After all the tears, excitement and nerves that flood the ballroom season-to-season, there are always inspiring contenders that make “Dancing with the Stars” a captivating journey and a perennial ratings powerhouse.
Whether the top performances are memorable because of their heart-wrenching emotion, or pure originality, these celebs know how to strut their stuff even amidst the fear of getting kicked out of the competition or hearing harsh critiques from professional judges Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli.
Here, AccessHollywood.com brings you our list of the top 10 most sensual, spiced-up, and exciting dance routines in “DWTS” history!
10. Bristol Palin & Mark Ballas – Jive to the TV theme of “The Monkees” (Week 5, Season 11)
Why It Made The List: The teen mom took it to the dance floor to squash the stereotype of living in the shadows of her famous political mom, Sarah Palin. In her attempt to show the judges “more emotion” from the critique the week before, the two took the advice as they – literally – monkeyed around! Bristol and Mark showed off their wild side as they slipped off their monkey suits to show off their fun and quirky routine. Although the pair’s dance weighed in as the lowest score of the week with 18 out of 30, their creativity landed them as great competitors in the competition with a fierce Paso Doble, earning her a spot in the finals.
How Far Did They Go?: Bristol made the finals, finishing in third place behind Disney star Kyle Massey and “Dirty Dancing” startlet Jennifer Grey in her quest for the Mirrorball Trophy with her Jive to “Move” by Jennifer Hudson, Beyoncé Knowles & Anika Noni Rose.
9. Jennifer Grey & Derek Hough – Freestyle to “Do You Love Me (Now That I Can Dance)” by The Contours (Week 10, Season 11)
Why It Made The List: Jennifer used a blast from her dancing past as she and partner Derek snuck in a reference from her hit film “Dirty Dancing.” In their final routine, they brought Baby’s famous watermelon scene into the ballroom. Jennifer pokes a little fun at her character as she strips off her “Baby” attire and throws her watermelon, before launching into a high-energy freestyle. The dance received a perfect score of 30.
How Far Did They Go?: The combination of brilliant choreography by Derek and the natural grace of Jennifer ultimately won them the Mirrorball trophy, proving once again, nobody puts Baby — or Jennifer — in the corner.
8. Sabrina Bryan & Mark Ballas – Cha Cha to “Don’t Cha” by the Pussycat Dolls (Week 1, Season 5)
Why It Made The List: Busting out of her innocent “Cheetah Girl” shell, Sabrina brought fierce and fabulous competition to the dance floor in the first week of her arrival. Her footwork – according to Bruno – had precision and clarity, a wow-factor that wooed the judges early on in the competition. Sabrina’s fierce moves set the bar for the rest of the season, earning her a spot in our Top 10. The couple scored a 26.
How Far Did They Go?: Her nearly perfect dances moves failed to take her to the title, as she was voted out of the competition in week 6.
7. Drew Lachey & Cheryl Burke – Freestyle to “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” by Big & Rich (Week 6, Season 2)
Why It Made The List: The 98 degrees band member turned up the heat in the ballroom as he steamed up the dance floor with partner Cheryl. The two brought in a perfect combination of sex appeal and excitement to the judges’ critiques, earning them their first 30. The sexy rendition of the country song marked a new beginning to the old adage “sex sells” on Season 2, propelling the duo into the finals with strong chemistry and sensual rhythm.
How Far Did They Go?: The couple proved to be too good to beat, as they won the Mirrorball trophy over runners-up Jerry Rice and Stacy Keibler.
6. Joanna Krupa & Derek Hough – Futuristic Paso Doble to “Living on Video” by Trans-X (Week 8, Season 9)
Why It Made The List: Derek admitted he “wanted to show the audience something they’ve never seen before.” Not only was the dance something we’ve never seen before, it was a memorable and cutting-edge spin on an often cut-and-dry Paso Doble. Channeling a very “Tron”-inspired theme, the duo showed off robotic movements and fierce lines complete with glow-in-the dark outfits. The couple earned a score of 29, with one point knocked off due to a small slip of a leg.
How Far Did They Go?: Derek was sidelined with flu the halfway into the competition, leaving Maksim Chmerkovskiy to step in on dancing duty. Joanna remained as a competitive contender until she was eliminated the next week after nabbing a nearly-perfect futuristic performance.
5. Hélio Castroneves & Julianne Hough – Quickstep to “Hey Pachuco” by Royal Crown Revue (Week 8 ,Season 5)
Why It Made The List: Famously known as the “Banana dance”, Hélio and partner Julianne took class and all-out sass to the dance floor in a “Great Gatsby”-esque performance. The dapper Indy 500 Champion driver gave it his all on the dance floor with a hyper and giddy performance with a glitzed-up Julianne. The dance stole the show as the couple’s second perfect score of 30.
How Far Did They Go?: Judge Carrie Ann Inaba’s praise of their “effortless” and “intricate choreography” propelled them towards the finals as they snatched up the Mirrorball trophy for Season 5.
4. Apollo Anton Ohno & Julianne Hough — Cha-Cha to “Push it” by Salt n’ Pepa (Week 9, Season 4)
Why It Made The List: Apollo’s hips sizzled all season long in provocative dance routines with partner Julianne, yet it was the sexy Cha-Cha that earned them a spot on our list. Though judge Len Goodman claimed this sizzlin’ number lacked in paying homage to its Latin roots – not enough ”Cha-Cha-Chai-ng” – the electric blue duo’s “gyrate and raunch” performance was an all-out hit with fans. The duo’s synchronized dance moves and almost-complete precision, nabbing a 29.
How Far Did They Go?: Apollo scored the Mirrorball trophy for Season 4 with partner Julianne against runners-up Joey Fatone and Laila Ali.
3. Mel B & Maksim Chmerkovskiy — Paso Doble to “Free Your Mind” by En Vogue (Week 7, Season 5)
Why It Made The List: Channeling her alter-ego “Scary Spice,” leather-clad Mel B brought a leading dynamic to the dance floor. This dominatrix style Paso rocked the dance floor like no other by nabbing their second perfect 30 of the season. Mel B admitted earlier on in the show that she hit the dance floor to primarily shake off some extra pounds from pregnancy. The unveiling of her new hot bod in a tiny and sexy leather ensemble boosted a new confidence that made this dance her – and the show’s – most domineering, ever.
How Far Did They Go?: Mel B finished as the runner-up to Mirrorball winner Indy 500 Champion driver Hélio Castroneves and partner Julianne Hough.
2. J.R. Martinez & Karina Smirnoff – ‘Personal Week’ Rumba to “If You’re Reading This” by Tim McGraw (Week 3,Season 13)
Why It Made The List: J.R. truly captivated viewers’ (and the judges’) hearts with his emotional confession about the third degree burns he received on his face after his military Humvee ran over a land mine. J.R.’s touching tribute to the partners of US military men & women earned a standing ovation as the couple provided a rumba that was captivating and emotional. “I could feel every emotion,” said judge Bruno Tonioli. “You dance from the heart.”
How Far Did They Go?: After his emotional performance, the couple gained momentum with each performance together earning four perfect scores throughout the competition. The couple snatched the Mirrorball trophy away from runners-up Rob Kardashian and Ricki Lake.
1. Gilles Marini & Cheryl Burke — Argentine Tango to “Assassin’s Tango” (Week 4, Season 8)
Why It Made The List: After a spectacular pedigree of near-perfect performances, Cheryl and Gilles upped the ante in this seductive Tango. The duo captivated viewers’ hearts instantly with their fierce chemistry from the get-go, yet it was dance partner Cheryl’s continuous push for more passion in Gilles that perfected their already spiced-up attraction. Snagging their first 30 of the season and a standing ovation, the chemistry-clad couple’s combination of fast-paced and sensual dance moves made this tango one of the hottest dances in the show’s history!
How Far Did They Go?: The titillating tango propelled the two to snag the runner-up spot to the Mirrorball trophy. It was Olympic Gold Medal Gymnast Shawn Johnson that took home the gold of the season.
-- Alissa Medina