Set in Pittsburgh, Dance Moms follows the Abby Lee Dance Company's Junior Elite Competition Team of young girls aged 11–14 years old as they travel week-to-week to various dance competitions, winning awards and hoping for an invitation to one of the National Competitions. Much of the program depicts the doting mothers as rivals not only of each other but as a group to protect the reputation of the team. All performances are choreographed by Miller and her staff, with the exception of a few guest choreographers. Later in the program, rival dance teams are introduced that spur the team's competitiveness. In season 5, Miller brings the team to Los Angeles to help build her repertoire. Every week on the show, Miller uses a pyramid to present who she feels performed the best in her eyes based on behavior, previous performance and who needs to improve.
The dance competition season is off to a rocky start when a key team member disappears.