Dancing With The Stars first premiered in 2005 and has dazzled audiences ever since, pairing celebrities with some of greatest professional dancers in the world for ten weeks of competition. I’ve been a hardcore fan for most of my life, having never missed a single season of the show. Over that time, I’ve gone back to watch many dances over and over again and have compiled a list of my favorites. So in honor of season 27, here are 27 of my personal favorite dances from the course of the show, in no particular order.
1. Josh Norman and Sharna Burgess — Freestyle — Season 26
There were a lot of things I hated about the all-athletes season the show did this past spring, but this dance was not one of them. Not only did Sharna choreograph her best piece yet, this dance really allowed Josh to show us who he was both as an athlete and as a dancer, a rare thing in such a short season. Forever bitter that they didn’t win the mirrorball after this incredible routine.
2. Zendaya, Val Chmerkovskiy, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Anna Trebunskaya — Argentine Tango — Season 16
When I think about the Argentine tango, I think of this season 16 routine. For this round of the competition, the celebrities had to dance alongside another set of pros. If I didn’t already know who was the celebrity and who was the pro, it would have been hard for me to determine based solely on this dance. Zendaya was one of the most talented competitors this show has ever seen and this dance proves just that.
3. Frankie Muniz and Witney Carson — Contemporary — Season 25
Up until this point in the competition, Frankie Muniz’s scores had ebbed and flowed. But his contemporary dance on Halloween night proved that he was in it to win it. There was a clear story with a beginning, middle and end. Frankie absolutely nailed his stalker character, so much so that I was legitimately creeped out after watching this the first time. Just a memorable routine all around.
4. Riker Lynch and Allison Holker — Paso Doble — Season 20
Disney night is always one of the most memorable nights of the season, and Riker gave us one of the most memorable Disney night dances ever with his paso doble to “He’s a Pirate” from Pirates of the Caribbean. I can’t remember how many times my friend Ellie and I re-watched this dance. We probably annoyed our friends with how much we talked about it after that week of the competition.
5. Sadie Robertson and Mark Ballas — Freestyle — Season 19
Mark Ballas is arguably the most creative choreographer this show has ever seen and this dance is further proof of that. The dance not only highlighted his partner Sadie’s youth and charm, it also brought viewers into the beloved world of Super Mario. It’s super fun and always puts a smile on my face.
6. Rashad Jennings and Emma Slater — Freestyle — Season 24
Every time I watch this dance, I get the biggest grin on my face. Rashad had quite a few standout moments on the show leading up to the final week. But his freestyle was without a doubt his best dance and was what won him the show. As Carrie Ann said, “That is how you turn this mother out.”
7. Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough — Freestyle — Season 21
This routine makes me cry every damn time I watch it, especially at the end when Bindi breaks down at the picture of her and her father. Although Bindi honored her late father, Steve Irwin, many times throughout the season, it was her tribute to him through this dance that just pulls at my heartstrings. If Bindi hadn’t already been the clear favorite throughout this season, this routine would have put her over the top.
8. Hayes Grier and Emma Slater — Contemporary — Season 21
When Hayes started DWTS, I never thought he would be able to find the maturity needed to pull off a contemporary piece. But it just shows how much this show can help a person grow in such a short amount of time. On show night, Hayes performed a mature and emotional contemporary that was near perfect, earning him a 27 out of 30.
9. Jana Kramer and Gleb Savchenko — Tango — Season 23
Tango is already a sexy dance, but combined with Jana and Gleb’s insane chemistry and that section in the shower, this dance was almost too hot for primetime television. Not only is this the sexiest dance that a couple has ever performed on this show, but it’s also what I consider Gleb’s breakout routine as a choreographer and professional dancer on this show.
10. Alek Skarlatos and Emma Slater — Rumba — Season 21
I know that this was a switch-up week dance and that Emma wasn’t Alek’s real partner, but hot damn this was a good dance. Whether or not the Alek-Emma relationship was a showmance or actually something off-screen, they had some of the best chemistry this show has ever seen. Their chemistry translated to the dance floor into a beautiful, yet sensual routine.
11. Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovskiy — Contemporary — Season 15
The first time contemporary that was ever officially performed on DWTS was when it was assigned to Kelly and Val as a part of “opponents choice week” during the all-star season. At first, I was hesitant to accept contemporary as a style on this show because it didn’t fit within the “ballroom” style of dance that made this show so popular. But Kelly proved that contemporary deserved a place on this show. Her routine was well performed, both in terms of the steps and the emotion needed to pull off a successful routine. To me, Kelly proved that she actually deserved to be a part of the all-star season with this dance.
12. Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani — Freestyle — Season 15
Melissa is one of my top five contestants to ever compete on this show; I wanted her to win season 8 so bad and was crushed when she didn’t win. This dance was her chance at redemption for her season 8 loss. It was a big risk, but with Melissa’s impeccable lines, she nailed this routine.
13. Antonio Brown and Sharna Burgess — Jazz — Season 22
This is one of the best Disney night dances the show has ever seen. Antonio has such an infectious smile and it really fits with the Genie from Aladdin that he was emulating in this dance. The dance was clean, precise and filled with high energy. As Len said, “the dancer came out” of Antonio and he proved that he was in it to win it.
14. Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke — Cha Cha — Season 3
I used to watch this dance that Emmitt and Cheryl did in the season 3 semi-finals over and over and over again. It was infused with high-energy, personality and was just a joy to watch. This was the first dance from the show I really ever loved, and therefore it will always hold a special place in my heart.
15. Drew Lachey and Cheryl Burke — Freestyle — Season 2
It’s crazy to think how far the show has come since Drew Lachey and Cheryl Burke danced to “Save a Horse, Ride A Cowboy.” But this season two freestyle really set the bar for years to come; each season, we saw pros try to top this in intensity and creativity. Now that special effects, props and multiple dancers can be used in freestyles, this routine tends to be forgotten. But to me, it will always be iconic.
16. Rashad Jennings and Emma Slater— Contemporary — Season 24
I know this list isn’t in any particular order, but if it was, this would definitely be in the top five. It’s raw, emotional, and hauntingly beautiful. The story-telling in this routine was on another level. To this day, this dance leaves me speechless.
17. Riker Lynch and Allison Holker — Contemporary — Season 20
Can you tell from this list that I really like contemporary routines? I was mesmerized from the moment this routine started. It was hardcore and gutsy yet hauntingly beautiful. I seriously get chills every time I watch it. Allison is the queen of contemporary choreography but Riker helped make this a home run.
18. Heather Morris and Maksim Chmerkovskiy — Rumba — Season 24
This routine has everything that makes for a delicious rumba — hip action, beautiful lines and that insane chemistry between Heather and Maks; this seriously might be my favorite rumba of all time. The fact that they were eliminated after performing their best routine of the season still blows my mind.
19. Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke — Samba — Season 13
Aside from the Kardashians themselves, I was the biggest supporter of Rob on DWTS. Why? Because he embodied the ideal contestant: someone who had no dance experience prior to the show, but was willing and eager to learn. This semi-final routine of his shows just how far he had come from week one.
20. Alfonso Ribeiro and Witney Carson — Jazz — Season 19
We all knew that Alfonso and Witney would incorporate the famous Carlton dance into a routine at some point during season 19. But fans of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air were treated to a delight when Witney choreographed an entire routine around this dance. It earned him a perfect score and is still one of the most iconic numbers this show has ever seen.
21. Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough — Quickstep — Season 15
All-Star season was all about the best, most talented dancers of the prior fourteen seasons coming back and showing off their talent. So Shawn and Derek broke a bunch of the quickstep rules — who cares? They set the bar high for the competition that season by performing one of the most spectacular and unforgettable dances I’ve ever seen done on this show.
22. Romeo and Chelsie Hightower — Rumba — Season 12
Rather than a perform a rumba that was solely about chemistry, Romeo and Chelsie’s rumba told a story of love and loss that simultaneously captured the sensuality that makes a well-done rumba so exquisite. Romeo might have come in 5th place, but this dance still holds a special place in my heart.
23. Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke — Rumba — Season 13
Did I mention I like rumbas? Rob and Cheryl had INSANE chemistry and it was evident here. Looking back, it wasn’t Rob’s best dance of the season, but the chemistry sells this dance to me every single time.
24. Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer — Freestyle — Season 11
God do I miss Lacey Schwimmer on this show. Her choreography was always impressive, this dance being no exception. She really found a way to bring out every part of Kyle’s personality and create one of the most fun and memorable freestyles. It’s unfortunate that she’s not still competing on the show; I think she was a couple of years too early and probably would have won mirrorball after mirrorball if she was competing today.
25. Laila Ali and Maksim Chmerkovskiy — Rumba — Season 4
Way back in season 4, I fell in love with the rumba, partly because of the routine done by Laila and Maks. Rumba is such a sexy and passionate dance and Laila and Maks brought that and more to the dance floor.
26. Zendaya and Val Chmerkovskiy — Samba — Season 16
You know a dance is good when every time you hear a song you think about the choreography. When I hear “Love On Top” by Beyonce, I think about this samba that Zendaya and Val did. The way Zendaya interpreted each traditional samba move and made it her own is just phenomenal. She is a stunning dancer and this is just one example of why.
27. Team Boy Band — Freestyle — Season 24
Y’all don’t even know how long I waited for them to do a boy band night on DWTS. So the fact that we finally got one AND got this epic team dance made me beyond thrilled. Everything from the partner sections to the chair dance the boys did by themselves was perfect. It will be hard for another group dance to top this one in my eyes.
Dancing with the Stars premieres tonight, September 24, at 8/7c on ABC.