Tonight’s season 17 performance finale is also the dreaded (by pros) and revered (by fans) Freestyle Round — when all bets are OFF, weirder costumes than usual are barely ON, and the smoke machine is OUT to sweep up as much glittery blood, sweat, and tears it can wrap its chemically enhanced tendrils around. (What?!?) The point is, Dancing With the Stars freestyles are important. In most seasons, the couple with the best freestyle wins the Coveted Mirrorball Trophy the next night.
So which DWTS couple has had the best freestyle EVER? Dance pros Derek Hough, Karina Smirnoff, Peta Murgatroyd, Mark Ballas, Emma Slater, and Sasha Farber told EW the freestyles they remember most fondly. See the picks of Our Pros and a few of mine, then name your own favorites below!
Derek Hough and Sasha Farber’s pick: Kellie Picker and Derek — season 16
“That one for me, after I finished that season, stayed with me for a long time,” said Derek. Sasha Farber liked the sweeping emotional nature of this. “If you do freestyle, you want to do ‘go, go, go’, but these guys decided to go slow” he said. “They definitely created the best moment.” (Kellie and Derek won the next night.)
Peta Murgatroyd’s pick: Donald Driver and Peta — season 14
“The first thing that comes to mind is Donald and I — nothing can top that for me,” says Peta. “It was the most incredible experience.” (Donald and Peta won the next night.)
Mark Ballas’ pick: Shawn Johnson and Mark Ballas — season 8
“We were in third place — everyone was like ‘Gilles is gonna win, or Melissa,’ and Shawn and I would be in third,” says Mark. “With that freestyle, it was pretty much like us going ‘Thank you!'” and running away with the trophy. She just pulled it out.”
Emma Slater’s pick: Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough — All-Stars (season 15)
“I still think it’s Derek’s freestyle with Shawn. It was just phenomenal. It wasn’t just the fact that they got the Famous Five (Fab Five) from the Olympics… it was the choreography,” raves Emma. “They both ended up doing flips!” Emma’s partner Bill Engvall assures us they will “not be doing that one.”
NEXT PAGE: Karina picks other people’s freestyles instead of her own, then one of her own