LOS ANGELES -- The reality competition that is "Dancing with the Stars" is just a few routines away from handing out its 23rd mirror ball trophy. The final four couples performed twice; the always flashy and fun freestyle dance, plus a "redemption dance" that allowed each celebrity a "do-over" of a previous style of dance. By the end of Monday night's first round, one couple will be eliminated.
Here's a rundown of Monday's scores, from highest to lowest:
Laurie Hernandez- 38 out of 40 for paso doble; 40 out of 40 freestyle - 78 total
Val Chmerkovskiy gives Laurie huge props for holding it together last week in the wake of the news of her grandma's death. She thanks her pro partner for encouraging her to feel her feelings and not keep things bottled up. They dive into rehearsal knowing their first paso doble was criticized for their lack of connection. They know that six weeks after first performing that dance they have found an easy chemistry. Head judge Len Goodman loved their focus and intent, and said there was nothing in the dance he didn't like! Julianne Hough thought they showed 100 percent growth in their connection; Carrie Ann Inaba said she felt the joy and determination; and Bruno Tonioli called the dance a knockout. Val's concept for the freestyle was inspired by a playground so he could play off of Laurie's boundless energy. He admits that if she doesn't win, it's all on him. But again... perfection. Len said the joyful routine made him feel 12 years old again; Carrie Ann thought Val captured Laurie's essence and that she delivered on the dance floor; Bruno thinks she is the embodiment of youth; and Julianne called the dance fresh, youthful, sunshine and joy.
James Hinchcliffe- 37 out of 40 for foxtrot; 40 out of 40 freestyle - 77 total
James and Sharna Burgess did the foxtrot during week one so he has 11 weeks of improvement to show the judges. He has some fun at rehearsal when week five champ Helio Castroneves shows up to offer some good-natured ribbing. But in all seriousness, Sharna tells James this has been the best season for her on the show yet. Since their routine had a library theme, Len said if you looked up dance talent in the dictionary you'd find James; and Julianne let him know she's been behind him since week one. The freestyle was truly like nothing we've seen before. There was some spoken word (from James himself) before the lyric-less music began. The concept involved Sharna portraying the guardian angel who protected him during his bad crash during an Indy race. He said the interpretation helped fill a void in his own story from his recovery. Bruno thinks this is going to go down as one of the most memorable routines ever; Carrie Ann was in tears and said she's never seen a more intelligent, artistic, passionate and creative routine in all 23 seasons... Drop the mic.
Calvin Johnson Jr.- 35 out of 40 for Viennese waltz; 40 out of 40 freestyle - 75 total
The football great is trying to focus on just how far he's come in this competition. He was reminded of some of the emails and tweets that said he'd never make it; and now look who's in the finals! Lindsay Arnold had some fun and made a presentation similar to when football players watch films; they looked at his highs and lows and knew what they needed to focus on! Len said that without a doubt Calvin is the most improved dancer in the competition, and praised his fluidity and charm; Bruno thought Calvin looked like a gentleman who definitely took the lead on the dance floor; and Carrie Ann felt the ballroom is just too small for this duo! Then we had the "awww!" moment of the night: they surprised Calvin by bringing his almost 3-year-old son out to give him a big hug. Safe to say everyone watching melted! For the freestyle, Lindsay knows how to play to Calvin's strengths; high energy, happiness and that smile. The routine has ever different style of dance, plus plenty of flips, lifts and tricks. Calvin says "go big or go home!" Julianne noted how the crowd went crazy for the dance and thought he brought joy, charm and charisma to the ballroom; Len thought the routine had both entertainment and content; and Carrie Ann said the world needs more Calvin's in the world.
Jana Kramer- 35 out of 40 for tango; 36 out of 40 freestyle - 71 total
Jana was thrilled to get a "do over" for the tango she did in week two. It was the week she had a painful rib injury and was visibly suffering through much of the dance. She's in a tough spot this week, though, because her partner Gleb Sachiko is sick with the flu. She has to do some of her rehearsing with Alan from the troupe. Julianne said she felt the lack of training together might have hurt them a little bit; but Bruno said he could see her passion, determination and drive. Carrie Ann tried to raise her spirits by letting Jana know she sees how far she has come throughout the season. For the freestyle, the concept would use her flowing costume, and a big scarf, as a metaphor for her journey. Len thought it was a fascinating, beautiful performance; Bruno praised the bond these two have forged; and both Julianne and Carrie Ann reminded Jana that she has a lot to be proud of with tackling this challenge.
The elimination was swift: Laurie is safe, Calvin is safe, and James is safe. Jana is eliminated.
Now the remaining three finalists have 24 hours to choreograph one more dance they will perform on Tuesday night. And then...the mirror ball.
Night 1 of 'Dancing with the Stars' finale sees plenty of perfect scores
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