It was like that final push at the goal line, fourth and long, do or die. But the field of play was “Dancing With the Stars,” down to the final three dances with the final three competitors.
The dances were spread over two nights. Monday’s performances featured the judges’ selection and the much-vaunted freestyle, which usually determines the winner. Yes, this is when DWTS voters get serious and, it seems, vote for the most deserving celebrity.
Only this year it seemed different.
Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas led off the Judges’ Choice with the samba, hard-hitting with lots of fringe (29). Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiiy followed with another samba, dripping with sensuality (27). That set it up for Hines Ward and Kym Johnson and the quickstep. Kym did her research, streamlining Fred Astaire’s iconic tap solo with cane and a flurry of Fred clones into a smart duet (29).
But let’s get down to the nitty gritty — the freestyle. This dance has determined, more than any other, the winner of the Mirror Ball Trophy.
Chelsea and Mark came up with another “fresh,” as they like to put it, routine. Full of street smart moves and light-up hands and feet (although Chelsea’s battery pack failed midway through). Score: 30.
Kirstie and Maks. Well, when she ripped off her brown dress it made me realize the her circle skits made her bigger than she was. Kirstie looked great in the sequin unitard, showing off her new body. Score: 27.
Hines sported a big “S” on his black and gold drum major uniform. Steeler? Super Bowl? Sassy? Anyhow, they overcame the injury with daring and spectacular lifts in this “halftime” show. Score: 30.
So the judges left it up to the voters by giving Chelsea and Hines the same score. You can say that Mark Ballas gave Chelsea the edge in choreographic complexity, although they could look like they were pushing. Hines and Kym had an indefinable connection on the dance floor, with both rehearsal and dance footage reflecting a sunny ease about them.
Now for Tuesday.
The celebrities chose their favorite dance: Chelsea and Mark the “Wizard” (as in Harry Potter) waltz (30) and Kirstie and Maks, a parallel of her journey, showing an exuberance at age 60 (30). Wait — could it be possible that this was the strongest finale yet? I couldn’t recall a year where all the competitors got perfect scores. Yes, Hines and Kym got another 30 for their samba. And the judges definitely left it up to the viewers.
Was the scoring planned? It almost seemed so in this fairytale ending to the series.
The results? Viewers went with the story rather than the technique. Chelsea and Mark surprisingly took third, much like fellow Disney dancer Kyle Massey last year. Kirstie and Maks took second. And Hines and Kim, as I felt from Week One, took first.
Was it destiny? The Mirror Ball Trophy is silver, of course, but with gold accents and a black base.
Probably it was because he had plenty of support, including the Pittsburgh fifth graders, who had their own Dancing Classrooms ballroom competition last Saturday.