Dancing With The Stars NZ: See how much the finalists have improved

With the grand finale of Dancing With The Stars NZ looming, it's hard to believe it was just ten short, sequin-filled weeks ago we saw the celebs take to the dance floor for the very first time.

Shav, Jess, Chris and Sam all started their ballroom journeys with varying degrees of dance ability - and eyeliner - but all four finalists scored the same 29 points for their very best dances of the season.

So, before one of the duos gets their mitts on that coveted winners' trophy, let's douse ourselves in glitter body spray and take a quick-step down memory lane to see how far the contestants have come.

Shavrique

Shavaughn Ruakere has been in the bottom two more than any other contestant this season, but you'd never have guessed it from her first performance. Her debut Cha Cha to 'Damn Girl' earned her a very respectable first score of 20 points. It seemed some of New Zealand was too busy talking about the former Shortland Street star's lace cat suit to recognise her talent had her destined for the finale.

Shavrique's first dance and best dance.
Shavrique's first dance and best dance. Photo credit: MediaWorks

Shav and Enrique, to be known as 'Shavrique' for the rest of time, absolutely smashed their week nine Viennese waltz to 'Breakaway.' "That was so good," said judge Rachel of the performance, but she actually said the word "so" five times. It was that good.

Shav told host Sharyn Casey that she would love a '10', and she actually got two, plus a nine from Julz, giving her a total of 29.

As for how she's feeling ahead of the finale, Shav says she's grateful to be there.

"We've had three dance offs and survived them all. I feel like we've really earned our spot in the final," she says. 

"Dancing's one of the true joys in life, and I want to make sure I enjoy every moment we have left." 

Sam and Aaron

Newshub's own Samantha Hayes started out strong and elegant in episode one, dancing a foxtrot to 'Stay', which earned her a total score of 22. It landed her just behind fellow finalist Jess Quinn, but made it abundantly clear the news presenter was not to be messed with on the dance floor.

Sam admits she had to force herself outside her comfort zone in order to succeed. 

"Learning to be ok with feeling vulnerable on live television has been the biggest challenge for me...

"I had to figure out how to reveal my emotional side, too, which I've always tried to keep in check on the news," she said. 

Sam and Aaron's first dance and best dance.
Sam and Aaron's first dance and best dance. Photo credit: MediaWorks

Sam and Aaron pulled out their best dance in week eight. Their contemporary dance to 'Cold', replete with cartwheels and other impressive moves, scored them the show's first 10... two, in fact! The judges left them just one point short of a perfect score, with 29 out of a possible 30.

"You're on track for that final, baby," judge Julz said at the time. Julz can clearly see the future. 

Chris and Vanessa

Before we had the absolute pleasure of seeing Chris Harris fling himself across the dance floor wearing eyeliner and a man-cape, he cha-cha-ed into episode one in a rather mediocre fashion. The cricket legend had a long way to go, with a score of just 18 points for his opening number, which was set to 'Cake By The Ocean'. Little did we know what was to come. Maybe Julz knew, what with his fortune-telling abilities, but we did not.

Chris and Vanessa's first dance and best dance.
Chris and Vanessa's first dance and best dance. Photo credit: MediaWorks

 
Chris' best dance was his week nine Rumba to 'Stay', which, thank goodness, saw the return of the blessed eyeliner. It's unclear if eye make-up is the secret to unlocking Chris' dance abilities (let's be honest, it's totally Vanessa), but who cares, because he absolutely killed it and scored 29 points.

Now that he's secured his spot in the final four, he has some mixed feelings. 

"I love to dance! The competitive edge is still very much there [from playing cricket].

"I'm super excited to make the final, but also very sad with the realisation this journey is coming to an end." 

Jess and Jonny

Jess Quinn came in hot for this season's premiere. Her first dance, a rumba to 'Faded', earned her the highest score out of all four finalists - a whopping 23 points. It put her at the top of the leader board for episode one, and she didn't stop kicking butt for the rest of the season - with a prosthetic blade, no less. 

"I’d only ever run on the blade before," Jess says.

"So it’s taken a lot of conditioning each week to learn how to adapt how I use it to suit different styles of dance." 

Ever the inspiration, she adds, "I’ve learnt how much I can achieve when I put my mind to it. There really are no limits to what we can achieve; our only limitation is in our mind." 

Jess and Jonny's first dance and best dance.
Jess and Jonny's first dance and best dance. Photo credit: MediaWorks

Jess and Jonny finally earned their double 10s for their week nine jive to 'I'm Still Standing'. "I honestly thought I wasn't going to be able to do a jive," Jess told Dai Henwood after her performance. Well girl, you DONE DID IT! Jess also got a near-perfect 29 points for her best dance.

Viewers can help keep their favourite dancer in the competition by texting their first name to 3333 - each text costs 99c and net proceeds go to that star's chosen charity.

The Dancing With The Stars NZ grand finale will air Sunday July 1, 7pm on Three.

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