Dancing With the Stars’ tenth anniversary season has been a memorable one, not only for the quality of competition, but also because of the heated debates about various things not directly related to the dancing. We’re down to the final tonight, and it’s anyone’s guess who will win the coveted mirror ball trophy. Here’s our view.
All three dancers in the final have certainly worked hard and in many ways are worthy of the win. I don’t think we’ve ever had a final where all three finalists displayed the kind of intensity of passion that we’ve seen this season. But that doesn’t mean Wendy and I don’t have a favorite choice. We’ll go over our impression of each competitor.
Riker Lynch and Allison Holker
Riker has been an impressive dancer throughout the season. His very first dance on week 1 was probably the best first week dance ever performed on Dancing With the Stars. It quickly became apparent why. In December 2006, which wasn’t really that far back, Riker (his name at the time spelled Ryker) competed in Junior Pre-Championship Latin with his sister Rydel in several competitions. In fact, in the Holiday Dance Classic held in Vegas that year, he competed against a couple we know very well, the extremely talented Adam Li and Ksenia Michtchenko from Vancouver. In the BYU Dancesport Championships in Provo, Utah Riker and Rydel tied for first place in the Youth Novice Latin and made the top 20 of the Junior Latin Championship and Youth Latin Championship. Riker even competed against some of the dancers who are now pros on the very show in which he’s a competitor.
As if that’s not enough of an issue, he’s the cousin of judge Julianne Hough. It’s troubling that Dancing With the Stars is allowing nepotism, and this increases our level of discomfort. Julianne is judging not only her brother but also her cousin. This just feels wrong on so many levels.
As I already said, Riker is an impressive dancer. I particularly liked his Pirates of the Caribbean Paso Doble. Wendy and I both felt that he danced the Paso significantly better than his professional partner Allison did. She doesn’t have ballroom dance background and her lack of technique has at times left us cringing in embarrassment. This lack of ballroom experience may have been the reason for so much choreography that hasn’t done him any favors. All his routines have been too frantic for our liking. There is no sense of the subtleties of using music for impact. It’s always just rush, rush, rush. Even slow dances feel panicky because of choreography that never takes time to breathe or explore the elegant beauty of the dance or the music.
Noah Galloway and Sharna Burgess
When we first heard of Noah Galloway, we had no idea what to expect. A veteran who lost not only an arm but a leg in an IED attack, and both on the same side of his body, we wondered how in the world he would be able to dance. After all, the left arm is the connecting arm for many of the dances, and plays a critical role in leading the lady in Latin dances. Sharna has done an incredible job with the choreography, making it possible for Noah to perform some pretty challenging routines. We’ve been impressed by the way she has trusted him for all the lifts she’s put into the dances. With his leg amputated above the knee, he can’t feel when his knee is bent or straight, making it even more challenging than it would be if the amputation happened below the knee.
One of the things we’ve appreciated about Noah is the passion he has put into this journey. We’ve seen him take on something totally out of his comfort zone and handle it with dignity and determination. Throughout the season he’s been humble and trusting of his partner and open to learn. He’s shown all of us that nothing is impossible with enough will.
At the same time, we have to admit that he has not been able to really dance in the true sense of the word. He’s doing an impressive job but at the end of the day this is a dance competition, so it would seem unfair if he were to win the mirror ball. In all his dances, Sharna does the dancing while Noah handles a few steps and the lifts. It’s a little unfair to have him competing against able-bodied dancers, but since he is, we do feel it needs to be judged that way. When it comes to naming the winner, we should see someone who really has been able to perform full out as a dancer.
Rumer Willis and Valentin Chmerkovskiy
Rumer’s story has been fascinating because we had little idea about the challenges she went through as a child and how those created a confidence problem she still struggles with. Stars often seem bigger than life, and since Rumer grew up in a family of A-list actors we assumed life had been pretty cozy.
From week 1, Wendy and I were captivated by Rumer’s dancing. She moves so naturally and fluidly it’s just a joy to see her dance. And more than that, she exudes emotional power which we feel is an essential element of any dance performance. The connection with Val is absolutely remarkable. This chemistry has made every dance performance delightful to watch. Radiant when she smiles, her footwork is beautiful, she holds her frame perfectly, she oozes musicality in all her dances and brings out the character of the dance every time. That’s something we don’t get from the other two finalists.
For that reason, Rumer and Val are the couple we’d like to see holding the mirror ball in tonights finale.
But DWTS is not a dance competition. If it was, Willow Shields would be in the finals. It’s a popularity contest. Americans vote for their favorite, most voters completely unaware of what dance technique should look like or how hard it really is. Let’s see what happens.