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Dancing with the Stars, Season 22 – Finale Night, Part One

This could be an unusual finale on Dancing with the  Stars. Normally there’s a clear leader who everyone assumes will win, or maybe it’s a tossup between two. But this time it’s really a tossup between all three finalists: Ginger Zee, Paige VanZant, and Nyle DiMarco. Host Tom Bergeron confirms that there is only three percent separating the vote totals for the final three. If any of them don’t perform well tonight, the first of a two-night finale, it could spell doom for them.

Ginger and Val Chmerkovskiy are first tonight with their “Redemption Dance.” They’ll be doing contemporary. The first time they performed contemporary it fell a little flat. She’s hurts her back during rehearsals and chooses to still carry on and knows her spasm could act up in the middle of a performance. There is no sign of an injured back in tonight’s dance, and it’s truly a redemption for them. Len Goodman says the improvement is amazing. Bruno Tonioli believes it really showed how much she has blossomed. Carrie Ann Inaba is impressed with the strategy and saw improved core strength. Their scores are 9, 10, 9.

Nyle and Peta Murrgatroyd are doing a repeat of the quickstep because they had a lot of negative feedback from the judges the last time. He finds it a lot more difficult than the first time. He’s not liking it, but she encourages him through it. It looks good but is lacking something, perhaps  because he just seems really tense. Bruno compares it to a wild ride on the Pony Express but felt he lost a little bit of precision. Carrie Ann agrees that they got out of synch a little bit. Len felt it was a little hectic in places which made them lose a little bit of control. He gets scores of all 9s.

Paige and Mark Ballas are doing the salsa to redeem her first try at it when he was injured and another dancer filled in. He is putting the move into the dance that injured him last time. She feels they can do it this time. Watching her tonight, she’s a completely different dancer than she was when this thing started. Carrie Ann says a lot of people don’t improve, but she loves that she gave them an A+ performance tonight. Len wants to get it right for the finale, but he doesn’t feel like there was enough hip action for salsa. Bruno notes she’s really learned how to use her impetuous energy for maximum effect. We know at this point it won’t be three 10s, but they get close with 10, 9, 10 to put them at the top of the leaderboard.

Ginger and Val are up first in the Freestyle Round. They are paying tribute to Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. She notes it’s simple and just bout two people dancing and the chemistry they have between them. It’s a really fun routine to “Orange-Colored Sky,” and they do Astaire and Rogers proud. Len tells her she has shown her versatility tonight. Bruno thinks they really brought back the legacy of Ginger and Fred. Carrie Ann says this is where Ginger shines the brightest. Their scores are perfect 10s all around.

Nyle and Peta are going to be doing a contemporary routine, so she brought in another choreographer who is trained in this style. She wants to push them in the dance and wants to tell a message so will be doing one about giving deaf people hope. I kind of disagree with bringing in another choreographer, as that’s not what this competition is about. Nevertheless it’s a really powerful dance, breathtaking in fact. Bruno notes they brought him to tears with this “work of art.” Carrie Ann says it’s the best dance she has ever seen in twenty-two seasons. Len says it’s not a dance for deaf people but a dance for everyone. Their scores are of course all 10s.

Last up tonight are Paige and Mark with their freestyle. He took inspiration for it from her story last week about being bullied. She plans to go back to that town her family left for the first time and speak at a school about bullying. They dance to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and work in the Dirty Dancing move. It’s very moving. Even Mark is crying at the end. Carrie Ann says what’s incredible about Paige is that she has grown in a beautiful way and shown us how dance feels. Len says it’s an honor to see three fantastic dances. Bruno calls it a triumph in a night of creative and artistic excellence. Straight to the scores: it’s three more perfect 10s.

They’re running out time, so they end the show quickly, but Paige is at the top of the leaderboard, and Nyle is on the bottom. While they only had three percent separating them, the point totals they just added on only differ by two points. It’s still anybody’s game.

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