Monday, May 25, 2015

DWTS Season 20 Champs: Valentin and Rumer!

Rumer Willis and Valentin Chmerkovskiy win the 20th Season Mirror Ball. Courtesy of ABC.
After years of finishing anywhere from 2nd to 4th place, Valentin Chmerkovskiy finally nabbed his first Mirror Ball, for the 20th season of Dancing with the Stars. It was a sweet victory, that was foreshadowed by a perfect opening dance on the first episode of this season that they recreated during Finals week.

But my favorite moment of the Finals, which was a big, splashy hooha thing, was when Val turned to the camera, after winning, and mouthed, "Thank you" to all the fans who got him there, FINALLY. That was really nice. And you're welcome. ;-)

But it was a two-night extravaganza. Let's take a look back at the first night.

Each team performed a dance from earlier in the season that they wanted to perfect. Noah and Sharna chose their Argentine tango, which yes, was better, but not perfect.

It was a beautiful dance, and the choreography was stunning.

Certainly none of the dances this season was as spectacular as Riker and Allison doing a paso doble to Pirates of the Caribbean. It was fantastic the first time around. This time around, it received a standing ovation from Len (which he doesn't ever do).

Just FANTASTIC. "Packed full of content," as the judges said. Holker has obviously learned what not to do from her experience last season.

Of course, they received all 10s for this.

And then, there was Rumer and Val. When they performed their foxtrot in the first episode of this season, it made me sit up and take notice. I felt then that it was the best dance of the night, and that they could win this season. Throughout the season, they have presented stunning dances.

And on this finals night, when they recreated this first dance, there was a confidence and a fluidity that showed how hard she had worked all season, and how this season has transformed her. Val, too, was confident and playful, at ease with these steps. It was just beautiful to watch.

Perfect scores, once again.

And then, the freestyle round.

When I think spectacular freestyle round, I think of Mark Ballas' incredible Super Mario freestyle from last season. That, to me, is a freestyle. We had nothing like that this time. But here's what we did have: three dances which were true to the people dancing them. Two of them extremely vulnerable and personal, and one a toe-tapping showstopper. All fantastic.

First, Noah and Sharna. All season long, Sharna has portrayed Noah's ordeal in various forms. She has done incredible things with choreography to tell his story. This freestyle was probably the showstopper of all of those. Really incredible and vulnerable.

It was amazing, ending with a moment of him alone in a spotlight. Stunning.

Very powerful image. Very moving. Perfect scores.

Riker and Allison's freestyle couldn't be more different. It was flashy and dancy and fun. Tap shoes and top hats. Wonderful.

It was an homage to where DWTS has been, and a hint of where it could be. Great choreography, interesting music, fun stuff.

Both of the first freestyles had lots of other dancers and movement. Rumer and Val's didn't. In fact, they didn't have any flashy props or sets or anything. Just straight-up dance, from the heart.

"There's pressure with the freestyle, cause it's all about bigger, and better and larger than life productions," said Val in his package. "That's not me. Every time I've tried to do that, I've failed, because it wasn't honest. I realized the best thing possible is to just strip it down."

And yes, it's true. Makism Chmerkovskiy is a presence who looms large on DWTS, even when he's not there. And perhaps Val has always lived in his shadow. But for this viewer, Val has always been his own man, his own dancer. I have always enjoyed and looked forward to his choreography, which is different than what Maks presented to us.

But I do also think there is something to the fact that Val has given us more of his emotion (his soft, vulnerable side) than Maks ever did. Even taking this risk in this freestyle, to turn down the tried and true of the splashy and big for a softer, more vulnerable, more honest freestyle. Would it work?

Would this team be the one to win the Mirror Ball, after all the great teams that Val has been part of which came so close, and went home empty-handed?

The answer, of course, is YES. Because it was just stunning dancing. Incredible choreography.

For this viewer, it was always between Allison and Val during this season. But Val has been so close and so deserving so many times, I'm glad that he was the one to take home the Mirror Ball this time. Allison will have plenty of times to do so.

And Val, after he won, after wanting it so many times, asked what he was going to do now. I sincerely hope that he DOESN'T do what his brother did after winning his Mirror Ball. That he comes back to us, his fans, again next season to vie for another Mirror Ball.


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