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VanZant wows judges in 'Dancing' finale



Night One of the Dancing with the Stars finale went exceptionally well for Paige VanZant and Mark Ballas, as Team Pow Right in the Kisser earned the highest scores of the evening, topping the leaderboard heading into tomorrow night’s closing numbers.

The opening performance of the night for each team was a redemption dance, where each team picked a style that they struggled with earlier in the year in hopes of getting it right this time around. For VanZant and Ballas, that meant rocking a Salsa routine, which they hadn’t danced together yet this season.

They were supposed to perform it in Week 2, but Ballas went down with a back injury during the blocking rehearsal and VanZant went on to dance with Alan Bernsten instead. The impromptu version of the team collected 8s across the board with their initial Salsa, but the original combo took it up a notch on Monday night.

Dancing to “Fireball” by Pitbull, VanZant and Ballas set the floor ablaze.



“That was insane!” Carrie Ann Inaba raved, laughing with excitement before heaping a ton of praise on Paige. “Fireball is an understatement – you’re like a meteor shower just raining down upon us.

“A lot of people start good and they don’t improve, and at this stage, we still need to see improvement and you brought even more of an A game – you gave us A+ tonight.

“This is the final and I want to get it right,” Len Goodman began, setting up what were sure to be some nitpicking comments, leading to immediate boos from the audience. “Salsa, the first thing I look for is hip action and I’m sorry Paige, I didn’t feel there was enough of it. I loved the performance – please understand I thought it was great, (but) it lacked hip action.”

“Goodness, gracious great balls of fire!” Bruno Tonioli boomed. “You really have learned to use all that tempestuous energy to maximum effect and you delivered it with lethal precision. I was watching your footwork and you out-danced Mark and that takes something.

“You were bursting with sex appeal. You both had the hips and the arms and everything else.”

With scores of 10-9-10 from the three judges, Team Pow Right in the Kisser claimed the lead after the first dance with a 29/30, followed by Ginger Zee and Val Chmerkovskiy, who scored 28/30 for their contemporary performance and Nyle DiMarco and Peta Murgatroyd, who garnered a score of 27/30 for their quickstep do-over.

The second dances of the evening gave the trio of teams the chance to perform a freestyle routine and all three acts knocked it out of the park, with both Ginger and Val and Nyle and Peta pulling in perfect scores for their stunning, personal performances.



When it was Team Pow Right in the Kisser’s turn, it took an extra personal note, as VanZant and Ballas delivered a routine inspired by the UFC strawweight opening up about her experience being bullied and ultimately moving to Reno to “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz, sung on Monday night by Ballas’ fiancée, BC Jean.

“It has been an honor to have seen three fantastic freestyles – all different and all fantastic. Good luck tomorrow,” Len offered, the judges pressed for time in their comments as the one-hour show was drawing to a close.

“What’s incredible about you besides the way you finish every single line and every single movement and have the most beautiful quality of movement is that you have grown in this beautiful way and you have shown us how dance heals because it has healed you,” Carrie Ann said, fighting off tears.

“That was really a triumph on a night of creative and artistic excellence; you’re an angel,” Bruno said, forced to keep it concise and struggling against the end of the show.

The scoring, however, was easy: 10-10-10 for a perfect score of 30 and a combined score of 59 from their two dances to head into tomorrow’s final show in the lead.

It’s been an exciting season and it all comes to an end Tuesday night. Cast your votes and be sure to tune in tomorrow evening to see if Paige VanZant and Mark Ballas will take home the Mirror Ball Trophy.

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