Hard Work, Long Days for 'Dancing's' Stars

"There is no real competition between the pros," said Dovolani, who arrived well before his scheduled dance time and was chatting away with crew members, fellow dancers and the stars. "It's all about how you work with your partner, and luckily for me Leeza has 150 percent dedication and her lack of a dance background is great, as it means she's an empty page to work on."

With the vote split 50-50 between the panel of three judges and the viewing public, the question of whether it's more important to be a good dancer or a big personality comes to mind. Pertinent to this is one of the season's lesser know pairings, that of 2004's Miss USA, Shandi Finnessey, and Brian Fortuna, who is making his first appearance on the show.

"People like John Ratzenberger will have all the 'Cheers' fans voting for him, but that just makes us work extra hard," said Finnessey, whose bouncy, smile-filled jive to Crocodile Rock belied her nerves. "We've been labeled Ken and Barbie, so I'm going to have my hair back in a ponytail or pigtails Monday and show it's about dancing, not looks."

Finnessey, a small-town girl from Missouri who counts her mother and father among audience members, slips out of the Red Room as Ratzenberger fills the stage. The actor, who formerly played a postman on the sitcom "Cheers," may have star quality, but he will need more than that to survive amid an array of vivacious and dynamic contestants.

While the Red Room on a Sunday is little more than a couple of cozy couches and a widescreen TV, Monday night it will be a place of high expectations, frayed nerves and the beginning of the end for two of the remaining 20 contestants.

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