'Dancing With the Stars' Recap: Show Tugs Heartstrings, Brings Tears With Start of 'Most Memorable Year' Week

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Dancing With the Stars returned Monday for the first of a two-night special Most Memorable Year week, which explored some of the most impactful, memorable and meaningful turning points in the lives of the competitors.

The stars all did their best to pay tribute to these memorable and meaningful moments in their lives with impressive performances that honor and represent the emotions and struggles of those moments.

Host Tyra Banks and co-host Alfonso Ribeiro emceed the proceedings as stalwart judges Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, Derek Hough and Bruno Tonioli critiqued and scored the heartstring-tugging dances and potent performances.

Here's a look at some of the best, most powerful routines of the night, and a breakdown of which celebs are already leading the pack as front runners in the race for the Mirrorball trophy. 

Gabby Windey and Val Chmerkovskiy

Gabby opened up about her most memorable year, which was 2020, when she worked as a frontline nurse working with patients struggling with COVID-19. She and Val hit the stage with a breathtaking routine filled with ethereal spins and beautiful emotions that stunned the judges.

Style of Dance: Foxtrot

Song: "If the World Should Ever Stop" by JP Cooper

Judges' Feedback: "Lovely lyrical movement, I loved your arms, I thought they had wonderful musicality," Len marveled. "It just had effortless ease."

Final Score (Carrie Ann, Len, Derek, Bruno): 36 (9, 9, 9, 9)
 

Joseph Baena and Daniella Karagach

While the fitness model and actor is all about strength and power, he showed his delicate side this week with a beautiful routine that required delicacy and poetry in his movement, and his routine stunned the judges in a big way.

Style of Dance: Rumba

Song: "My Way" by Frank Sinatra

Judges' Feedback: "I never expected you to come out and do your best dance this season. But well done!" Len said.

"There's not one path, there's not even the right path, there's just your path, and that was beautiful," Derek shared.

"That was one of the finest Rumbas by a male that I've ever seen on the show," Carrie Ann praised.

Final Score (Carrie Ann, Len, Derek, Bruno): 34 (9, 8, 9, 8)
 

Daniel Durant and Britt Stewart

The CODA star opened his performance with ASL and moved into a touching and beautifully understated routine that really showed how special his connection is with Brit -- and how well he can connect with those who watch him dance and are inspired by his accomplishments.

Style of Dance: Contemporary

Song: "Both Sides, Now" by Joni Mitchell

Judges' Feedback: "As a judge it was beautiful, it flowed. As a human being, it was an incredibly moving performance," Derek shared.

"You are so true, so real, so honest," Bruno shared. "You have the ability to make me feel like I'm dancing with you, even when I'm watching."

Final Score (Carrie Ann, Len, Derek, Bruno): 34 (8, 8, 9, 9)
 

Charli D'Amelio and Mark Ballas

Charlie's entire routine was about her struggles with anxiety and gaining a sense of freedom in the face of pressure and stress. The dramatic dance brought all the pain and fear of anxiety to life, with Mark portraying the villain of anxiety manifested in physical form. Charli's performance was incomparable and the dance left the judges nearly speechless -- although it did earn them the first 10s of the season, and a near-perfect score.

Style of Dance: Contemporary

Song: "When the Party's Over" by Lewis Capaldi

Judges' Feedback: "This was a stunning physical representation of an emotional, mental feeling and fear that we have. The concept was bold and daring," Derek gushed. "This show is about moments, and that was a moment."

Final Score (Carrie Ann, Len, Derek, Bruno): 39 (10, 9, 10, 10)
 

Heidi D'Amelio and Artem Chigvintsev

Shortly After Charli took the stage to give physical form to her battle with anxiety, her mom hit the stage to bring a stunning sensuality and sultry elegance to her performance that gave her the air of a professional dancer. It was a great dance that showed off control and technical skill she hadn't shown, even in her other impressive dances.

Style of Dance: Rumba

Song: "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You (I Love You Baby)" by Lauryn Hill

Judges' Feedback: "It was so clean and beautiful," Derek said, adding that he needs to see a bit more emotion in future dances, but praised her skill.

"Sensual and seductive but with a sense of unattainable sophistication," Bruno said of the vibe Heidi gave off in the routine.

Final Score (Carrie Ann, Len, Derek, Bruno): 36 (9, 9, 9, 9)


Wayne Brady and Witney Carson

Wayne's most memorable year was 2003, when we welcomed his daughter and became a dad. This changed the way he looked at life, and so it only made sense that he would dedicate his dance tonight to his daughter as well, and brought all the joy and wonder one would expect to such a special performance. When his daughter came out onto the stage to hug him, and he was brought to tears, a fun moment became a truly great one.

Style of Dance: Foxtrot

Song: "Beautiful" by Jim Brickman & Wayne Brady

Judges' Feedback: "You captured the essence of love at first sight," Bruno shared. "It was so pretty and so beautiful."

It had an elegance about it, it was a sophisticated dance, and it had a smoothness that I enjoyed very much," Len praised.

Final Score (Carrie Ann, Len, Derek, Bruno): 37 (9, 9, 9, 10)


Selma Blair and Sasha Farber

The actress surprised everyone when she announced, in her package, that she has to leave the competition due to her health. However, despite needing to leave, she wanted to perform one last, gentle routine with Sasha. And they took the stage together to deliver an elegant and emotional swan song that left everyone in tears.

Style of Dance: Waltz

Song: "What the World Needs Now Is Love" -- Andra Day

Judges' Feedback: "This competition is tough for everyone, but if the others have climbed hills, you have climbed mountains," Len shared.

"You've brought nothing but joy to everyone, always with a smile, "Derek marveled. "Thank you for sharing this journey with us all."

"You really have inspired millions of people and your star has never shone brighter," Bruno praised.

"Watching you get out here each week has been like watching a living, breathing, elegantly dancing miracle," Carrie Ann said through tears. "You are a blessing and a gift."

Final Score (Carrie Ann, Len, Derek, Bruno): 40 (10, 10, 10, 10)

 

With Selma and Sasha leaving the competition voluntarily, there was no elimination tonight. However, DWTS returns tomorrow for a new episode, themed around Prom Night, that will end with another couple getting the boot.

Dancing With the Stars returns Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. PT on Disney+.

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