Dancing With the Stars: All-Stars," but the performances delivered a lot more than hay bales and cowboy boots, although those were definitely included! We caught up with dancing pro Karina Smirnoff, who dished about her and Apolo Ohno's game-changing perfect score, chemistry comeback, and emotional Viennese Waltz.It was Country Week on "
Before tonight's performance, Karina and Apolo were stuck in the middle of the leaderboard as a result of last week's samba, which came shortly after a backstage argument that impacted their chemistry. This week, though, their chemistry was potent and moving, blowing away most of the competition and garnering three 10-point paddles from the judges. How did they turn things around?
"Having that fight was exactly what we needed," Karina said. "We obviously have tremendous respect for each other. Instead of communicating, we just closed off, and it escalated into a disagreement. But once we laid it all out on the table and said how we feel, it was exactly what we needed to find that chemistry, to find that connection. Now, we are stronger together. We are banded together; more than anything, we get each other. We understand how to make this partnership work the best and how to make each other better people."
It was clear in Monday night's dance that the connection was strong in the partnership. While Karina lives to display true emotion through dance, Apolo had to overcome his personal boundaries to nail such a heartfelt performance. "He has been taught since he was a child to not show his emotion, to hold his emotion in," Karina said. "So for us to reveal his emotional side in the dance was not easy. But this dance has an emotional connection to Apolo, as well. He lost his grandfather to cancer. As difficult as it was to show that emotion in public in front of millions of people, we had tremendous support systems."
It was through these support systems that Apolo was able to shed his tough exterior and tap into feelings that made this dance one of the most memorable this season.
There's no doubt that the judges went wild for Karina and Apolo's stirring, elegant waltz. Hello, perfect score! Len said that Apolo lived up to his name: the Roman god of light and music. He also gushed that the dance had great musicality and showcased two people in harmony. He even said, "I loved it!" Coming from Len, that's a serious compliment. Bruno felt that the dynamic duo had such ease and was "graceful, flowing, weightless," emphasizing that it was the best involvement Apolo has had with Karina yet. Carrie Ann's comments were as eloquent as the dance itself, saying, "That was poetry in motion." After last week's comments about their chemistry hiccup, Carrie Ann was clearly thrilled to see their connection, calling it their breakthrough week!
Karina was encouraged by Len and Bruno's sweet, supportive comments, saying, "Not only did they love the connection, they loved the choreography, the attention to detail, to technique." When the time came for Carrie Ann to voice her opinion, though, Karina was nervous! The Ukrainian beauty said, "Initially, Carrie Ann's facial expression was like she wasn't very happy with us. I was like, 'Whoa, where is this gonna take us?'" Thankfully, it only led somewhere good for the couple: another perfect 10.
The couple left their powerful imprint on viewers by dancing to "Skin" by Rascal Flatts as a tribute to the loved ones they've both lost to cancer and to all those who are impacted by the disease. In fact, friends from City of Hope (a California cancer treatment and research center) were in the audience. "One friend literally had chemo in the morning and came out to the show," Karina said. "She hasn't been out of the hospital in four months. It was her first day able to come out. It's not just about sharing the experience that we've had with cancer, it's the experience of having someone in your life who loves you and is there for you unconditionally. We wanted to remind everyone that all you need is love and support, and you can conquer any battle."
Tune in to ABC on Tuesday, 10/30 at 8 PM EST to see Karina and Apolo hopefully continuing to conquer the competition, to see Taylor Swift perform live, and to find out which all-star is heading home.
More backstage insights from Karina Smirnoff:
- Arts & Entertainment
- Karina Smirnoff
- Apolo Ohno