"DWTS" Week 9: A Shocking Elimination

Well, well, well. Nastia Liukin has been eliminated from "Dancing with the Stars," (really, America? REALLY?) leaving Noah Galloway, Riker Lynch and Rumer Willis as the three contenders going into the final week. I'll try not to be too upset about never seeing Liukin's perfectly hyper-extended legs again, but it's going to be tough.

In the face of such madness, all we can do is focus on the good stuff. Fortunately the Top Four who competed on Monday night were all able to deliver something highly entertaining, be it raging bulls, 50 Shades of Gray or a sweet tribute to Len himself.

Noah and Sharna Burgess' Paso Doble was frightfully intense, with Noah as a sort of minotaur ringleader. Fortunately he showed those bulls who's boss.

Nastia and Derek Hough danced a Viennese Waltz, inspired by Len saying how disappointed he was that he can't dance like he used to. In the sweetest moment of reality dance TV history, Len stepped onstage to partner Nastia in the last moments of the waltz. Dawwww!

But here's the thing: Nastia is an Olympic gymnast. Of course she's made it this far! Girl can kick, flip and learn choreo quickly and she has a gumby back. As much as I love watching amazing dancers/athletes doing amazing things, the special appeal of "DWTS" is that most of the contestants start off distinctly not amazing. And watching people grow thanks to dance is just wonderful.

Case in point: Riker and Rumer. Um, Riker. Your contemporary dance with Allison Holker looked like actual dancing. Like, actual, technically challenging, contemporary dancing! Way to go! I hadn't really been a Riker fan up until the moment I saw him tossing Allison around like someone who knows what he's doing. And snaps for Allison, too. It's not easy to come up with technical choreography that looks good on a pro and her less-experienced partner.

As for Rumer...well, she's still my favorite. And while 50 Shades is pretty tired by now, I loved her Viennese Waltz with Val Chmerkovskiy. Who knew a waltz could be so fierce?

The trials and tribulations of elimination night were made somewhat less devastating by the very cute cast of Teen Beach 2, led by none other than Riker's brother Ross Lynch and featuring some of our favorite dancers (Hi Kent Boyd! Hi Jessica Lee Keller!).

So what's going to happen next week? You tell us, in the comments below!

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(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)

Congratulations to Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.

We also want you to get social! We'll be factoring social media likes and shares into our final tallies. Be sure to show your favorite finalist some love on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, sharing their profile pages and using the hashtag #DanceSpiritCMS.

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Photo by Erin Baiano

Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.

Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."

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Photo by Erin Baiano

Click here to vote for Emma.

There's a story Kate Walker, director of dance at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX, loves to tell about Emma Sutherland, who just graduated from the program. "We were watching the students run a really long, challenging piece," Walker recalls. "Several kids couldn't quite make it through. But Emma did make it all the way to the end, which is when she walked up to us faculty and very politely asked, 'May I please go throw up?' "

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