The much-anticipated Dancing With the Stars season 31 finale aired on Monday, November 21 – and all four finalists left it all on the dance floor as they competed for the coveted mirrorball trophy.
The finale brought us two dances from the final four stars – Gabby Windey, Wayne Brady, Charli D’Amelio and Shangela – each ready to give it their all. The first round highlighted “redemption dances,” followed by a final round of freestyle routines.
The finale kicked off with plenty of nostalgia and bittersweet moments. The night began with a recap of the first four weeks of competition, preceding a medley performance of the first four eliminated couples: Jason Lewis and Peta Murgatroyd; Teresa Giudice and Pasha Pashkov; Cheryl Ladd and Louis Van Amstel; Sam Champion and Cheryl Burke.
Then it was time to kick off the competition with the redemption dance round. The round focused on routines that weren’t great the first time around, but now couples got to work exclusively with a DWTS judge to redo their weakest dance style.
Up first was Shangela and her partner Gleb Savchenko who were paired with judge Bruno Tonioli to improve their Quickstep to “Queen Bee” by Rochelle Diamante. Judges Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno saw a footwork issue at the beginning of the routine, but Len only saw vast improvement. The routine earned her four “9s,” and a compliment from Carrie Ann who told Shangela, “So many people inspire me, but you excite me!”
Len was paired with Wayne and Witney Carson for their redemption Quickstep to “Higher and Higher” by Jackie Wilson. During rehearsal, Len made sure Wayne’s frame was better this time around. During the dance there was an issue with the pair’s synchronicity, earning him a 36, but Len was happy to see that his frame was much better. Carrie Ann told Wayne he was “amazing” and Bruno said he was “Unbeatable! It doesn’t matter what you do, you make it look good.”
Before moving on to the final two redemption dances, the show celebrated Cheryl Burke’s retirement as a DWTS pro with a beautiful send-off. After capping off her 26 season-career with a solo performance, Cheryl thanked the audience for “the experience of a lifetime.”
Following Cheryl’s farewell dance, a recap of weeks five-seven played and a dance was performed by the next three eliminated couples: Joseph Baena and Daniella Karagach; Jessie James Decker and Alan Bersten; Jordin Sparks and Brandon Armstrong.
Next up, Charli and Mark Ballas were paired with Carrie Ann for their redemption Jive to “Grown” by Little Mix. Throughout rehearsal, Carrie Ann gave Charli constructive criticism about her shoulders, and her guidance clearly helped – all four judges leaped to their feet after her performance, which earned her a perfect score.
Following Charli and Mark’s routine, actress Selma Blair (who took herself out of the competition during week five due to complications from her multiple sclerosis) took the floor once again with partner Sasha Farber. The pair danced an overdue breathtaking contemporary routine to a live performance of Jordin Sparks singing her hit “No Air.”
Finally, Gabby and Val Chmerkovskiy were paired with judge Derek Hough for their redemption Cha Cha to “I Like It” by Pete Rodriguez. Derek wanted more intentional choices in the new routine – and Gabby delivered. The judges loved the routine and Len spotlighted their chemistry, which contributed to the couple’s perfect score.
A recap of the final weeks of the competition played and the final four eliminated couples danced, including Heidi D’Amelio and Artem Chigvintsev, and fan favorites Vinny Guadagnino and Koko Iwasaki, Trevor Donovan and Emma Slater, and Daniel Durant and Britt Stewart.
Before the final round, DWTS celebrated its veteran judge Len’s retirement. The head judge, who joined the show in its first season, recorded a heartwarming montage of his best moments from his 29 seasons on the show. The dance icon was gifted his very own mirrorball trophy and received “10s” across the board from his fellow judges.
After shedding bittersweet tears, viewers settled in for the make-or-break final round!
Wayne and Witney danced a Bruno Mars Super Bowl halftime show-inspired routine to a mash-up of “Get Up” by Ciara ft. Chamillionaire and “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars. The extravaganza earned Wayne a perfect score, and a heartwarming compliment from Bruno who said, “You always perform like the greatest showman on the greatest show on television.”
Charli and Mark did a freestyle to “Us Again” by Pinar Toprak. The dance told the story of falling back in love with dance– a poignant point for the partners – and earned another perfect score. The routine brought the crowd to their feet, Derek to tears, and made all of the judges emotional.
Gabby and Val danced to “Cell Block Tango” from the musical Chicago. During the dance’s last few steps, Gabby’s heel got stuck in her dress, a snafu that she recovered from seamlessly. The judges clearly agreed – despite the wardrobe malfunction, the routine earned Gabby another perfect score.
Shangela and Gleb’s freestyle routine brought drag to the ballroom for the first time ever in DWTS history. The couple’s final dance of the season, performed to a mashup of “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child and “Call Me Mother” by RuPaul, was not only astonishing, but also earned the couple a perfect score. As if Shangela’s freestyle couldn’t get any better, Gleb made his jaw-dropping drag debut as ‘Natasha!’ This was most definitely one of the greatest freestyles in the history of the show! The routine had the judges screaming and on their feet! Carrie Ann loved it so much that she broke her paddle during her applause, excitedly telling Shangela, “Anything you do, you do with your heart wide open!”
After all four freestyle routines, it was time for the moment we’d been waiting for for 10 weeks– the unveiling of the DWTS season 31 winners!
Shangela and Gleb took fourth place, and third place was awarded to Wayne and Witney.
After the closest finale in the history of the show, Charli and Mark were named the DWTS Season 31 winners and awarded this season’s hard-earned mirrorball trophy!
The competition may be over, but DWTS excitement continues in 2023 with the “Dancing With The Stars 2023 Tour.” This year at select dates, the tour will feature Gabby, Charli, Vinny, Daniel and Heidi.
DWTS also continued to make headlines even after the final lights went out on the dance floor. On Wednesday, November 23, pro dancer Daniella and her husband Pasha announced on Instagram they are expecting their first child together! Additionally, during Thanksgiving weekend, DWTS pro Koko announced her engagement to her longtime boyfriend Kiki Nyemchek!
It’s been amazing recapping DWTS each week! See you all next year!