The new season of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars is here. The show started in 2005, and currently Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews co-host the show. The show has completed 25 seasons, with season 26 starting on September 18. So far, a total of 286 celebrities have appeared on the show.
With incredible performances seen over the past 12 years, this season again promises to be a visual and emotional treat. It’s high time we take a look at some of the most moving performances and the stories behind them. The performances we are going to talk about are by no means the only ones which caught everyone’s imagination. They, however, have been inspirational, striving hard against all odds to emerge winners.
Bindi Irwin partnered with Derek Hough to win season 21 of the reality dance show on November 24. Irwin and Hough gave a number of scintillating performances through the season and won an amazing eight perfect scores. Bindi’s father was the former Australian wildlife expert, Steve Irwin, known worldwide for his show, The Crocodile Hunter. Steve Irwin died in 2006 in a stingray attack while filming underwater. Her most memorable performance, dedicated to her father, was intensely emotional and left everyone teary-eyed.
Bindi lost her father when she was just eight. Ever since, she has worked hard carrying on her father’s legacy. She worked for many environmental causes and was chosen as Australia’s tourism ambassador in 2007. In 2008, she became the youngest Daytime Emmy Award winner for her show, Bindi The Jungle Girl. Her relentless pursuits working for environmental causes won her the Young Conservationist of The Year award at the age of 16. 2015 saw her win the 21st season of Dancing with the Stars. In 2015, at the Queensland Tourism Awards, she was awarded as the Young Achiever of the Year. Off late, Bindi has closely involved herself in the working of Australia Zoo, which her father had turned into a big tourist attraction.
Amy Purdy participated in season 18 of the show in 2014. What’s so special about Amy Purdy’s dancing, you might ask. Well, it takes a lot of courage, tons of mental toughness, and sheer indefatigable grit to dance when you have no legs. Going ahead and nailing the dance routine is taking it to another level, and that’s precisely what Amy did. Partnering with Derek Hough, she put on prosthetic feet and left the audience spellbound with her graceful and energetic dancing.
Probably her best performance was to “Human,” which required delicate-yet-energetic turns and other nuances that Amy displayed flawlessly. Although Amy ended the season as a runner up, she won a lot of hearts. One of the judges, Len Goodman, said, “You touched my brain with the level of difficulty, and you touched my heart with the level of artistry.” The one judge said, “Anyone who’s facing a challenge, you are letting them know that they too, we too, can begin again, anew.”
Amy had lost both her legs to bacterial meningitis when she was 19. Not just that, as a result of sepsis, she lost both her kidneys and doctors had to remove her spleen. She had been moribund as doctors pronounced her chances of survival as quite remote. Her father donated a kidney to her, and she managed to pull through. After receiving prosthetic legs, within a year, she already started making waves with her snowboarding performances. She also worked as a model and an actor. Amy has also taken to helping people with disabilities to participate in action sports through her non-profit organization, Adaptive Action Sport. She was the first double amputee on Dancing with the Stars.
Amy also delivered a highly motivation speech at TEDx Talks in 2011 where she shared her mantra for striving and succeeding against all odds—she said, “Instead of looking at our challenges and limitations as something negative or bad, we can begin to look at them as blessings, magnificent gifts that can be used to ignite our imaginations and help us go further than we ever knew we could go.”
Season 17 of DWTS in 2013 saw Amber Riley, partnering with Derek Hough, emerge as the winner. Her semifinal dance routine won a perfect 40 from the four judges, and comments such as, “there was smoke on the floor, but fire in that performance.” The audience rooted for her, and she blew everyone away with her splendid dancing.
Amber had been a victim of body shaming all through her career, and she has admirably fought against it. While auditioning for roles in Hollywood, people offered stereotypical roles without any substance to Amber; roles where she would play a fat girl sitting in a corner, fond of eating all the time. Casting directors offered her self-loathing, perennially depressed characters. This was a far cry from what Amber actually was. She was in love with herself and happy the way she was. Facing innumerable rejections owing to her weight, Amber started losing her self esteem. But, she refused to compromise on roles and not falling prey to unending suggestions to thin down. Winning Dancing with the Stars was a fitting reply to her critics.
Noah Galloway is a veteran of the Iraq war, where he lost his left leg and left arm. Partnering with Sharna Burgess, Noah danced freestyle to “Titanium.” In his epic performance, Noah depicted his inspiring journey, taking everyone through his trials and tribulations. The performance won the pair a standing ovation from the audience who just couldn’t stop clapping. Although the pair finished third in the season, they ruled the audience’s hearts. One of the judges, Carrie Ann Inaba, said, “You’ve shown us over and over again that dance is meant to inspire us, transform us, and make us contemplate things bigger than ourselves and that is what you do every time you dance.”
Noah was severely injured in the Iraq war in 2005. In an IED blast, he lost his left leg and left arm. Gaining conscious after five days, he went through a long and mentally enervating treatment and rehabilitation. Frustrated and deeply upset, Noah suffered from depression and addiction for some time. But, soon after, he realized that he is going nowhere and pulled himself back to recovery. He went for prosthetic limbs and started working on his fitness and catching up with his passion for sports. He eventually went on to participate in many athletic events, even inspiring others with disabilities to participate. In addition, he also works with charity and non-profit organizations. Noah is also a motivational speaker, and the first reader to feature on Men’s Health cover.
Dancing with the Stars has given us some incredible performers who danced their way into our hearts. They show us the real spirit of Strive, persevering against the toughest odds and shining through the black clouds like a brilliant sun. Hard work, never giving up, and unwavering self belief is what made them champions. How are you striving? Sign up to be notified when the Strive Book becomes available.