Next week on Dancing With the Stars, Derek Hough will be hitting the ballroom with Alexa PenaVega as part of the “switch up,” when celebrities are paired with a new professional partner. But people are still talking about Hough’s emotional dance with his regular partner, wildlife conservationist Bindi Irwin, last Monday night. As part of “most memorable year” theme week, Bindi recalled the death of her father, the “crocodile hunter” Steve Irwin. The preview package before the dance showed Bindi recalling her father’s death, when she was only eight, and included clips of a young Bindi speaking at her father’s memorial service.
In his blog for TV Guide, Hough revealed he shielded Bindi from the taped introduction so she could remain focused on the performance. Hough himself caught a glimpse of the images and got emotional. The long-time Dancing With the Stars pro and past mirror ball trophy winner said competing last was challenging, but the pair has been overwhelmed by the positive response. The performance got two nines and one 10, the first perfect score of the season.
“It’s not easy going last, especially with such a special routine.
“It’s extraordinary to see the response from people. It’s been beautiful and lovely.”
Bindi Irwin dedicated her Dancing With the Stars performance to her father, and “everyone back at home” in Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald praised the 17-year-old Irwin as a positive role model for young women. Unlike other young celebrities known for “behaving badly,” Irwin has a healthy and positive image. According to the Herald, she is said to give 10 percent of her earnings to Wildlife Warriors, a charity started by her parents.
The Herald spoke with child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg who said Bindi’s tribute to her father on Dancing With the Stars helps people feel comfortable with their own grief. On the program, Irwin told Hough she had “never dwelled” on his death but was now ready to tell the story, as CNN quoted her in its episode recap. Irwin was noticeably emotional during rehearsals, as memories of her family came back.
Carr-Gregg said Bindi has provided a good example of dealing with loss that can help other people.
“I think society is phenomenally uncomfortable with expressions of emotion and in many ways this is good because what Bindi can do is normalise healthy expressions of grief.
“I think she’s been an outstanding role model.”
While Hough is paired up with PenaVega on Monday, Bindi gets to perform with Valentin Chmerkovskiy. Val won the mirror ball last year while paired with Rumer Willis. According to Hough, Val took him aside after rehearing with Bindi to say, “dude, she’s good!” Chmerkovskiy will be reunited with his brother Maksim next week, as the former Dancing With the Stars pro returns as a judge.
Last Monday, Alfonso Ribeiro filled in for regular host Tom Bergeron, who missed the show to attend to his ailing father. Bergeron took to Twitter Friday night to confirm he’ll be back at work next week, and expressed thanks to the show’s personnel and fans for their support.
Back with my @DancingABC family on Monday. Thank you all for the thoughts and prayers you’ve sent to my Dad this past week. So appreciated.
— Tom Bergeron (@Tom_Bergeron) October 9, 2015
You can check out Bindi’s dance with Val and Derek’s dance with Alexa Monday night starting at 8 p.m. Dancing With the Stars airs on ABC.
[Main image: Araya Diaz / Getty Images Entertainment]