The first perfect 30s of the season hit the ballroom Monday night in time for the “Dancing With the Stars” semifinals, but the flawless (or flawless-ish) routines hardly compared to the other action on the dance floor.
Then again, the first big scene-stealer of the night didn’t even happen on the stage.
Rehearsal footage revealed just what tricky moves left pro hoofer Kym Johnson on a stretcher late last week. Determined to give partner Hines Ward every advantage in the semifinals, Johnson choreographed some creative and downright hazardous lifts for their Argentine tango. One such lift went awry when Ward’s full weight came down on Johnson’s neck.
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Good thing for Johnson, the fall looked far worse than it was. By show time, she was able to break out several safer lifts alongside Ward, who for his part excelled at every aspect of the tango. The routine proved to be their best dance in the competition. It left Ward in tears and earned the couple the first 30 of the season (but not for long).
Oh, and during a congratulatory hug, it also led to a quick nip-slip for the pro who’d already had one heck of a week.
(Props to host Tom Bergeron. He maintained his best-live-host-in-the-biz status by somehow graciously body blocking the camera, informing Johnson of the wardrobe malfunction and making it seem like nothing had happened at all.)
Ward and Johnson later followed up the perfect score, if not their perfect moves, with a not-so-hip-shaking salsa.
The next spectacle of the evening came courtesy of Ralph Macchio. After performing a flat Argentine tango and earning so-so scores — i.e. two 8s and a 9 — early in the show, the ’80s star returned to show off his assets in the salsa. Too bad they weren’t his own.
Yes, Macchio wore a prosthetic rear enhancer, aka Butt Booster, to turn his shapeless backside into a salsa-ready rump. At least that was the idea. What it actually did, as Bruno Tonioli pointed out, was make it look as though the former “Karate Kid” was wearing “extra large diapers.”
Of course, that wasn’t the only fashion faux pas on the dance floor. Moving next to the modified Macchio was pro partner Karina Smirnoff, decked out in an open front, somewhat shaggy, leopard-print catsuit complete with a belly chain and red sparkling bra. No really.
Tonioli had something to say about Smirnoff too, but the folks in charge of the bleep button made sure no one outside of the studio audience heard it. Let’s just say it started with “You were too rough with your …” and it ended with the incredulous judge arguing, “What? A pussy cat?! What is she?”
If looks could kill, Smirnoff would have made sure that was the last “pussy cat” comment Tonioli ever made.
Costumes aside, somehow the judges managed to score the dance despite the distractions and gave it a generous 23 out of 30.
Chelsea Kane earned her share of attention for the night, and she somehow did it just by dancing. First the Disney Channel star wowed the judges with a less-than-wow Argentine tango with partner Mark Ballas, worth 28 points. Then she topped that with a truly stunning rumba that might have actually merited the perfect score it scraped up.
As for Kirstie Alley, other than a few obligatory late-season rehearsal fights with Maksim Chmerkovskiy, she also let her footwork do the talking. Both Alley’s Viennese waltz and paso doble had the panel raving. But raving or not, Len Goodman and the gang never raised anything higher than a 9 paddle for the actress.
After each couple put on their primary performances, they came back for more with a winner-take-all cha-cha-cha challenge. Not surprisingly, the real battle came down to the night’s — heck, the whole competition’s — front-runners: Ward and Kane. Both presented top cha-chas, but Kane clearly earned her win and the 15 extra points that came with it.
On Tuesday night, one of the four remaining ballroom contenders will walk away before making it to the finals. If dance alone determines the ouster, Macchio’s time is running out. But if it comes down to a battle of the biggest fan bases, it’s still anyone’s game.
Ree Hines is cha-cha-ed out. This season alone there have been eight individual cha-chas, two team routines and six quickies. Follow @ReeHines on Twitter and tell her what you want to see more or less of in the ballroom.