Tonight it was all about the dancer who wasn't in the room. Yes, Queen Latifah dazzled the Dancing with the Stars studio audience by performing live with her killer pipes and her no-fuss, no-muss approach. There was also one big moment of surprised silence after billionaire Mark Cuban and Las Vegas showman Wayne Newton escaped the hangman's gallows while host Tom Bergeron sent the sexy and intriguing cover boy, Albert Reed, packing.
But underscoring all of that was the announcement that actress Jane Seymour was absent because her mother had passed away. Mieke Frankenberg, 92, died Monday of complications from a stroke suffered earlier this year. Seymour had been commuting back and forth from Los Angeles to England to spend time with Frankenberg, who was left without the power of speech.
Nevertheless, it was Frankenberg's influence that led Seymour to sign on Dancing's dotted line. Frankenberg loved the English version of the show, Strictly Come Dancing. In fact, she loved all kinds of dancing. When Seymour was a child, her mother enrolled her in ballet classes to help improve Seymour's fallen arches. From the age of 5 until 16, Seymour studied hard and dreamed of joining London's Royal Ballet. Injuries to her knees put a stop to that.
But 40 years later, when Seymour — who had been waffling on her decision — asked her mother if she should do Dancing with the Stars in America, Frankenberg became very animated and communicated "yes." "It gave her a new lease on life," said Seymour at the end of August. "She started eating and drinking again. So now I had to do it."
"I think her mother was happy to see her dance again," says Seymour's pro partner, Tony Dovolani. After performing in a professional number tonight, Dovolani said he would be heading to the airport to catch a flight to England. Once there, he says, he and Seymour will continue training around the funeral schedule. He's hoping they'll be back in the States by Monday and back on the dance floor Monday night. But nothing is certain, as yet.
How and when did Dovolani get the sad news? "I found out right after Monday night's show," he says. "James [Keach, Seymour's husband] walked up to me and I was looking at his face. I thought he was upset about the judges' comments because they were pretty rough on Jane's mambo. He said, 'Tony, I have some very bad news.' And immediately, I knew. I was aware that her mother was sick. And I said, 'Oh, no.' Because of the judges' comments, I didn't want her to hear any more bad news."
Dovolani says he had just walked away from Seymour on the dance floor when Seymour's husband confided in him. "James said, 'Tony, we have to be strong for her.'" But Dovolani believes Seymour is already made of strong stuff. "I know she's going to get through this with no problems," he says. "Still, it's never easy losing a parent." After digesting the news, Dovolani asked Keach if he wanted moral support when he told Jane. Keach thanked him, says Dovolani, but said no. "He said, 'This is something a husband has to do.'"
After Seymour was told in private, she and Dovolani spoke at length on the phone. "What can you say to someone who has just lost a parent?" he says. 'It's one of those moments when you just listen and try to offer comfort." As to Seymour's spirits, Dovolani says she's taken a positive approach. "She's decided to celebrate her mother instead of mourning her," he says. "And that's the greatest thing you could ever do."
So if all goes well, part of that celebration will take place in the Dancing ballroom. "I know how much her mother wanted her to dance," says Dovolani, "so I'm honored now, even more, that I'm the one who's going to make sure that happens, make sure that she gets to do it."
Does he believe this sad new reality will impede Seymour's training? Not at all. "I have a feeling that her mother is going to be on her shoulder from now on," says Dovolani, "and taking this wonderful ride with us. I believe she's going to be with us the entire time."
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