“The [idea] for our freestyle is that we are conductors, and then we get swept away by the music,” Stirling explained during a pre-taped segment before the performance.
“This is meant to reflect you to a tee,” Ballad explained. “The whole thing represents how you embody music, and how you can kind of command it and own it.”
The bombastic, larger-than-life number received nothing but effusive praise from all the judges. Guest judge Julianne Hough said it was “like a Tim Burton quirky musical masterpiece of awesomeness,” while Bruno Tonioli called it a “modern classic extravaganza, conducted and orchestrated to perfection.”
The pair got a perfect 40 out of 40 for their efforts, which is the same score they received for the first dance of the night — a quickstep set to “Barflies at the Beach” by Royal Crown Revue.
Between the two numbers, the couple earned a flawless score of 80, tying them with Jordan Fisher and his pro partner Lindsay Arnold.
Stirling and Ballas will be facing off against Fisher and Arnold — as well as Frankie Muniz and his partner Witney Carson — when the second night of the DWTS finals kicks off on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.