It was a night of such passion and enthusiasm at this Monday's Dancing with the Stars that women were losing their jewels. In the audience, a woman named Becky from Fillmore, California, was clapping so hard that her $30,000 diamond solitaire flew out of its setting — a scary moment until another audience member retrieved the precious stone.
On the dance floor, fiery pro Eydta Sliwinska felt jewelry coming loose, too. As she snapped her head sharply back and forth doing the tango with John Ratzenberger, the fake diamonds adorning the back of her bun became more like dangling earrings, flying around her head as they separated from her hair.
Tango, it seems, can make everything — and everyone — bust loose, bringing out the inner beast. During one commercial break, ladylike Leeza Gibbons took her place on the dance floor with her elegant dance pro, Tony Dovolani. The cameras weren't even rolling, but the two circled each other, their expressions pure Latin fire. The audience, surprised and hushed, were riveted. Then they were wowed, and started cheering for this unexpected bit of off-camera sizzle. "We did it for ourselves," said Dovolani after the show. "It was meant for us to get on the dance floor and completely own the characters. It had nothing to do with the audience at home. It had to do with Leeza and I. Because in the end, this is our dance and if we are with each other, that means we can entertain. If we're only worried about the audience at home, then we lose the one thing that matters — to dance with each other."
"It really helped me," said Gibbons of the pre-dance dance, "because it's hard not to be affected by the sounds, the lights. You know your kids are there in the audience, you're listening to the videotape package that leads up to your performance. And Tony said, ‘No. Don't listen to a thing. Just focus on me and let's find ourselves.'"
Billy Ray Cyrus started his dance perched at the judges' table — never an easy place to be — all decked out in fedora and pinstripes. After his tango with Russian firecracker Karina Smirnoff, judge Carrie Ann Inaba gave him props. "You've got balls," she told him, "starting your dance here."
"I've never said that on the air before," Inaba said later. "But all I could think of when I was watching that performance was, 'Wow, he's got balls.' He just walked up to the judges' stand and just stood there. I didn't mean to be inappropriate and I hope I didn't offend anybody. It's just the first thing that came out, and that's what happens on live television."
In the crowd tonight was ABC's new Bachelor, Andy Baldwin, who told host Tom Bergeron that he does, indeed, get engaged at the end of the reality romp. Pop singer Deborah Gibson was there, too, rooting for three friends, Leeza Gibbons, Joey Fatone and Ian Ziering. Gibson makes no secret of wanting to be included in the next casting call. "I would love to dance on this show," says Gibson, who already learned a new skill on last year's Skating with Celebrities. "My fear would be that the judges would be so hard on me because I've done theater. They'd probably say, ‘You're a ringer.' Little do they know that I've always been kind of a goofy dancer, not a graceful dancer. A lot of this involves pointing and stretching and graceful lines. My dancing is more like funky choreography and tap."
Fatone knows all about funky choreography. But on this night, the Star Wars aficionado was more jazzed about his iridescent brown suit — so much so that he wanted to bring it home. "It was all Joey's idea, the whole Star Wars theme," said his partner, Kym Johnson. "He said, ‘You've gotta wear this Jabba the Hut thing.'"
"I love this outfit," said Fatone. When you note that brown is an unusual color on a dance floor normally populated with costumes of eye-popping reds, yellows and greens, he tells you what brown did for him: "Usually the Jedi robes are this kind of tan. It worked out, didn't it?"
As did Apolo Anton Ohno's ode to John Travolta. "It was Pulp Fiction all the way, baby," says Ohno, his hair slicked back with a few tendrils hanging down. "Before we went out there, I was watching the DVD over and over and over again, just trying to get in that mind frame of being Vincent Vega — the character Travolta plays in the movie. He looks so cool when he does it, so I had to try to portray that."
Ohno is making sliding a part of his routines on the dance floor. "Slides are in every single dance," says his partner, Julianne Hough. "He does it well, so we might as well take advantage of that." But given his background as an Olympic gold-medal speed skater, is Ohno trying to turn the floor into an ice rink? "That'd be a good idea," he says. "Get a little water out there, get a little freeze going." If he could put ice on the floor, would he? "Maybe a little patch," he says, smiling.
ABC's Dancing with the Stars airs Monday at 8 pm/ET, and Tuesday at 9 (results show).