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Cohen voted into semis on "Secret Talents"

Figure skater passes as a contortionist

Sasha Cohen twists herself up like a pretzel.
Sasha Cohen twists herself up like a pretzel. (courtesy CBS Entertainment Television)

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By Todd Hinckley
(04/09/2008) - Sasha Cohen's skills as a contortionist aren't secret anymore.

Tuesday night, on CBS' new reality show, Secret Talents of the Stars, the 2006 Olympic silver medalist was voted on to the semifinals.

The figure skater has been honing her flexibility since first starting out on the ice. She used it while performing various spins and spirals during her programs. Those moves placed her on the podium in Turin in 2006 and also earned her the U.S. national title earlier that year. Now, her flexibility has been shown off in a new way.

On Secret Talents, Cohen performed with New Shanghai Circus, and they practiced the art of Chinese group contortion, in which the members must show strength and flexibility while bending and twisting to form living sculptures. While practicing with the group, Cohen was confident in her flexibility, but it was coordinating with the group that was going to be hard.

"I can do the position," she said. "I'm just worried about bringing the [sculpture] down."

At the show, performed live, Cohen made a dramatic entrance, dropping down from the ceiling, strapped in a harness and dressed in a skimpy, red outfit that could have been worn by Tarzan's Jane. She showed a wide array of moves, all of which dropped plenty of jaws in the audience.

While lying on the ground, Cohen twisted her leg sideways behind her head. She also formed several block formations with the other members of the Circus. In the final group contortion, she rested on top of two other girls. Her head faced the audience, while her body arched upwards and backwards, with her feet ending up all the way back by her head.

"It went well," Cohen said after the performance. "I think I pinched some kind of nerve there at the end, and everything went fuzzy," she added, chuckling. "But it's OK now." The smiling star was kidding about the pinched nerve, we think. Either way, the judges and the audience were impressed.

"I was thrilled," Debbie Reynolds said. "When you put your leg like that, I almost passed out. If I had one move like that, I could have saved my second marriage."

Judge Brian McKnight announced, "I couldn't distinguish the professionals from you."

Gavin Polone, the third judge, added some constructive criticism. He felt the world knew she was flexible, but "what I felt was missing, what I'd have liked to see more of is some element of personality [that we didn't already know]. I'd like to see something more passionate, more sexy."

Cohen will get the chance to show her racier side in the semifinals.

Also performing on Secret Talents on Tuesday were actor George Takei, country singer Clint Black and pop star Mya. When the results were announced at the end of the show, Black, whose stand-up comedy routine was applauded for its natural timing, was the first to move on. Takei, best known for his role on Star Trek, was sent home after his rendition of "On the Road Again."

Then, it came down to Cohen and Mya. The pop star performed a rousing, tap dance routine, but the online vote went in favor of the U.S. champion. The semis will air in two weeks, on April 22, on CBS.