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Judges urge Yamaguchi to show more passion

Olympic champion still garners highest score

Kristi Yamaguchi knew the tango would be hard because, she said, "It is not in my nature to be so open with my emotions."
Kristi Yamaguchi knew the tango would be hard because, she said, "It is not in my nature to be so open with my emotions." (courtesy ABC, Inc. / Kelsey McNeal)

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By Linda Przygodski
(04/01/2008) - Despite being criticized by the judges for a less-than-passionate tango, Kristi Yamaguchi and partner Mark Ballas still received the highest total combined score of any couple on Monday night's episode of ABC's hit show, Dancing with the Stars. They earned a score of 27 out of a possible 30, grabbing nines from each of the three judges.

It is the third week in a row that Yamaguchi has been given a 27 for her performance.

Yamaguchi knew the tango was going to be a challenge for her: "This is harder than I thought. It is not in my nature to be so open with my emotions, but I am ready to face the challenge. Naturally, I am more reserved, but the performance coach helped me to learn to be more expressive."

Ballas, too, was worried that Kristi's good-girl nature might not be the best fit for the tango.

"Kristi has done well so far, but I am concerned. In order to do well in the tango, she has to embody passion," he said.

After a scantily-clad, rousing mambo last week, Yamaguchi and Ballas danced the tango to Duran Duran's "Rio," with Yamaguchi in a black and red sparkling gown. She was praised for her precision in the steps and her attention to technique, but the judges did not laud her as in past weeks, urging the former competitive figure skater to reach beyond her limits.

"More lust," plead judge Bruno Tonioli. "I want you to be a dirty girl."

Carrie Ann Inaba seconded Tonioli's sentiments: "Your technique is amazing ... your anger was a little one-dimensional though. Even though you are doing everything precisely, I don't feel much when you dance."

In contrast to Yamaguchi's tango, Priscilla Presley and partner Louis van Amstel, lit up the dance floor with a fiery routine. Channeling her best sex-kitten moves, Presley truly dazzled. Inaba told Presley, "I believed it." But she gave the couple an eight, while the other two judges handed in nines -- putting them one point off Yamaguchi and Ballas.

By far the worst dance of the evening came from Marissa Jaret Winokur and partner Tony Dovolani. Doing the jive, Winokur delivered a sloppy and boring dance; nowhere in sight was the chutzpah that Broadway audiences fell in love with when she starred in Hairspray. As a result, they were scored just 19 out of a possible 30 points and are the most likely couple to go home on Tuesday's results show.