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‘Dancing’ hands out first perfect 30 of season

He may be only a minor star in the acting world, but Gilles Marini is a major star in the ballroom. With two eliminations this week, Holly Madison is likely to head home, but will Steve Wozniak or Steve-O join her?
/ Source: contributor

Last week’s elimination of Denise Richards brought “Dancing With the Stars” one step closer to universal dancing adequacy, which now requires only the ousters of Steve Wozniak, Steve-O and Holly Madison. Could this week’s performances and anticipated double-elimination get two-thirds of the job done?

David Alan Grier led off with a Lindy Hop that had substantially more agility and speed than anyone would have predicted after his first few performances. While the judges noticed a dropped step here and there, he looked light on his feet and flattered by Kym Johnson’s choreography. He was rewarded for his exuberance with an 8 and two 7s, which is pretty good for an older guy doing what the judges called a “rock ‘n’ roll dance.”

Lil’ Kim accelerated her improvement with the first Argentine Tango. Partner Derek Hough admitted that he wasn’t very familiar with the dance either, presenting what Kim called an “uphill battle.” But ultimately, their performance was smoky and controlled, and anyone who wondered if Kim was just a party-dancing booty-shaker was undoubtedly converted as she extended her legs with great elegance and pocketed her naturally infectious personality. They scored a 9 from Carrie Ann, an 8 from Len, and, from Bruno, the very first 10 of the season.

Chuck Wicks and Julianne Hough were the next to Lindy Hop, and the first bad sign came when she had to alter the choreography after he balked at one of the flips. While their dueling-carhops routine was OK, it lacked the upbeat charm of the less athletic David’s, and Chuck still looked timid and not entirely committed to the flipping and kicking and jumping that are integral to the dance. As the judges noted, he can’t quite let go yet, and he and Julianne were fortunate to score the same 8 and two 7s as David.

As Tom Bergeron reminded us, Lawrence Taylor actually skipped golf last week to practice, but his scores were still midrange. Edyta Sliwinska’s (beautiful) husband, Alec Mazo, popped in to help prepare for the Argentine Tango. But while Lawrence performed it adequately, the choreography seemed carefully engineered to demand very little of him. Their scores varied significantly, with Carrie Ann and Bruno both dishing up so-so 7s, while Len hit Lawrence with an aggressively displeased 5.

Cowboy Ty Murray was one to watch, given his sharp improvement of late. He and Chelsie Hightower attacked the Lindy Hop with leaps and lifts meant to capitalize on Ty’s athleticism. His timing and footwork weren’t perfect, but the tricky choreography demanded that he not only dance but truly lead, and he brought exactly the coiled-spring energy that the dance requires. He continues to show probably the steepest improvement the show has ever seen, which is a credit to both him and “So You Think You Can Dance” graduate Chelsie. They scored a 9 and two 8s, and he'll likely be one to watch again next week.

Steve Wozniak had nowhere to go but up after last week’s disastrous samba, and he dived into the Argentine Tango as much as he could. Partner Karina Smirnoff did most of the dancing, but Steve lifted her once or twice and managed to stand in the right spot. His bad dancing sticks out even more as the herd is thinned, but he is what he is, and he’s not going to change. He scored straight 4s for a sad little 12, which he was quick to point out represented a 20 percent improvement over last week’s 10-point total.

Melissa Rycroft was decked out in pink for her Lindy Hop with partner Tony Dovolani, who’s clearly loving how good a student she is. The first dancer of the night to fully combine the upbeat relentlessness of the Lindy Hop and the technical skills it requires, Melissa took advantage of the athletic fearlessness she undoubtedly honed through years of cheerleading. It would be easy to write her participation off as a gimmick, but she’s earned the right to be on stage with her impressive combination of skill and showmanship. Melissa and Tony earned 10s from both Carrie Ann and Bruno, with Len ruining their otherwise perfect score with a 9.

Chairman of the — whoa!And then: Oh, Holly Madison and the Argentine Tango. As if she doesn’t have enough problems with her actual level of ability, Holly battled pain all week. Unfortunately (for her), she then became the first to ever fall off the chair during the “sitting on the chair” part of a dance designed to be foolproof. Things did not improve. It was fascinating to compare her dance with that of Lil’ Kim, because while the slinky tango should have flattered Holly’s long legs, she wasn’t able to achieve the long lines Kim manufactured from less than five feet of total height. Holly clocked in with a modest total of 16 points.

Steve-O and Lacey Schwimmer aimed for redemption in the Lindy Hop, after Steve-O admitted that he forgot half of the dance last week. If Steve-O had a prayer in any dance, tonally speaking, it should have been this one. Indeed, he looked less uncomfortable than he sometimes has, and he had brief successful moments, but with the increased tempo, his bad timing became impossible to ignore. It probably is the most at home Steve-O will ever look, but he doesn’t have the speed or the nimble feet it would take to Lindy Hop successfully. Fifteen points put him and Lacey right between Holly and Woz.

Gilles Marini was clearly not going to do a bad Argentine Tango. The only question was whether he could get the three 10s it would take to beat Melissa or the two it would take to tie her. Gilles was predictably steamy, though parts of the choreography looked much simpler than what several other tango participants dealt with. Still, Gilles and Cheryl Burke got the first perfect 30 of the season. The judges seem weirdly spellbound by him, to the point where one wonders whether they will simply ever give anyone else a higher score than he receives, no matter what the performances show.

It’s hard to watch Shawn Johnson right now without thinking of her recent terrifying stalker experience, but she appears to have buckled down and gotten through the week. The Lindy Hop appeared to fit Shawn’s personality and youth, not to mention her gymnastics skills, better than any other. But Shawn is more solid than wispy, and her strength didn’t quite translate into the springy performance one might have expected. She scored two 8s and a 9 — not as high as last week, but those are still good scores, leaving her in a tie with Ty Murray for fourth place behind Gilles, Melissa and the surprising Lil’ Kim.

There are two eliminations tomorrow night, and at this point, Holly Madison seems like the obvious choice for one of them. As for the other, it seems that either Steve or Steve-O is a possibility, with everyone else dancing significantly better, except for Lawrence Taylor, who undoubtedly hasn’t run out of NFL fans yet. But if you’ve got Holly in the office pool, this is probably the right time to kiss your money goodbye.

Linda Holmes is a frequent contributor to