It was a night of heartfelt emotion for ABC's Dancing With the Stars. The celebrities celebrated their favorite year, their most beloved people and their secret treasured moments. The tears fell freely and the scores soared to offer one of the show's most unforgettable night.
Highlights included dances from Gavin DeGraw, Gladys Knight and William Levy. The Empress of Soul delivered a beautiful Foxtrot to Sam Cooke's "Cupid". It celebrated Knight's first tour in 1954. She was only 13 years old and admitted she felt intimidated working with the likes of Cooke.
Dressed in salmon with a beaded back and neckline, gleaming with sequins and a stunning smile, Knight glided across the floor. She delivered a classically smooth dance.
Judge Carrie Ann Inaba complimented the improvement in Knight's frame and called the dance "beautiful", "sensuous" and "soulful". She told Gladys she danced like she sang; with grace and elegance. Len Goodman appreciated the work and dedication Knight put into her performance. He said the dance had "nice flow". Then he asked the star if he could be one of her "Pips". Bruno Tonioli agreed that Knight showed "grace and finesse" and called the performance "absolutely gorgeous".
All three judges awarded Gladys and her partner Tristan McManus scores of eight for a total score of 24. It was the highest yet for the soulful singer.
Gavin DeGraw came dressed like Gene Kelly and tried to imitate a few of his moves on the dance floor. He and partner Karina Smirnoff went with classic black and white for their rumba. They danced to Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind". The song celebrated DeGraw's parents who he revealed were his strongest supporters. They encouraged him to follow his dream to become a singer.
Starting at the piano, the couple quickly moved to the dance floor in a beautiful and graceful performance. DeGraw made it clear that he worked hard on his lines as well as his transitions. He was greatly improved from earlier weeks.
Bruno said he had good hip action and great extensions. Carrie Ann admitted her heart fluttered because the dance was "sexy" and "sensual". She said Gavin's tenderness came through in the performance. Len said the rumba needed good hips and DeGraw had them. He also said the singer showed more musicality and a natural progression.
The duo scored solid eights for a total of 24. That tied them with Knight and McManus.
The Latin lover, William Levy went for a lively samba to celebrate his move to the United States. He shared how poor his family had been in Cuba and what a change they went through after arriving state side. His love for the U.S. was clear as was his appreciation for the opportunities given him here.
William and partner Cheryl Burke did a fast and fun salsa. They looked the part with Cheryl dressed in turquoise and yellow and William almost shirtless in brown and white with a turquoise bandana on his head.
The dance went well despite a slight slip from Cheryl. Len called the performance "appropriately loose" and said Levy conquered the salsa. Bruno called the dance "amazing". Carrie Ann referred to it as "ridiculously hot".
The couple scored two nine's and one 10 for a total of 28. It put them in second place for the night, behind Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas at 29. Donald Driver and Peeta Murgatroyd followed them with a 26. Jaleel White and Kym Johnson came next with 25. The rest of the Dancing With the Stars pack all scored 24 points.