10 of the Most Emotional Dancing with the Stars Performances of All Time
Try to make it through this post without crying. We dare you
As we gear up for Most Memorable Year week on Dancing with the Stars — which is sure to result in some tears — take a look back at some of the other dances that made you cry.
Bindi Irwin’s tribute to her father
When Irwin’s appearance on DWTS was announced, we all knew that at some point, she’d dance in honor of her late father, Steve Irwin. But the reality of her Most Memorable Year contemporary performance was more breathtaking than any of us could have expected. Not only did have the whole audience in tears, but she also landed the first 10 of the season.
Alexa PenaVega’s reflection on her battle with bulimia
That same season, PenaVega looked back on her years-long struggle with bulimia, and attempted to overcome her demons in a contemporary routine. In the dance, partner Mark Ballas represented the eating disorder, while she played herself. “This is was a part of my life that I was always so afraid of people finding out,” she said of the dance. “You’re going to watch something that hurt me, but watch me pull through it.”
Noah Galloway tells the story of his injury at war
When it comes to contestants’ emotional stories, it doesn’t get much more intense than Galloway’s time overseas, fighting in the Iraq War, where he lost his left arm above the elbow and left leg above the knee. In this freestyle dance, he told the story of powering through his injury – and got a standing ovation for doing so.
Nastia Liukin and Derek Hough’s tribute to judge Len Goodman
At the end of season 20, it was announced that head judge Len Goodman wouldn’t be returning for the next season of DWTS. As we now know, it was thankfully just a one-season-long departure, but before he went, Nastia and Derek did a Viennese waltz in tribute to the icon – and it gave us all the DWTS feels.
Maks Chmerkovskiy and Meryl Davis’ tearjerking freestyle
This dance wasn’t meant to represent a pivotal moment in Meryl’s life, but it ended up being just that. These two danced a stunning routine to “Latch” that ended up cinching them the Mirrorball. It left Cariann in full-on tears, Bruno called it a “flawless work of art” and Len said he would have given them an 11 if he could. Can you blame them?
Amber Riley opening up about her fight to fame
The Glee star was a frontrunner throughout season 17, and this Viennese Waltz cemented that status. Coupled with an introduction where Riley discussed struggling with body critics while trying to make it in Hollywood, there’s no way you weren’t crying at the end of this one.
Bethany Mota stands up to her bullies
For someone with nearly 10 million followers on YouTube, it’s surprising that Mota ever struggled with confidence issues. But she did, and she confronted her past bullies in a rumba where she and partner Derek literally shoved the taunts out of the way – and made way for Mota to proclaim “I love who I am” to thunderous applause.
When Alek Skarlatos waltzed to “America the Beautiful”
Skarlatos shot to fame after he and two other Americans stopped a gunman from opening fire on a Paris-bound train last year. His devotion to his country showed during this emotional rendition of “America the Beautiful.”
The year Jodie Sweetin “got her life back”
Following the end of Full House‘s 8-season run, the former child star struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. By the time she scored a spot on DWTS in the spring of 2016, Sweetin had been sober for five years. But it was in 2015, when she was offered the opportunity to star in Fuller House, that the actress truly felt she “got her life back.” Sweetin expressed her growth and change in an emotionally-charged dance for “Most Memorable Year” night.
James Hinchliffe’s miraculous recovery
Judge Julianne Hough called Indy 500 driver Hinchcliffe the best male contestant to ever compete on DWTS (and he didn’t even win!) And when he illustrated his nearly life-ending car crash in 2015, he showed just why he earned such praise.