After a shortened season that, thanks to all the drama, felt almost longer than a regular one, we have a winner.
Well, that’s done.
Dancing with the Stars is generally a joyous experience, but this year felt less so given the initial shock eliminations, the subsequent Covid replacements, and just a few hours before this finale started, the sudden departure of head judge Camilla Sacre-Dallerup due to… yup, Covid-19 (although replacement judge Karen Hardy injected a much needed freshness at the eleventh hour). The show danced with Covid, and while there’s no doubt that all the charities involved will enjoy a much-needed injection of money, it really stumbled away from the dancefloor.
But enough about the season! Let’s focus on the finale, which started with an energetic rendition of ‘Starships’ that felt slightly post-apocalyptic, featured a surprise dance from Nadia Lim, and yes, an actual winner.
(Note: These are all “show dances”, which basically means “pull out every trick in the kitchen sink to win”, and all of the judges’ scores are purely cosmetic. The final is decided entirely by the public vote.)
4. Alex Vaz (and Brittany Coleman)
I’ll be real: Being in the final is the prize for Alex Vaz, who reaches a respectable place in his second go at the competition, and third go at reality TV overall. He was never the best in the competition, and seemed to be on the verge of going home since the very start. He comes out of this with a nice profile boost, a good chunk of cash for his charity (Gumboot Friday), and as a noticeably better dancer. Can’t ask for more!
3. Dave Letele (and Kristie Williams)
To make it to the finale is impressive. To make it to the finale after nine knee surgeries is hero behaviour. To end a season with the best, and most uplifting dance, of your particular season – bloody legendary. No shade to Letele here, who I referred to as “not the best dancer” on a weekly basis, but who has emerged as an absolute star. And isn’t that what it’s all about, at the end of the day?
RUNNER-UP Brodie Kane (and Enrique Johns)
The best thing I can say about Brodie Kane’s show dance is that it felt like a winner’s dance, by someone who really wanted to win. You don’t take on a song like ‘Proud Mary’ without being confident that you can win, and without thinking that on some level, you should. It took a few weeks for Brodie to click into that confidence, but one she did, she became one of the best things about the season – and a much-needed burst of energy in these past few weeks. Her second dance, a paso doble to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, was just as good, and just as fun – the kind of dance you want to be in the room for.
WINNER: Jazz Thornton (and Brad Coleman)
After a beautiful dance, reminiscent of Manu Vatuvei’s emotional winning show dance in 2019, Jazz cinches a win that seemed to be coming since the very start. Fittingly, her second dance of the night was her second of the competition – the quickstep that scored her the earliest 10 in New Zealand DWTS history.
From about the second week on, Jazz’s win was about as close to a foregone conclusion as I’ve seen. She has a massive, extremely dedicated fanbase who turned out for her week after week, but even more importantly: Jazz turned it out week after week. She clearly wanted to win, had the drive and ability to make it happen, and the scores every week reflected that.
If that’s not a star, I don’t know what is.