Lesson for all future Dancing With the Stars Freestylers: Go for either Country or Contemporary. Drew Lachey and Cheryl Burke’s Season 2 cowboy dance set a standard that was later picked up by Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd on Season 14. Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani’s emotional Contemporary routine earned them an All-Stars win, and Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough followed suit on Season 16. Contemporary didn't quite seal the deal for Erin Andrews and Maksim Chmerkovskiy on Season 10, but maybe they were just ahead of their time. Either way, here are five of our favorite Freestyles in 16 seasons of DWTS.
5. Donald Driver & Peta Murgatroyd, Season 14
They say Freestyles win seasons and it’s true. Last spring, Donald and Peta played chicken with the train and won. Sometimes with the male celebs, even late in a season, it can still look like the female celebs are just dancing around them as they stand there preparing for the next flip or trick. But Peta really put Donald to work in this Freestyle. It’s filled with fast, difficult tricks that they pulled off flawlessly, but he also moved there. And you can’t watch it without smiling!
4. Apolo Anton Ohno & Julianne Hough, Season 4
Sporting black-and-white bandanas, Apolo and Julianne looked like the coolest hip hop Karate Kids ever. The routine had great tricks in unison, blindfolded dancing and a memorable bit of solo breakdancing from the Olympian. Tip to all future Freestylers: Breakdance!
3. Zendaya Coleman & Val Chmerkovskiy, Freestyle
This would've won on any other season! Dancing kids can seem like a gimmick in some contexts, but Zendaya is a role model for kids, famous for a show beloved by kids, so having them enter the dance at the end — to join her, but not take over the routine — was just perfect. This routine showed everything that's great about Zendaya as a confident, entertaining performer. A truly super Super-Sized Freestyle.
1. Kellie Pickler & Derek Hough, Season 16
“Super-Sized” doesn't have to mean packed with tricks and guest stars and everything but the kitchen sink. After Melissa and Tony showed a scaled-back, intimate Freestyle could win a season, Derek took a page from the same book, but magnified it and personalized it for Kellie. This was a perfect showcase of Kellie’s growth as a dancer and performer. Carrie Ann Inaba wanted to feel Kellie more in her dances? It's hard to imagine anyone could watch this without feeling something.
What are your five favorite Freestyles? Would you have subbed out one of these routines for a dance by J.R. Martinez, Shawn Johnson, Kristi Yamaguchi, or … someone else? Sound off!