Chaz Bono Chaz Bono

What a difference a week makes. In the course of seven days, two very different men have changed the way transgender activist Chaz Bono moves on Dancing With the Stars: the first is former swing dance champion Buddy Schwimmer, dance teacher and father of Bono's partner, Lacey. And the second is fellow competitor J.R. Martinez, who shot to the top of the fifth-week leader board.

The elder Schwimmer attended this week's rehearsals, took one look at Chaz trying to master the samba, and let him have it. "He was shaking his butt," says Buddy, "and I told him, 'You shake your butt like a wuss. Get out there and show me some butt!"

Bono's reaction was to move bigger, stronger. And his knees, which buckled under him the first few weeks, are now able to withstand the pounding. "I told Chaz, '[Pretend] there's some water there, and step over it,'" says Buddy. "Now that's a bigger step.' You have to find a way to get through." Says Lacey, "Having Chaz see a male figure who is older, and who has a similar size, was really influential. My dad can get anyone to dance. Anyone."

"He made me feel less self-conscious and silly," adds Bono. But what happens when he gets frustrated? "He shuts down," says Buddy, "and you can't let him do that. So I say, 'Okay, show me again.' His girlfriend came up to me tonight and thanked me. She said, 'the first two weeks, I thought he'd never make it. But he looks better now.'"

It wasn't just physical problems that were standing in Bono's way. "He's feeling a lot better about the competition," says Buddy. "The first week, he was just a curiosity. Now he knows people are behind him, so he's starting to say he's having a good time and he's doing better."

So much so that he wants to emulate another competitor. Bono watched, mesmerized, as J.R. Martinez surged to the top of the leader board Monday night with his electrifying samba. Right after the show, Chaz told his partner, "I didn't even tell you this, Lacey, but after watching J.R., I thought, 'I'm gonna go out there and do as good a samba as I possibly can.' There's no way I can compete with J.R., he's amazing. But he inspired me."

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