Backstage Report: How Kristi Was Almost Sidelined
Kristi Yamaguchi and Mark Ballas by Kelsey McNeal/ABC
How tough is Kristi Yamaguchi? Consider this: While all the cameras this week were focused on Derek Hough's neck injury, Yamaguchi has spent the past two days icing and wrapping a swollen right ankle that collapsed during rehearsals on Saturday. "[We were practicing] those little jumps we do at the end of the routine," she says, "and I landed on the side of my foot and the ankle just rolled."
Remember, the female dancers are practicing in heels - in Yamaguchi's case, two-and-a-half-inch ankle straps. The incident scared her partner, Mark Ballas, and put a halt to rehearsals. "I was a bit worried because I've been really tough on her this week and we were really going for it," says Ballas. "So we put ice on it, wrapped it and went to lunch."
So she wasn't carted off to have X-rays done? "No," says Yamaguchi. "My ankles have always given me problems. And there's nothing [the doctors] can say except 'ibuprofen and ice.' You just work through it."
Which makes Monday night's near-perfect score of 29 that much more impressive. "I've skated in pain many times," she says simply. "And dancing is also physically taxing and dangerous."
Ballas offered insight into what he had to do to bring out the best in his injured partner. "I really wanted to focus," he says, "so I turned the AC off in the studio, and it was
, like a yoga class. The judges said they wanted more emotion from Kristi, and [the paso doble] is about aggression, so I wanted to heat up the room and make it uncomfortable."
Marissa Jaret Winokur's face, meanwhile, is one of pure joy after slaying her own dragons this week and getting some much-needed praise from the judges. "Last week, we totally got slammed," she says. "So I said to Tony [Dovolani], 'This is a free week'" - meaning that she had assumed she would go home in the last round - "'so let's just go out there and do it!'"
The dancing was great. But Winokur after the show was aggravated by the shrinking bodies she's seeing all around her. Priscilla Presley is noticeably thinner. So is Marlee Matlin. "Did you hear about Marlee losing 10 pounds?" asks Winokur with mock outrage. "She doesn't have 10 to lose! I'm sick of it! I haven't lost anything at
and she keeps saying, 'Take in my costume, take in my costume, it's too loose!'"
Matlin, meanwhile, can't think about anything
eating. "I'm hungry, starving," she says. "But you know what? I get to eat pasta. You've got to have carbs to dance."
Presley knows she's lost inches due to the "
Dancing with the Stars
diet." "The weight loss is from nerves," she says. "You don't want to eat before you rehearse. And your adrenaline is so high when you finish that you
land, Jonathan Roberts, whose first partner, Monica Seles, was the second star eliminated, subbed in the rehearsal studio for the ailing Derek Hough, who had to protect his neck. "I've never had that kind of injury, but Derek had it really bad," says Roberts. "With the neck, you don't know if it's going to be a little thing, or something serious. We both wanted to make sure that Shannon [Elizabeth] felt good. Because as a celebrity, they're stressed out as it is. So we were preparing for me to go on [as Elizabeth's partner]."
When did they know that Hough would be OK? "On Saturday, his movement started coming back and he didn't need to wear the brace," says Roberts. "If it had been an ankle or a foot [like Yamaguchi], it wouldn't have even been a question. Dancers are always abusing their bodies. But because it's his neck, you have to extra careful."
So who will Roberts be partnering with next? "I think this is now a record," he says. "I've danced with three celebrities on one season - so far." Does his paycheck reflect that? Did they triple his salary? "I wish," smiles Roberts. -
Deborah Starr Seibel