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Valerie Harper Earns Standing Ovation For Her 'Dancing With The Stars' Debut (VIDEO)

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Anticipation was higher than usual for the upcoming 17th season of "Dancing With the Stars," and it was largely due to one celebrity contestant. Valerie Harper stunned the nation when she was announced as a part of the current cast of the long-running reality competition. The star of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Rhoda" was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer at the beginning of the year, and only given three months to live.

“I was given a death sentence," the 74-year old Harper said on the show. "And here it is, eight, nine months later. I’m way past my expiration date, and I’m dancing!”

She earned a respectable 21 points for her debut performance, and got a teary-eyed standing ovation from the crowd and her fellow competitors. It was inspirational and powerful to see her defying her diagnosis and living so fully in that moment. As Harper put it, “It’s good to be alive, and it’s even better to be dancing.”

People magazine's Dahvi Shira called her performance the "emotional highlight" of the premiere. Over at NBC News, Ree Hines admitted that Valerie's "flowing foxtrot" wasn't "the best of the night. But despite a few small rough spots, it was easily the sentimental favorite.”

For the first time this season, "Dancing With the Stars" doesn't have a separate elimination episode. As such, dancers will perform and be cut in the same episode, Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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