Julianne Hough made her emotional return to the Dancing with the Stars ballroom floor on Monday night with a powerful performance dedicated to those battling terminal illness.
The 29-year-old star, who also served as a guest judge for the first night of DWTS‘ two-night finale, spoke about her number in a pre-taped package while meeting with choreographer Marinda Davis — who Hough revealed was “unfortunately diagnosed with seven auto-immune diseases that left her terminally ill.”
Though battling her health troubles, Davis channeled her pain into the choreography of Hough’s routine. “This dance is Marinda’s story that she’s choreographed. I could not be more honored that she chose me to play her and that we get to share her gift with the world,” Hough said.
Set to the “Wouldn’t Change Anything” from Mark Ballas and wife BC Jean’s band Alexander Jean, the performance began with a stunned and scared Hough stepping out of a doctor’s office and into a town square surrounded by a group of dancers.
Eventually falling to the floor motionless, Hough ended the dance by being lifted up in the air by cables.
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“I have to say how much I admire you turning what you’re facing into art,” host Tom Bergeron told Davis after the dance.
Davis called the experience a “dream come true” and had nothing but praise for Hough.
“She’s so incredible,” Davis said. “As you guys just saw, she’s a wonderful performer, but what people may not know is she’s one of the most extraordinary humans I’ve ever worked with and known. I just adore her.”
The Dancing with the Stars finale airs Tuesday (9 p.m. ET) on ABC.