Violinist Lindsey Stirling is going to the finals on “Dancing with the Stars,” something her younger self could have only dreamed of doing.
“My entire life I’ve wanted to learn to dance,” Stirling recalled in a video interview prior to her second performance. “I’ve tried out for dance teams, never made it so to be in this competition, I want to experience the whole journey. I really want to make the finals and it’s like it’s so close now. It would just be the culmination of everything I’ve dreamed of since I was a tiny little kid.”
Stirling, who got her start on another reality TV show, “America’s Got Talent,” where judge Piers Morgan told her the world had no place for a dancing dub-step violinist while Sharon Osbourne said, “I don’t think what you’re doing right now is enough to fill a theater in Vegas.”
It seemed appropriate then for Stirling and her partner, Mark Ballas, to perform their first of two performances in the semi-final to a song called, “Head High.” The song is performed by Ballas and his wife, BC Jean, who together form the musical duo, AlexanderJean.
“She manages to stay joyful and keep her head up and I find that very admirable,” Ballas said, before later adding, “She’s heard ‘No’ sometimes and if Lindsey had listened to all of those ‘No’s' throughout her career, she’d never be where she is today.”
The song’s lyrics include, “We’ve been lost here once or twice in this pitch black room without a light. Even if we fall we’ll survive, just hold your head, head high.”
“I’ve learned that these things as hard as they are, that’s what makes you strong,” Stirling said. "You know, this song, I love that we’re dancing to it because it expresses that raw emotion of the pain.”
The contemporary dance was awarded a score of 29 out of 30 and three glowing reviews from the judges.
“I was thinking about quality of movement that you’ve expressed from the beginning to now,” Carrie Ann Inaba said of Stirling’s progression on the show. “It has changed so drastically. You have evolved so much. ... It was stunning.”
In the second round of the night each couple was assigned an iconic dance from one of the show’s previous seasons. Stirling and Ballas were assigned a tango to Calvin Harris’ “Feel So Close,” originally performed by Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy in season 18. In rehearsal, Ballas explained to Stirling that Davis and Chmerkovskiy were known for their chemistry, something that was not lost on the judges.
“You guys don’t have that kind of sexual chemistry that Maks and Meryl had but you have this friend balance chemistry that is so powerful,” Inaba said. “You guys are like watching two of the same dance together and it’s really stunning.”
Still, despite a couple critiques on hold and turns, the judges felt Stirling peaked at the right time.
“I think you raised your game tonight, just at the right time,” judge Bruno Tonioli said. “That was a wonderful tango.”
The judges awarded the tango a 28 out of 30.
Ballas said he is proud of Stirling’s improvements over the course of the season.
“From day one, Lindsey has literally come on leaps and bounds. People have been saying, ‘Oh she’s an excellent dancer, she has all this experience.’ She really doesn’t. Lindsey’s never had real dance lessons, she’s self-taught,” Ballas said, before commenting on Stirling’s first ever video. “So to see how far she’s come now, I’m really proud of her.”
The two-night season finale of "Dancing with the Stars" starts Monday evening on ABC.