Season 13 – JR and Karina. I remember not being overly impressed by this one at the time, possibly because I saw so many moves that I had seen in Derek’s previous dances, not that they belonged to him or anything. But in retrospect, it’s quite good and it’s certainly the best of the season. Loved the ending bit the most.
Season 14 – Donald and Peta with one of the best freestyles ever. It was all Donald Driver, baby. It makes me happy watching it again now. He was great all season and I’m pretty sure that Courtney and I called him the winner from day 1. This was also the season that pimping went to an all new level (although not as bad as WTA Cha Cha) – even now I see William Levy and I just cringe. Unfortunately, Meryl will have the same effect on me in the future. She will be the first serious pimpee to win the show. Anyway, Donald is an example of how the best dancer may not win the show, but you want him to win anyway.
Season 15 – Melissa and Tony with a pretty, but not really special freestyle. Certainly not the best of the night, but then it’s really hard to compare it to what Shawn and Kelly did. Tony and Melissa had the advantage of being the only non-winning couple in the finale. I’ve always liked Melissa, but this was another season where the pimpage was annoying. Actually, it looks pretty similar to this season: we had the big showmance (Kelly and Val), we had the amazing couple who got much harsher criticism than others who did the same thing got (Shawn and Derek) and we had the couple who was pimped to win, where the rallying cry was “Tony (and Melissa) have never won!!” Weird how these same themes pop up in every few seasons.
Season 16 – Kellie and Derek danced a contemporary that was stripped down to just dancing. While Melissa did well with her contemporary, I don’t think it had the emotional component that is so important than a contemporary dance – this dance had it in spades and I think it gave them the trophy. It’s funny, some fans tried to claim that Kellie’s was a series of lifts…the clearly forgot about Melissa’s. Melissa’s seemed like a series of lifts and steps (but it was certainly better than Erin and Maks’), this one felt like it had heart.
Season 17 – Amber and Derek. LOVED this freestyle – it was very different than anything we had seen before in terms of freestyle. It was all Amber and it was this strange amalgamation of hip hop, stepping, broadway and ballroom. Loved it. One of my very favorites.