'Dancing with the Stars' recap: 10th anniversary special

Patti LaBelle returns, wows with her rendition of 'Lady Marmalade' on 10th anniversary special of 'DWTS'

Cram a decade’s worth of dance performances into an hour? Sure!

Even though that’s not logistically possible, “Dancing with the Stars” did its level best to shoehorn as many former contestants and pros as possible into Tuesday’s “10th Anniversary Special.”

But while advance hype promised nearly 50 – or at least upwards of 45 – dancers would hit the floor in the “biggest opening number” in the show’s history, there were more like a couple dozen, which was a little disappointing. Counting should be a strong suit around those parts, no? One, two, three, step, step, step, right? Oh, never mind “DWTS,” I can’t stay mad at you.

Diehard fans were no doubt tuning in anyway, especially since ABC had been fanning the flames for this event with the promise of a “bromance dance” featuring a bunch of NFL players, tons of celebrities and highlights/lowlights from 20 seasons of the reality competition.

Wanted to see Steve Wozniak do the worm again? Heads up for that mercifully short clip. How about Marie Osmond’s fainting spell? Same thing, except with replay. The Carlton – bless you Alfonso Ribeiro – got a few extra beats, as well it should have.

And whoever dug up that outrageously arrogant Maks audition tape from 2005 should be kissed square on the mouth. Knowing someone’s a pompous arse and seeing it confirmed on video are two entirely different things. So, thanks for that.

Kelly Monaco, the first-season winner, stripped down to a teeny bikini for a fiery dance with Val, who wore only briefs, garters and socks and then seemed to realize his level of exposure in the post-dance chat with host Tom Bergeron. Bare it proudly, pal!

Somebody had to dance to “Uptown Funk,” and it may as well have been alums like Kristi Yamaguchi, Amber Riley, Amy Purdy, Maria Menounos, Chelsea Kane and Katherine Jenkins. The latter, from season 12, is four months pregnant so the newly/dearly departed Willow Shields is no longer the youngest human to take that floor.

There had to be a blooper reel because, well, there is a god and he or she enjoys a bejeweled pratfall just as much as the rest of us. I could watch that on a loop all night long. Almost as entertaining was the temper tantrum reel, where the pros yanked off their mics, quit the show and stomped out on their incorrigible partners. Snap!

The big feud between diva pro dancer Maks and head judge Len seemed to be put to rest. That is, until Maks returns to the series. Then that ride on a bicycle built for two will be a dim and distant memory.

The inspirational highlights were, predictably, just that, showing everyone from Heather Mills and Marlee Matlin to J.R. Martinez and the current season’s Noah Galloway excelling in spite of their limitations or disabilities. “DWTS” has always hit this heart-tugging note just right, never mind the inherent manipulation, and audiences have always responded. Well done on the video, especially the powerful but not overly sentimental commentary.

It wasn’t the head-to-head match-up I would’ve preferred – it’s a celebration, not a contest, after all -- but winners from the two most recent seasons did get to strut their stuff once again. Season 19 champ Alfonso Ribeiro, with Witney Carson, made it look easy and fun and season 18 champ Meryl Davis and Maks Chmerkovskiy seemed like they “haven’t lost anything” in their partnership, Bergeron said. Agreed. It was beautiful.

As viewers already know, the series has evolved over time in its dance technique, degree of difficulty and production values. Video examples of that, including Derek Hough’s award-winning “rotating room” choreography, were reminders of just how far the show’s come.

A segment devoted to the judging panel told us what we already know as an audience: Len is all about technique, Carrie Ann digs emotion, Julianne wants artistry and Bruno likes it “pulsating with passion.” That was a solid bit mainly because of the accompanying greatest-hits dance clips.

ABC, ever the synergy partner, used an ESPN intro for the ensemble dance with Super Bowl vets Donald Driver, Hines Ward, Kurt Warner, Jacoby Jones, Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin, with pros Karino Smirnoff, Anna Trebunskaya and Emma Slater. It was probably the first and only time that anyone has ever done a Latin paso doble to the theme music from Monday Night Football.

Patti LaBelle, a hard-working, good sport of a season 20 competitor who didn’t actually dance much, reappeared to do what she does best: sing. She brought down the house with “Lady Marmalade,” a soulful tune she made famous in the ‘70s.

There was an assist from Amber Riley and Lil Kim, who remade the song with Christina Aguilera, Mya and Pink a few years back. Miss Patti’s always a joy, and she brought down the house. All that was left to do was drop the streamers and confetti. 

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