A Special Thank You to #TeamCrikey

I know I’ve talked a lot about Bindi Irwin this season, but I can’t not — I’m so in awe of her strength, and the light she continuously radiates, it feels like I’ve personally grown with her as well. I cannot imagine losing my father at the age she was at, and while I wasn’t much older when the tragedy struck in my home as well, I can say that I wasn’t as positive at 17. And I think that’s what amazes me so much, the fact that she can see the beauty in life as a teen. We don’t give teenagers nearly enough credit for all the terrors they face. To walk with that kind of grace and light changes lives and while the line between reality and fiction is often blurred on television, this is the first time where I can say I genuinely feel the honesty in a production. I will always have trust issues with reality TV, but thankfully Dancing With the Stars never fails to leave me astonished.

I love Freestyle Week, it’s always so fun and full of emotions and while each contestant was incredible this week, I am completely enamored with Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough’s dance to “Footprints in the Sand”. To begin with it, I need to not only commend Hough’s choreography, but his ability to understand just how much this journey means to Irwin. I’d written about his grace in emotionally carrying her through their contemporary dance dedicated to the late Steve Irwin here, but what we saw in him this week was a human being’s desire to genuinely want to honor someone for someone else. We saw a desire to do something raw and memorable not for a competition, but to tell a story that’ll leave a lasting impression on all. The choice to keep it simple and focus on Irwin, along with the additional footsteps in the ground, followed by the photograph of Irwin and her father was a gorgeous idea. I felt like this choreography was his final gift to the entire Irwin family.

Anyone who knew me when my dad passed away only ever knew someone who held everything back — a shy little girl that never spoke up. A little girl with big dreams but even bigger fears. I wish I had the opportunity to honor my dad the way Irwin honors her father through a dance like this. To publicly acknowledge just how much he meant to me and just how much he’s always inspired me through dance is a lifelong dream of mine. However, though it’s one of the dreams I’ll probably never pursue, I loved watching someone so extraordinary live it out to the fullest. And it’s writing this article that’s made me realize that with every piece I ever write, I honor my father. And while Irwin does the same line of work as her father as well, this is an experience that’ll undoubtedly stay with her forever. An experience she’s used to inspire the world. The pain of losing someone so dear never goes away, but it gets easier, and when it gets somewhat easier, that’s when we’re able to see the beauty of their legacy. The beauty of memories, strength, and honor. The beauty in having a guardian angel — a person that’s so close to our hearts who perpetually walks with us.

Hough and Irwin have been excellent partners, thereby making this freestyle brilliantly breathtaking. And that’s just me attempting to put words to something that really cannot be described — as someone who knows what all this is like, even I cannot ever find the right words. Although the idea behind this freestyle was similar to their contemporary, it showcases astounding growth. You could feel both of their emotions with every step they took, and while Irwin’s proven to be a quick, determined learner with grace, this dance is what exhibits the fact that that this journey’s empowered her. She’s now a dancer — during this dance, there is no difference between her and Hough other than the fact that he’s been doing it longer. I know there are people who continuously point out that judges are “too good” to her, but in my honest opinion, that’s merely the desire to not accept light into their lives. Sometimes the world rejects optimism and light. I’ve been told countless times that my way of writing is “too positive” and “too optimistic”. I’ve been told it’s not dark enough, but I’m so proud of the way Irwin has shined her light in each of her dances — even the dark twisted ones have held light in them. And that’s how life is, even in the darkest times, there’s always light. Judges are constantly praising her work because it’s so clear that with every move she makes, she’s choosing to feel the entirety of each step. She’s choosing to feel the music, she’s working hard, and in the midst of it, her kindness is what does all the talking. Kindness is a form of strength and that strength, along with her father’s memories, move her. Irwin’s deserving of all the praise she gets because she’s allowing herself to completely get lost in the world of dance. I’m so thankful that her optimism is welcomed because it’s anything but cliche to constantly try to bring light into everything. And I feel like Hough’s desire to do right by her inspires him to constantly create masterpieces. As much as dance is a form of entertainment, it’s one of the most cathartic forms of telling stories — there’s endless beauty in the way dancers use their body to exhibit emotions. Dance demands to be felt, for the choreography is merely pretty movements if emotions aren’t involved. And it’s not always about poignancy because all dances, no matter how slow or quick tell stories. And though all their dances didn’t receive perfect scores, the effort to tell stories was always there making them entertaining and a sweet breath of fresh air.

It takes bravery to be as vulnerable as Irwin was during this performance, and these are the kind of pieces that leave a lasting impression. While Irwin’s not the only one who’s done them, (here’s a fantastic piece on Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess’ contemporary), what’s so riveting is the fact that a 17 year old girl carries herself with such admirable strength she inspires us all. She’s left not only me, but all my family members in tears. She’s left the audience, judges, other contestants, and people around the world covered in chills unable to speak about how much the light within her inspires.

Whether or not Bindi Irwin takes the mirror ball home tonight, she’s a winner. She’s a winner not because she can move her feet, but because she’s brave enough to trust, to take risks, and to persevere through physical and emotional pain, all while wearing an enormous smile on her face. It’s often said that a person’s appearance radiates what’s inside, and the warmth of a smile can change lives. Bindi Irwin chooses to wear a smile as often as she can and with it, she exhibits the kind of goodness we all need to see — especially at times when it feels like the world’s falling apart with tragedies left and right. I cannot analyze Dancing With the Stars the way I do other TV series, but I can say that every Monday I’ve gotten off my couch at 10 pm feeling happy and inspired. And for that alone, I’d say that Irwin’s an irreplaceable light in our world. She’s a beacon of hope who I’m certain will continue to shine and inspire the world through her grace and positivity. Both Steve and Terri Irwin have truly raised a wonderful soul.

So thank you, #TeamCrikey for taking such a devastating loss and honoring it, for it’s helped me understand the fact that my words will always be connected to my own father. Dance may be a distant dream of mine, but writing is my release. Sometimes we don’t have words for the things that wound us the most, but in many ways, the desire to continuously honor is enough. And I’m certain I’m not the only one who’s been so moved by this journey. I cannot say enough good things.

@GissaneSophia 

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