Move over, Emmitt, there's a new "Twinkle Toes" on the dance floor.
Impressing the "Dancing With the Stars" judges with surprising grace and clever footwork, Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward and partner Kym Johnson tied for the top score on Monday night's show.
Judge Carrie Ann Inaba declared that one-time DWTS champion and Dallas Cowboy Emmitt Smith just "had to retire his little title of Twinkle Toes ... [I loved] your posture, your technique, your hold, the way you changed directions with ease and grace and control."
Indeed, Mr. Ward's footwork was excellent. In a filmed segment before the live performance, however, he expressed concern that a multitude of shoulder injuries during his football career could be a problem: "My shoulders are very weak, so to be in that posture for over a minute is very difficult.
"But I'm not going to make excuses for it."
Last week was a gold-trimmed outfit for the black-and-gold star. This week, it was a black velvet jacket and tuxedo pants, with his partner is a 40s-era classic ball gown.
Although season 12 premiered last week with viewer voting and judges' scores, last night was a bonus round that also went toward deciding who stays and who goes. Tuesday night's results show begins at 9 p.m.
Viewers had a 90-minute window to text or phone in votes for their favorites, and Internet voting was allowed until 8 a.m. today.
By now, Mr. Ward is immune to his teammates' jests: "They gave me a lot of flak earlier but I went out and proved them wrong a little bit," he said after the dance. In way of thanks for his fans' votes, he added "So all of Steeler Nation, we love you and we're looking out for you."
The judges showed they weren't cutting any slack when Disney star Chelsea Kane and partner Mark Ballas came out with a crowd-pleasing, clowns-in-love number that employed some impressive moves but wasn't true to the footwork of the jive.
"It was like Marcel Marceau desperately seeking Lolita in 'A Clockwork Orange,' " noted Bruno Tonioli. They earned 18 out of 30 possible points.
Even Week 1 leaders Ralph Macchio and Karina Smirnoff weren't safe. Their jive was deemed "a bit frenzied here and there" by judge Len Goodman, but they still earned a 21.
Talk show host Wendy Williams, who had one of the lowest judges' scores last week, did only marginally better with partner Tony Dovolani. Working a quickstep and a hot-pink dress, Ms. Williams was still hesitant en route to a 17-point showing.
Mr. Ward and Ms. Johnson, who danced to "Part-Time Lover," tied with professional wrestler Chris Jericho and his partner, Cheryl Burke, for highest point total Monday night.
Maria Sciullo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1478. First Published March 29, 2011 4:00 AM