TIA CARRERE AND MAKSIM CHMERKOVSKIY: TANGO
Tia, who had given birth weeks before the start of season 2, was eliminated on week 5. But her and Maks’ emotionally smoldering yet precise and controlled dance set the standard for what makes a respectable tango in the competition. It was as if she’d Method-trained for the role ”Dancer of Tango.” The traditional ballroom music — an anomaly on this show — helped, too.
STARE INTENTLY FORWARD AT The phenomenal how is this happening?! dip at 0:47
STACY KEIBLER AND TONY DOVOLANI: SAMBA
Was it the dance I remember, or is it that Stacy’s orange two-piece costume marked the all-time epitome of General Excellence in Fringe? Who knows? Stacy was arguably the most technically impressive contestant on season 2, and although she and Tony had way less chemistry than winners Drew Lachey and Cheryl Burke, the superiority of their samba rolls (which would go really well with the jelly that I don’t think Tony’s ready for) is undeniable.
SHAKE IT TO The triumphant zoom-in on Stacy’s fringerrific shimmy at 1:44
DREW LACHEY AND CHERYL BURKE: FREESTYLE
There they are! Weeks before this finale performance, Drew and Cheryl had firmly secured viewers into their corner with their ”Thriller” paso doble. But their ”Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” freestyle remains many viewers’ all-time favorite DWTS performance.
SADDLE UP FOR When Cheryl officially ”rides the cowboy” while forcing Drew to do some extremely manly pushups at 1:14
MARIO LOPEZ AND KARINA SMIRNOFF: FREESTYLE
Like season 2’s Stacy, Mario was technically a better dancer than the winner (Emmitt Smith). But instead of picking any of his ballroom dances, I’m going with his utterly ridiculous and kind of awesome freestyle set to the timeless Jock Jam ”It Takes Two.” His funky moves hark back to his underrated dance work on Saved by the Bell, specifically in ”Dancing to the Max” and the commercial for Buddy Bands.
SPLIT JUMP TO 3:32, when Mario throws it down for a B-boy-wannabe solo. I also love at 0:54 during the rehearsal footage when he says, ”I already dropped Karina on her head,” like it was something the overachiever got to check off his DWTS to-do list.
EMMITT SMITH AND CHERYL BURKE: MAMBO
You know it was their best performance if they did it on Oprah! Season 3 winner Emmitt’s commitment to serious hip action, not to mention bright and shiny costuming, was in full effect by the time he and Cheryl danced the mambo in week 7.
KICK IT TO 0:52, as Emmitt begins a series of knee-based moves, including a dramatic backwards-leaning shimmy after Cheryl’s stiletto prodded his indomitable pecs.
JOEY FATONE AND KYM JOHNSON: TANGO
It’s Return of the Joe-i! Music director Harold Wheeler and his Harold Wheeler Orchestra composed a maddening, quick-paced Star Wars theme song specifically for this dance. Joey’s proficient wielding of a lightsaber right at the beginning pretty much sets the stage for this very specific type of DWTS campy greatness. He sheds the brown tarp/overcoat early on, but Kym’s virtually backless Princess Leia top keeps the dream alive.
WATCH FOR The couple’s shared gaze of fierce determination at 3:09. There’s never been anything more important!
APOLO ANTON OHNO AND JULIANNE HOUGH: SAMBA
It’s hard to pick just one dance of DWTS poster children ”Apollianne”’s to spotlight, but their week 5 samba stands out because it scored them the first perfect 30 of season 4. Not to mention, Julianne’s tiger costume. And Apolo’s wearing a headband! And the song, ”I Like to Move It,” was totally appropriate. Say it with me: When in doubt, go with a Jock Jam.
GROWL FEROCIOUSLY AT One of my favorite Julianne moves, the seamless diagonal roundhouse kick at 3:25. I think that’s what you’d call it.
Watch EW.com’s video interviews with Apolo
SABRINA BRYAN AND MARK BALLAS: CHA-CHA
The Cheetah Girl started out so strong — with a week 1 performance that judge Len Goodman said was perhaps the best cha-cha to date — that her early ouster in week 6 has been widely considered the most shocking elimination of the series. When I first saw this, I wondered if the contestant had gotten sick and a teenaged pro was filling in last-minute. (The slightly annoying paw-print cutouts on Sabrina’s ass that very subtly suggested ”Cheetah” hinted otherwise.)
DONCHA MISS The pair’s side-by-side sequence starting at 2:10. Very fun, but it’s also indicative of what the judges would ream Sabrina for later — too many punchy, powerful moves and not enough partner-assisted grace.
JENNIE GARTH AND DEREK HOUGH: QUICKSTEP
It’s only really memorable because Jennie took a bit of a tumble. Mind you, her ”fall” wasn’t anywhere near as noticeable as Heather Mills’ topple at the end of her season 4 samba. This didn’t stop the producers from replaying it every single week Jennie was still there. (It certainly didn’t stop me, either! I’d just rather put Jennie in here than Heather Mills.)
ASHES, ASHES Derek accidentally steps on Jennie’s dress, forcing her onto her butt, at 3:00. Oh, well!
MARIE OSMOND AND JONATHAN ROBERTS: FREESTYLE
It’s fitting and even oddly poignant that the likeliest DWTS performance to permanently lodge itself in viewers’ brains is one as laughably awful as Marie Osmond’s zombie doll freestyle. You kept waiting for her to abandon the ”limp” effect and start moving like a living being, and she just never did. At least she didn’t faint — although if I could have reassigned her week 5 post-samba faint to any other moment of the season, it’d be right when Jonathan starts enthusiastically turning the giant key. Or sooner.
FLOP YOUR WAY TO The impressive three-second stretch from 1:28-1:31 in which Marie pulls out at least seven of the most heinous moves imaginable. And if you can handle it: 1:50, when an airborne Marie invites Jonathan’s face into her crotch.
MEL B. AND MAKSIM CHMERKOVSKIY
Even though my favorite Mel & Maks moment of season 5 has to be Mel’s four consecutive walking splits during the Viennese Waltz, I think the pair’s paso doble, set to an exceedingly lame PG-rated version of En Vogue’s ”Free Your Mind,” was the dance that captured the spirit of ”M&M” the best. Come on: It’s Maks in a leather vest, and Scary Spice in leather undies and a cape! Does anyone not want to be her when she plays dominatrix and straddles him at the end? (Did I really just say that? To other people?)
WIELD YOUR CAPE TOWARDS 1:00, for some post-instrumental wrist-flicking and Maks’ majestic showoff-y leap that ends in a supplicant kneel. ”Why oh why must it be this” hot?
HELIO CASTRONEVES AND JUILANNE HOUGH: QUICKSTEP
The stylists lovingly outfitted Helio as a giant banana for the season 5 winners’ most memorable performance. Everyone remembers the egregious showmance-suggesting moment at the end, when Helio ”spontaneously” decided to plant a wet one on Julianne before dropping her in a perfect horizontal line to the floor. Thud.
I WANT TO MAKE OUT WITH Julianne’s incredible full-spinning assisted jump at 1:23. That’s some figure-skating action up in there!
MARIO AND KARINA SMIRNOFF: RUMBA
Mario dedicated this really raunchy (and Stevie Wonder-endorsed) dance to his 6-year-old brother, who was warned not to really watch it. ”Let’s Get It On,” children! After the rumba, which Carrie Ann called ”better than good sex,” DANCMSTR Len Goodman got all crotchety, complaining that the dance is supposed to be about the development of a romance, ”not a strumpet and a gigolo.” Has Len never seen a rumba on the show before? If done correctly and with hip action (Mario’s was better than any guy’s last season), they’re supposed to look NC-17.
GET THIS ANALOGY ON Maybe I watched too much rhythmic gymnastics during the Beijing Olympics, but from 3:05 on, it’s almost as if Karina is the ribbon.
CRISTIÁN DE LA FUENTE AND CHERYL BURKE: MAMBO
Cristián didn’t really wow us until he’d ruptured a tendon in his left arm. (Freak accident during a routine samba!) Cheryl’s stellar choreography for their mambo the next week had us simultaneously straining to see if the tasty Chilean sea bass of a man would wince (he didn’t) and if the dance would look horribly lopsided without the use of one arm (it didn’t!).
CAST A LINE TO The highly creative final pose at 1:37, in which Cheryl appears to be hanging upside down from a bright fuchsia tree.
KRISTI YAMAGUCHI AND MARK BALLAS: JIVE
Most of the figure skating queen’s dances looked perfect, but the jive won her that coveted perfect 30. It’s hard to imagine any other non-pro woman from the whole series pulling off such a quick, complicated routine. Bruno and Carrie Ann agreed it was their favorite dance of the season — I’m pretty sure I agree with them, but it could be that I’m just really obsessed with the huge, polka-dotted bow in Kristi’s hair. With the bow, the white gloves, and the weird shoes, Kristi had a solid Minnie Mouse vibe goin’ on.
PUT ON YOUR GEEK GLASSES FOR Kristi’s lightning-fast series of three spin/dip combos that make you wonder ”Is she on ice?”
BROOKE BURKE AND DEREK HOUGH: SALSA
Gold. Fringed. Pants. So far, they’re the most lingering visual of season 7 — or at least all anyone will remember about Brooke’s round 2 salsa, whether they want to or not. Sure, these pants were hideous, but tacky is the name of the game on DWTS, and I love that Brooke agreed to partake in this colossal costuming joke that very few non-mannequin beings could pull off and just totally went for it. As the official No. 1 fan of fringe, I laughed my ass off and will uphold these pants as my personal highlight of season 7. So much fringe. So few seconds. So not paying attention to the dance. (Kidding.) (Kind of.) STRETCH BEFORE WATCHING Brooke’s splits-in-air/splits-on-floor combo at 1:18
LANCE BASS AND LACEY SCHWIMMER: JITTERBUG
Lance lost a shoe during the jitterbug, which was such a perfect wardrobe malfunction for this footwear-defying couple that my inner cynic immediately thought it might have been intentional. Maybe Lance was not just a fake sailor, but a fake dance hero, too! Obviously, though, it was an accident, and the able seaman valiantly tossed his partner over his shoulder and stood erect to salute, wearing only a sock. Pure mastery. It’s kind of sad that Lance Bass jitterbuggin’ in a sock and Brooke Burke executing pretty moves while looking pretty have been the two most impressive feats of the season.
THE SHOE DROPS at 0:43, but Lance artfully kicks it aside at 0:49 before launching into his next difficult move: jumping into Lacey’s arms like a baby and saluting the crowd.
Got ”Dancing” fever? Check out what’s happening elsewhere on EW.com