In the first installment of the two-night Dancing with the Stars finale, fans were left sobbing after Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough performed their freestyle routine to “Footprints in the Sand” in honor of Irwin’s late father, Steve. In their package, Derek explained during practice why he opted to go with a stripped-down routine and said he was there for Irwin.
Irwin and Hough’s freestyle routine honored the idea that Irwin’s dad is still with her always, and the routine was flawless and breathtaking in its simplicity. Judge Bruno Tonioli stated that it was an example of “the power of dance in its most pure and effective form.”
As the dance concluded, a black and white photo of a young Bindi Irwin with her father appeared on a huge screen behind Irwin and Hough. It was revealed that Hough had arranged for the photo to be displayed and Irwin had no idea it was going to happen.
The photo of Bindi and Steve Irwin, paired with the perfection of the routine, brought tears to almost everyone’s eyes in the studio. Irwin’s mother, Terri, and brother, Robert, the judges, fellow competitors and pros, and audience members joined viewers watching on television in a good old-fashioned cry, and fans took to social media to express themselves.
— Susan Sage (@_SusieSage) November 24, 2015
— Emma Simons (@Emma_Parakeet) November 24, 2015
— ~♥~ (@1Dequalzlife) November 24, 2015
— JacquelineCane,JDMBA (@DRJACOBB) November 24, 2015
Not only were fans touched by the tribute, they were in awe of Irwin and Hough’s performance and took to social media to rave; some felt it was the best freestyle routine ever. Judge Carrie Ann Inaba, not for the first time, said Irwin was in a class of her own in the competition, and there were plenty of fans who felt Irwin clinched the Mirror Ball Trophy.
#DWTS woah… Those tears came on so quickly. I was amazed and then astonished.. So beautiful. Best. Finale. Dance. Ever.
— rachel cole (@rachelcole__4) November 24, 2015
— Joy Hobbs (@jhobbs2448) November 24, 2015
— Grace Leonard (@grace_2029) November 24, 2015
— Carmen Saladino (@gatorfan264) November 24, 2015
The end of the night brought an important elimination, as only three couples could advance to the DWTS final. In a rather shocking turn, Alek Skarlatos, whose dancing skills have been criticized weekly, was the first to learn that he, along with partner Lindsay Arnold, would advance. Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough, and Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess also moved forward, which meant Carlos PenaVega and Witney Carson were eliminated.