The amazing Season 16 of Dancing With the Stars has come to an end. We have our winners: Derek Hough (in his fourth title) and Kellie Pickler.
|Season 16 Mirror Ball winners: Derek Hough and Kellie Pickler|
This is not, as anyone who read my column last week knows, how I expected it to go. There is no way
in any Universe that Jacoby is a better dancer than the gymnast Aly. But here's what I think happened, why this result went down the way it did.
I really think it's unarguable that the four pros (Derek Hough, Mark Ballas, Valentin Chmerkovskiy and Karina Smirnoff) are the BEST on this season's show. By that I mean not only sheer talent, but creativity and passion and creating memorable dances. These four are the top of the top.
Peta Murgatroyd is fabulous, Kym Johnson has a couple of mirror balls. Heck, Tony Dovolani was last year's winner. But these four have both creative genius and the ability to work with whichever "celebrity" they get, to mold a winning season. At the outset, it wouldn't surprise me for any one of them to win. It just depends on who they are paired with.
Derek Hough, paired with Wynona, would've gone out of the competition just as fast as Tony Dovolani did.
The pros' job in the beginning is to take this lump of clay called a celebrity, and turn them into a dancer. How much they succeed at this depends just as much on the pro's choreography talent as it does on their hand-holding talents.
There were many moments in this season, for example, when the blissful genius of Mark and/or Derek's choreography guided their partners over otherwise rocky unfamiliar terrain. Val C. was tethered to a rocket, firing on all cylinders, and he had to tame her. Karina mostly just had to overcome their height differential, deal with Jacoby's farts and somehow turn out his pigeon toes.
So I am REALLY very grateful that whoever decides these pairings gave Derek (and Mark and Val) at least a shot by pairing them with someone who was somewhat capable of finishing.
Honestly, most of the season was like dropping off dead weight one by one to finally see what the real dancers were going to do.
And so, we end up at the Finals, finally. Oh blissful heaven, was it wonderful!
I have to examine Karina and Jacoby first, because I expected them to drop off sooner.
|KARINA SMIRNOFF AND JACOBY JONES (actual third place)|
Karina Smirnoff and Jacoby Jones
This picture, to me, typifies what their whole season was like. Karina is there, working her ASS off, and Jacoby mostly looks like a clown, just sauntering through his paces, seeming like he really didn't want to be there.
They did a jive to start. And then, in their freestyle (the dance which really determines it all), they brought in a New Orleans-style jazz band, and a bunch of kids. I'm surprised there wasn't a kitchen sink. But we'll leave all that alone. They placed third.
Let's move onto the real three couples, as far as I'm concerned.
MARK BALLAS AND ALY RAISMAN (unbelievably, they placed fourth)
Mark Ballas' challenge at the beginning of the season was to take a gymnast (who is used to long practices and doing things until you get them right, all good things) with no sense of timing (as far as dance counts) and no romantic experience to speak of to convey passionate dance moves.
And LOOK. Look at this.
The signature dance, I would (and am) arguing here is the dance which makes or breaks a mirror ball champion is the freestyle. One of the things I admire the most about Mark Ballas, and so look forward to seeing in DWTS, is the creativity he brings to his choreography. He pushes the envelope, he crosses the line, he breaks new ground in his dances. Any groundbreaker is looked at askance at first. So he certainly has his detractors. I am sure, in this freestyle, he had a lot of people going, "Wow. WTF was that?" In fact, I'm sure that had everything to do with why he ended up fourth. They didn't get it.
But what I saw was the same poetry that I am going to laud Derek Hough for in a little bit. A melange of both Aly's strengths and a portrait how far she's come. A dance which not only pushed her further than comfortable limits, but also pushed him. It was mesmerizing and fantastic and everything a finale freestyle dance should be.
|Aly R and Mark Ballas in their groundbreaking freestyle dance.|
VALENTIN CHMERKOVSKIY AND ZENDAYA (placed second)
Going into the final episode, Val and Zendaya had the most judges points, and everywhere you went on social media, people were rooting and rallying for them to win. I thought for sure it would be a landslide for them.
They did an amazing samba, including a step that Len said he hadn't seen since the 50s. (What?) Fluid and mesmerizing. Beautiful.
|Zendaya and Val C. do their samba during Finals. Courtesy of ABC/DWTS.|
Zendaya and Val C. do the cha-cha relay (winning it).
For their freestyle dance, Zendaya, who has an affiinity for kids, wanted to bring them in for part of the dance. As these two "dances with kids" freestyles went, I much preferred what Zendaya and Val did with theirs (compared to Karina and Jacoby's version). But I much preferred what they did alone too.
They were luminous and dynamic in their freestyle. Every bit champions.
|Val Chmerkovskiy and Zendaya, absolute perfection.|
DEREK HOUGH AND KELLIE PICKLER (winners of the Mirror Ball trophy)
But the actual winners of Season 16 were Derek Hough and Kellie Pickler. And here's why, IMHO.
Every week, the folks at home are encouraged to vote on the dances they just saw. I think they did that again this time. They weren't voting on who was the best all season long. They were voting on best dance, in fact, best freestyle dance.
By that measure, it was Derek Hough's win by miles. And I do credit Derek Hough with this win, as with his other wins. Sure he gets willing participants who are more or less able to do what he commands, but it is his vision, his passion, his choreography which wins trophies.
So, too, here.
|Derek Hough and Kellie Pickler, reaching for the stars. ABC/DWTS|
The freestyle dance he created smartly didn't include gimmicks like kids or brass bands. It was all about the dance, and also smartly, it was all about in one dance recreating all the dances of Season 16 for him and Kellie. It was passionate, fluid and very moving. I, like Carrie Ann Inaba, was in tears at the end of it. It was stunningly beautiful.
One of those dances where you just thank God that Derek Hough is in the world, creating dances for us to watch.
|This, more than any other thing, is why they won the Mirror Ball (IMHO). Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough|
They deserved to win, after this dance. Its poetry and perfection was beyond compare.
And, on that subject, I want to mention how glad I am that nowhere in the season did we have (well maybe some nonsense at the beginning) ridiculous asides to camera about how "badly they want to win" this trophy.
This cast, and most specifically, Derek and Mark and Val C., continually throughout the season rightfully declare how it's all about the process, and that each dance is special, and that they are all a family. I really liked how the emphasis wasn't on "winning." It was about creating beautiful dances, in concert with your partner. That's as it should be.
A beautiful, memorable season.