Hold me closer, tiny dancers: It’s season 22 finale night. In a two-hour celebration of the fabulous season that was, we saw routines from some of our favorite eliminated contestants, a look back at season highlights, and performances by musical acts that I most definitely had to Google. As reigning champion Bindi Irwin reminded us, tonight was all about having fun in all the sparkles. Well said, Bindi.
Oh! There also was some competitive dancing, as Nyle, Paige, and Ginger headed out onto the ballroom floor for one more round of judges’ scores in the always entertaining, usually useless 24-hour Fusion Dance Round. After last night’s final performance hour, in which Nyle and Peta danced a profound freestyle contemporary that broke tear ducts and also some other things happened, Paige and Mark sit atop the leader board. The best part of this season though, is that it’s still anyone’s mirror ball trophy to win. But before we crown our new Dancing With the Stars champion, let’s talk filler highlights.
THE ENCORE DANCES
Finalists and eliminated contestants-alike give us some reminders as to why season 22 was so memorable. Paige and Mark perform their paso doble homage to UFC fighting, once again proving that Mark’s choreography is always exciting and unpredictable. Nyle and Peta go all the way back to week one and re-do their cha cha — the dance that completely blew up our expectations for the pair. Ginger and Val dance their Argentine tango, which is their way of blessing us all with that lace blazer one last time.
Tonight’s not just about the finalists, though. It’s also about those contestants who should’ve been finalists: Wanyá and Lindsay dance an encore of their Charleston, but I took no notes during this performance because I was dancing along in my living room. Both performances we’re fabulous. Thankfully, Jodie and Keo reprise their killer jive, which though perfect, ended up being Jodie’s swan song. It is one of the best dances of the season even now. Sharna and Antonio perform their Aladdin routine from Disney Night, because, um… there wasn’t enough leftover glitter confetti for them to perform their Footloose routine? Or maybe Sharna wanted one last spin in those Jasmine pants. For that, I cannot blame her.
THE PRO PERFORMANCES
Our pros get after some group routines, mainly so that Erin can ogle the male pros for a little longer. The men of season 22 perform in suits, so I guess I’m ogling, too. The ladies dance to JLo’s “Ain’t Your Mama,” and it is all too short of a routine. All of our pros are pretty great, but the campaign to get Jenna and Shannon celeb partners next season still rages on.
Speaking of things that still rage on deep within me, Maks shows up to give us all a taste of his and Val’s summer tour. If this short number is any indication, their tour will be full of brotherly love, beautiful ladies being flung through the air, and men’s shirts popping open. Should we all meet there?
The most fun group routine is the full cast’s celebration of summer. What was better: Sasha’s return as The Crab or the shot of Tony riding by on a bicycle? Debate in the comments, show no mercy.
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THE MUSICAL ACTS
As predicted, I have very little clue who these people are. It doesn’t mean these performances aren’t enjoyable. Kim and Sasha and the DWTS ladies dance a hot little number around, well, hot little number Fleur East. Fifth Harmony graces the ballroom with their presence, but they are not the Spice Girls and one of them has a giant crown on her head. Country duo Dan + Shay sing while Witney and Artem… get married? Things escalated quickly. Thankfully, there is one musical act I do recognize: Pitbull. Was that the saddest sentence ever written? Don’t answer that. One wouldn’t think that Pitbull would be such a big DWTS fan, but the dude can’t get enough. He’ll most likely… maybe… probably be back to judge next season. The pull of the ballroom is strong, Pitbull.
NEXT: Let’s dance, people [pagebreak]
THE FUNNY STUFF
You can always count on DWTS for some weird but amusing montages. Sadly, we don’t get a full “Dance Center” segment this season, but Kenny Mayne does put together a heavily edited package of him interviewing the three football celebs. The cut to Doug Flutie’s “I love dogs” is almost as good as a bowl of Flutie Flakes, but not quite. There’s the requisite rehearsal blooper reel — which once again only makes me wish we could watch the rehearsals — and an oddly off-putting Are You Smarter Than a Dancer? spoof. The only good thing that comes out of that segment is the realization that Von Miller absolutely should be hosting a game show.
Whew. Finally, we get down to business. Let’s dance!
THE 24-HOUR DANCE FUSION ROUND
Ginger Zee and Valentin Chmerkovskiy
Fusion Dance: Argentine Tango/Fox Trot
The last night of rehearsal is bittersweet for Ginger and Val. Ginger’s learned so much and is thankful for the opportunity, but sad to say goodbye to the ballroom, Val, and his dance blazers, probably. They pull an argentine tango/fox trot for their fusion dance, and even Ginger gets in on the choreographing. That may have been a mistake. Ginger misses some steps, and not even Val’s magic blazer can save it. The judges don’t seem to mind too much, it is the final night, after all. They praise Ginger’s obvious improvement from week one. Ginger gives the most sass she has all season when she corrects Len and Bruno under her breath for repeatedly calling her a weather girl — she’s a meteorologist. Though she may not have been the best dancer, and certainly not who I thought we’d see in the finals, she loves Dancing With the Stars, and really, what more could you ask for?
Judges’ Score: 27/30
Nyle DiMarco and Peta Murgatroyd
Fusion Dance: Cha Cha/Tango
This season was full of great partnerships, but Nyle and Peta were undoubtedly the most moving of pairs. Peta knew after their week one cha cha, that they’d be in the finals. She’s been so inspired by Nyle; he’s taught her that dance is about making a human connection. Nyle, too, has grown quite attached to Peta. It’s all gone by so fast. The couple is exhausted, but they want to finish their powerful dance journey on top. Well, if they wanted to be sure to make every single person watching cry two nights in a row, they’ve accomplished that. From the moment they sign “thank you” to one another to open their dance, the tears are flowing. And then when Carrie Ann signs her critique to Nyle, and he is utterly wrecked, it is game over. Len says something about people putting boundaries on themselves and I have to believe this is the sparkliest motivation seminar the world has ever seen.
Judges’ Score: 30/30
Paige VanZant and Mark Ballas
Fusion Dance: Jive/Salsa
Our little Paige has grown over the course of the season, hasn’t she? Even she recalls a time when she wanted no parts of Mark Ballas lifting her up off the ground — now the girl can’t wait to add in lifts to their final fusion dance. Paige thanks Mark for helping her grow as a person and knows this isn’t goodbye for them. WHEN DID THESE FINAL REHEARSAL SESSIONS GET SO INTENSE? It’s a big ol’ tearfest in my house (I live alone) as Mark and Paige take the dance floor for the last time. Their jive/salsa highlights some of their best moments together — the slow salsa sequence is especially great — and it is a fitting end to their partnership. Len admits that if the winner were chosen solely on dance talent, Paige would take it. Since we all know it’s not, we’ll have to wait a little longer to see if the UFC fighter will be the one left standing when this is all over.
Judges’ Score: 30/30
And so here we are. Just our three final couples and Aloe Blacc bringing this thing home. Paige and Mark, Ginger and Val, and Nyle and Peta watch a montage of their work throughout the season, until America’s Dad Tom Bergeron has to gently let Ginger and Val know that they’ve come in third place. Those two look like they expected it. We’ve already all moved on.
As many predicted, season 22 comes down to Nyle and Peta and Paige and Mark. Who will get that mirror ball trophy? That patented DWTS music beings to play and the season 22 champions are… Nyle and Peta! After last night’s unreal freestyle, any other outcome would’ve been a shame. From Top Model to top dancer, it seems like, yes, Tyra, Nyle does want to be on top.
What a season, you guys! Full of all the sparkles, stunning routines, endearing partnerships, hot legs, and dancing blazers one show could possibly pack into a 10-week span. Until September, I guess? If you find yourself needing a glitter fix during the long, hard, cha cha-less summer we have before us, be sure to find me on Twitter, where the ballroom never closes.