In case you missed it, last nights episode of Dancing With the Stars was a night filled with so much raw emotion that there wasn’t a dry eye left in the house.
When a show starts off with the co-host warning viewers to grab a box of tissues, you know you’re in for it. This weeks theme of the 24th season was “most memorable year”, where each celebrity competitor reveals the (often painful) story behind the most memorable year of their life.
While some choose themes like the year that they became famous or achieved their most critically acclaimed success, most tend to share deeper moments from trying times, exposing their vulnerabilities and lesser known sides to the world. This often times/thereby connecting them with a new audience and catapulting them into a new spotlight.
Some of this weeks standouts included Olympic ice skating legend Nancy Kerrigan, who revealed that she had suffered six miscarriages in just eight years, which sent her spiraling down into a deep depression until she was able to conceive via IVF. Many people seemed empathetic to the pain Kerrigan endured even as she retold the story.
Competitive bullrider/model Bonner Bolton recounted his story of breaking his neck following a bull ride gone wrong. A video clip replayed the moment when a bull bucked him off of its back onto the ground and then trampled all over him. Bolton’s eyes filled with tears as he relived his life changing accident and reveled at the thought that not so long ago he was paralyzed and warned he would never return to his sport, yet just one year later did just that, along with challenging himself both physically and mentally on a dance competition show like DWTS.
Mr. T is another contestant who melted the hearts of countless viewers by way of his surprisingly soft spoken, gentle persona. He spoke of his fame and fortune from 1980’s pop culture classics like The A-Team and Rocky films all suddenly coming to a halt, only to be faced with a life threatening form of cancer. Following his diagnosis in 1995, he turned to his faith in God to help him through, and now credits that with saving his life and keeping him cancer free for 22 years. He reveled in that fact as he danced a moving performance to the song “Amazing Grace”, also leaving his professional partner Kim Herjovec in tears. She called him a teddy bear and kept saying what a tender, sweet man he really his, despite his tough exterior.
Confessing to not being able to dance and admitting that he was shocked that the show would even have him because he’s such a terrible dancer. Doing the show was something so far outside of his comfort zone that he struggled with, yet he tried anyway and maintained a positive attitude throughout the experience. Nowadays working with kids, he hopes to inspire them to always try and never give up.
Athough he was eliminated on this 4th week of competition, he left with dignity, grace and his highest set of scores. He touched each of the judges, as well as the studio audience, who booed when it was announced that he was in the bottom two couples and up for elimination.
According to the judges and news media, the biggest highlight of the night was NFL Running Back Rashad Jennings. An early fan favorite, this muscle bound football player has proven to be rather light on his feet, despite his tremendous size. Early on he dazzled the audience and even the judges with smooth moves, a winning attitude and effervescent charm. Partnered with newly engaged pro Emma Slater, who initially stated that she hoped her fiancé and fellow pro-dancer Sasha Farber wouldn’t be jealous of Jennings’ good looks and big muscles. As a pro-athlete, Jennings has really pushed hard to learn difficult dances and earn high marks from the judges. While he has finished towards the top of the pack for the most part, he set himself apart this week with a contemporary routine set to Katy Perry’s pop love ballad “Unconditionally”.
The song choice reflected the unconditional love he holds for his family which he so poignantly expressed in his dance. His tumultuous trials with his father were also the focus behind it all, as he told his story of growing up without his father fully present and not really being there for him. Despite this, he later chose to forgive him.. Eventually choosing to leave a successful run on a team and start over in a different state, risking his career, just to be close to his estranged father. He made the great career sacrifice upon learning of his fathers flailing health, seeking to forgive him and reconcile their relationship. Jennings’ powerful dedication to the unconditional love of family moved the audience to tears, and their feet for a standing ovation of rousing applause.
Jennings ended his performance by running across the floor and collapsing to his knees atop his wheelchair bound father, sobbing uncontrollably on his chest. He held onto him like a child who had been lost and never wanted to let go again. This open display of vulnerability, raw emotion and a lifetime of pain into forgiveness tugged at everyone’s heart strings. Jennings display of affection, emotion and raw talent on the dance floor left some judges speechless, while other were so overwhelmed that they could barely formulate words through their own sobs. Judge Carrie Ann Inaba said, “You are a dancer. I think you missed your calling.” While Julie Ann Hough spoke of his incredible vulnerability moving her personally. All of the judges were so impressed with Jennings performance and persona that he earned this season’s first 10’s for a near perfect score (39 out of 40 points). This was not only the highest score of the night, but of the entire season thus far.
One thing non-viewers may not realize about this show is that particpants don’t just become better dancers from appearing on DWTS, rather many leave the show proclaiming to have grown as people, both personally and professionally. Many speak of incredible transformations, some in the form of drastic weight loss, others with dramatic professional changes and-or personal growth. Each season, it is a treat to watch these mostly non-dancing celebrities become better dancers and more well rounded individuals as well. Inspiring others to get out of their comfort zones, try new things and not be afraid to fail.
*We do not claim the rights to this video courtesy of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. It serves to inspire those who may not otherwise have the chance to view.