<P>Julianne Hough and Helio Castroneves, <EM>Dancing with the Stars</EM></P>

Julianne Hough and Helio Castroneves, Dancing with the Stars

One of the greatest singers in the world says she wants to dance. On the show. As a contestant. Céline Dion, backstage at Dancing with the Stars Monday night, had just pretaped two songs for the show's finale next week. One of them will be her signature ballad, "My Heart Will Go On," from Titanic.

"I hope they invite me again," says Dion. "I want to dance. For me, it's not about a contest. It's about having the privilege to share the dancing floor with the most amazing, talented people, and to share music. It's not about winning. It's about dancing as many times as possible."

Who is she dreaming about as a possible partner? Maks? Tony? Jonathan? "I want all of them," she says slyly.

Dion says she's not kidding. Six of the show's professionals danced in front of her as she sang — including Tony Dovolani, Cheryl Burke, Mark Ballas and Karina Smirnoff — and Dion says she had trouble concentrating on her lyrics. "I was having a hard time singing because I was like, 'Oh, I want a dress just like that! Oh, I want a flower, too. Oh, my god, I want a body like that. I wish I could dance like that as I sing the song.' But it's impossible. It's one or the other. But I was imagining that the dancers were me."

She sways backstage, moving her arms, as if auditioning for the gig. Then she starts singing the familiar lyrics. "Near. Far..." Dion starts laughing, and then goes into a funky rendition of "Proud Mary," still dancing. She says she only had a smattering of ballet training as a kid, not nearly enough to make her proficient now. She says her husband tapes the show for her and she watches it with their 4-year-old son. "I'm a tremendous fan," she says.

Dancing's casting director, Deena Katz, stands nearby, just out of earshot. Tell her that Dion wants to be a contestant and she immediately notes the long-term commitment. The months of preparation and competition may be impossible for someone like Dion, who is about to leave her long-term Las Vegas show and begin a world tour in support of a new album. "Wait until I tell her that it's 14 weeks," says Katz. Katz says she's heard it before from guest artists, including Lionel Richie. "But I know Celine loves the show," says Katz. "So we'll be sending Rene [Angelil, Dion's husband and manager] an offer tomorrow."

"Celine is amazing," says pro Mark Ballas after the show. "So gracious. A lot of guest artists, they don't even acknowledge you. But Celine, she thanked us. She talked to everybody."

Ballas is gearing up for his highly anticipated return to the floor Tuesday night with Sabrina Bryan, in a number they'll perform with guest artist Avril Lavigne. What's it going to be? "It's not Latin or ballroom," says Ballas mysteriously. "But there will be a bit of rumba." The rumba, you may recall, is the sexiest dance in the show's repertoire and perfect for Ballas and Bryan, who are now dating.

Meanwhile, the rest of the ballroom was buzzing about the Osmonds. The show is going to have to get a bigger ballroom if this keeps up: Four of the brothers took time away from their holiday shows in Branson, Missouri, to cheer on little sister Marie. That's in addition to Donny, who's there almost every week, reporting on the show for Entertainment Tonight. After judge Bruno Tonioli gave Marie a 9 for her quickstep — when Carrie Ann Inaba and Len Goodman had given her 10 — Donny Osmond stood up during the commercial break and asked the crowd, "Should I beat Bruno up now?"

Tonioli bolted out of his seat and sprinted onto the dance floor, where he and Osmond exchanged fake punches. The show's warm-up, Cory Almeida, noted dryly, "It's too bad we didn't have Jerry [Springer] on this season. He would've known how to handle this."

After the show, it becomes clear that Marie's invitation to the audience to come over for Thanksgiving as her way of saying thank-you for their votes is a lovely sham. Her brothers say she's an awesome cook and makes some mean mashed potatoes, but she won't be slaving over a hot stove this holiday season. If she makes it into the finale, she'll be busy rehearsing. "We'll be staying in town and going out to eat somewhere," says Marie. So she's not even cooking a turkey? "Oh, no," she laughs. "Mama's not cooking this year. We're going out!"

Before Mel B. started her Viennese waltz, her partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, stood on the sparkling staircase and put his hands together in silent prayer. Later it becomes clear why: "She only had two hours of practice this week," says Chmerkovskiy. How is it possible to learn two new dances in two hours? "She doesn't think about it," says Maks. "She just dances. If she thought about it, if she realized how hard it really is, she would probably freak out."

After the show, the one most freaked out was Helio Castroneves, who is having trouble focusing when you ask him about his two perfect scores. "What? Huh? Oh, I'm sorry, I still don't believe what just happened," he says. "It's so surreal. You work so hard, and then it pays off, and you can't believe it. Julianne [Hough, his professional partner] told me that Apolo [Anton Ohno, last season's champ] didn't even do that well in the semifinals. "Can you believe it?"

Hough can and does. When asked what she's got up her sleeve if they get to do the freestyle in the finals, she won't spill the beans. "But I can tell you this," says Hough. "He can lift me. So we want to do tons of lifts."

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