the celebrity on an even keel, rather than the professional dancer carrying the number week after week.

Is there a dancer who has surprised you this season, that you’re looking forward to seeing / judging tonight?
You know, I wanted to meet Nene Leakes and she got voted off! I’m bummed about that. She was on reality TV, she’s crossed over and done really well for herself. I thought I would enjoy her company, and now she’s gone.

Nene was such a presence on the show – was technique perfect, no, but she still put on a performance that made people want to watch.
I was just telling another person – the costumes, the choice of music, the theme, the choreography – that’s what people are watching. They’re not watching all of the specifics that the judges talk about all of the time. The shoulder placement, the quickstep, what their feet are doing, the timing, the musicality. Those are things that we as judges are looking at. The general public wants to be entertained and I think that this show, all of the celebrities, and the professionals, have done an amazing job of bringing dance into every family’s living room. It’s genius.

Think back 10 years – most people didn’t know half of this stuff. And now people are interested, and taking dance classes, and learning more about what they’re seeing.
It just kills me – 10 years ago – did everybody use the word choreography? I don’t think people could even say that word, and now, dad’s talk about choreography at the dinner table with their kids. They use that word – they drop it like it’s nothing. That just cracks me up.

You have so much going on – what is happening for you right now?
I’m shooting in a retail store in a shopping center because I never got any time to shop, and I came to look for costumes for our kids for this weekend. We are shooting the back half of DANCE MOMS Season 4. I have a book that I just wrote with Harper Collins, and I just wrapped my new series, it’s called ABBY’S STUDIO RESCURE, although I did not think of that name. I thought of better names, but that’s the one that they went with. I’m just putting that out there, for everyone to know! My mom passed away in February. That night, I left Miami, got on a plane, flew right to LA, started shooting the next day, and I’ve been shooting ever since. I had three days off, but two of the days the network used for promos for this and the next show. I am working, working, working!

DANCING WITH THE STARS airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.  For more info, head to