Dancing With the Stars' first Fusion Night challenged the seven all-stars to mix two, two, two dances together — and to do it seamlessly, clearly and in an entertaining way.
"It could be fantastic or it could be a dance meltdown," explained judge Bruno Tonioli at the opening of Monday's show. Len Goodman said the stars have to make sure to "maintain the character of each dance." Carrie Ann Inaba said it's about having "a strategy" that suits the celeb's style as well as expertly fusing two dances.
Host Tom Bergeron said rehearsals for the stars and the pros definitely brought frustrating moments this week as they prepped for the bipolar performances.
But after all the fusing was done, the stars had to participate in a swing dance marathon to try to pick up extra points, which radically changed the board around.
So who pulled it all off the best? Here's how the show shaped up:
Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani battled to mix a tango and a cha cha in rehearsals. "They're very different," said Melissa. And they were on the floor, too, as Melissa started out her tango wearing a black dress, only to rip it off and cha cha in a short silver spangly outfit. Bruno called it a "sexilicious cha cha cha.... You were on fire! ... You turn me on!" Carrie Ann raved, "You are a star!" Len said the dances were "beautifully defined." It was "proper fusion." Scores: 10, 9.5, 9.5 = 29 + 10 = 39.
Shawn Johnson had double trouble and double the fun this week, as 2009 partner Mark Ballas filled in for ailing Derek Hough, although both guys were at rehearsals all week giving her pointers. Dancing the tango/paso doble fusion, Shawn and Mark were fiery and sharp on the dance floor to Livin on a Prayer. "Wow!" Tom Bergeron kept saying, as the crowd cheered. Carrie Ann: "If there's a picture of what dance fusion is supposed to be in the dictionary, that's it... Not a step missed!" Len said it was a "firecracker. ... fantastic." Bruno said, "As fusions go, that was flawless." Derek announced he'll be back next week. Scores: 10, 10, 10 = 30 + 8 = 38.
Lovebirds Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovkskiy went a little more public with their romance, as we saw Val tell Kelly: "This has been a life-changing experience for me, professionally — clearly I've never been as successful on this show as I have this season —- and personally, I hope that we continue to stay in touch and do a lot more things after this season. What do you think?" he said, giving her a big wink and a smile. "Of course I feel the same!" she said to him. And to the cameras, she said, "I did not expect to have such a great connection with Val. What Val and I have is unexplainable. People kinda don't know what it is. And we kinda don't know what it is. But it works!" On the dance floor, they melded a fox trot and a cha cha in a flirty, saucy number in which he pulled off the longer part of her dress and she pulled off his shirt from under his jacket. At the end of the dance, he got down and one knee and opened a ring box. Len said they captured the "smoothness of the foxtrot with the quickness of the cha cha cha." Bruno said her timing and control were good, although she lost some balance early on. Carrie Ann said it was a challenging routine, but "overall, really beautiful." Brooke Burke Charvet said, "At the rate you two are going, what can we expect in the finale?" Replied Val: "Children!" Scores: 9, 9, 9 = 27 + 9 = 36.
Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke seemed stressed during rehearsals. Emmitt was happy to spend time at home in Dallas with his family to re-energize. On the floor, the NFL star, dressed in hot pink pants and shirt, worked his hips overtime in his upbeat rumba/samba. Bruno said he "loved" how Emmitt "went into it and out of it ... with such ease. That was wonderful!" Carrie Ann said his hips were good, but questioned his "upper body." She thought he was thinking about the dance too much. Len loved it. Scores: 8.5, 9.5, 9.5 = 27.5 + 7 = 34.5.
Gilles Marini, going in to tonight, was the highest-scoring star overall but hadn't snagged a perfect score for any single dance. He and Peta Murgatroyd melded an Argentine tango with a samba that was also a bit of a striptease, as Gilles started out in a white Saturday Night Fever suit and ended up with his jacket off and shirt open. Len said it was "well done." Bruno said it was "sultry" and "erotic." Carrie Ann was critical of his arms, which prompted the crowd to boo. "I did think it was a fantastic fusion, but that's what you need to work on," she defended. Scores: 9.5, 9.5, 9.5 = 28.5 + 5 = 33.5.
Apolo Anton Ohno and Karina Smirnoff had to mix cha cha with paso doble -- "a pacho," as Apolo called it. Karina explained to Apolo in rehearsals that the paso is aggressive while the cha cha is fun. But what they delivered on the dance floor was drama. Apolo started off wearing a white dinner jacket only to rip it off and dance bare chested (his first time!). Joked Len: "It's like looking in a mirror!" The judge went on to say "there was nothing safe" about it and that was a good thing. Bruno told him he should "be in Twilight," adding it was "triumphant, wonderful!" Carrie Ann said it "started off strong and ended up stronger." Scores: 9, 9, 9 = 27 + 6 = 33.
Kirstie Alley and Maks Chmerkovskiy fused a quickstep with a samba. "Guess which part I like the best," said Kirstie in rehearsals. It was pretty clear it was the samba. But she admitted that she was distracted this week as she organized a truck to send supplies to the East Coast. "We've been thinking much more about Sandy than Dancing." To Stevie Wonder's Sir Duke, Maks was a prince to Kirstie's maid as they melded shimmies with quicksteps throughout in a cute number that seemed to win the crowd, although not the judges. Carrie Ann said there were problems as she "fell out of sync." She thought the samba "fell apart." Len thought it had a "nice mix," although he cited "one or two incidents." Bruno said, "Whatever you do it's entertaining. Only you can turn Cinderella into a stripper." Scores: 8, 8, 8 = 24 + 4 = 28.
Swing dance marathon: All the couples took the floor to see if they could pick up extra points. Kirstie earned 4; Gillles, 5; Apolo, 6; Emmitt, 7; Shawn, 8; Kelly, 9; Melissa, 10.