Lysacek eyes mirror ball trophy on "DWTS"

Previewing the final four dances

Evan Lysacek will vie for the mirror ball trophy this week on "Dancing with the Stars."
Evan Lysacek will vie for the mirror ball trophy this week on "Dancing with the Stars." (courtesy of ABC Television)


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By Lois Elfman, special to
(05/24/2010) - Season 10 of Dancing with the Stars began on March 22 with 11 couples. Monday it's down to the final three as Olympic gold medalist and world champion Evan Lysacek and his partner Anna Trebunskaya take on Pussycat Dolls lead singer Nicole Scherzinger and Derek Hough and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews and Maksim Chmerkovskiy.

Monday each couple performs what has been dubbed a "redemption dance," a style they've already performed that the judges feel they can improve upon. Lysacek and Trebunskaya will do the Viennese waltz, Scherzinger and Hough the rumba and Andrews and Chmerkovskiy the samba. Then each couple will perform a freestyle routine, with the style and music of their own choosing.

"The challenge is the freestyle. It's not only hard because it's something you haven't done yet, but there is the pressure of knowing that dance can make or break your season," says professional dancer Louis van Amstel, who partnered Niecy Nash in season 10 and made the finals in season nine with Kelly Osbourne. In the past, several favorites wound up second or third largely due to poorly received freestyles.

"Everybody feels the stress," van Amstel says.

Then on Tuesday night, each of the couples will repeat a favorite routine they've previously performed. Lysacek and Trebunskaya will perform the Argentine tango routine that got them a perfect 30. After that, the third-place finisher will be announced. The final two couples will then dance a "knockout dance," a short routine prepared earlier in the season, but never performed. Lysacek and Trebunskaya will do a quickstep.

"Four dances is extremely difficult," says pro dancer Chelsie Hightower, who has been on Dancing with the Stars for three seasons, partnering Jake Pavelka this season. "Each dance requires a certain amount of hours to perfect and make it look good. Depending on your celebrity, it can be anywhere from 10-20 hours per dance.

"It will be interesting to see. It shows who the true competitors are." asked van Amstel and Hightower to give their thoughts on the finalists.

Van Amstel and Nash danced with Andrews, Lysacek and their partners in a cha cha group dance (Team Madonna) and he feels close to both of them. "Erin has an incredible body and a lot of personality," van Amstel says. "On the downside, Erin is always worried and nervous. I hope she can let loose. She made the finals, so she has nothing to prove anymore other than have a great time and show America that she can dance and enjoy the dance."

"I think Erin of the three has grown the most," Hightower says. "She's a fighter and that really shows through in her performances and even the way she handles Maks. She doesn't back down to Maks as some of his past partners have. You can totally see that's her personality and that always goes far in this competition."

In terms of dance experience, Scherzinger has the edge, but many times the best celebrity dancer doesn't win.

"If it's purely and only about the dancing, Nicole won the mirror ball trophy in week one," says van Amstel. "But it's not. That's what I like about Dancing with the Stars. It's about the audience connection. It's about the entertainment value. It's about the moments of talking with Brooke [Burke] or with Tom [Bergeron] or in the packages. It's all that in consideration before you get the winner."

"Nicole is an amazing performer," says Hightower. "That's something that's so huge when you come into a competition like this. Obviously, you're not going to have the most flawless technique every single week, so if you try to make up for that through performance it puts you far ahead."

Van Amstel's only suggestion for Lysacek is not to take the competition too seriously. His lines, work ethic and musicality are obvious and he thinks Trebunskaya has done a tremendous job in teaching and choreographing.

Hightower says Lysacek is a great guy with an incredible sense of humor. "He has a great work ethic," she says. "It shows in the background packages.

"Honestly, last week his paso doble was his breakthrough dance. That was amazing. I'd never seen him dance like that before. It showed he is a competitor. He's not here just to have fun, he can turn it on when he needs to and I think he did at the right time.

"If he delivers what he did last week, he could have a great chance to win."

This has been the most watched season of Dancing with the Stars and the pros have worked tirelessly to create great dances. All the teams get another chance to show off on Tuesday's finale where everybody is doing new routines.

"There are some twists going on," says van Amstel.

Hightower and Pavelka will include pro dancer Dmitry Chaplin and Pavelka's fiancée, Vienna Girardi, in their dance, a sort of a pre-wedding waltz.

No one is revealing anything about the freestyles, but Hightower says she hopes Lysacek will do something that shows off his beautiful lines and lyrical quality.

The judges' scores only account for 50 percent of the result.