The five remaining contestants on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" went into tonight's semifinals facing more pressure than ever. They had to perform two routines - one of which was selected by fans on Twitter - in order to secure a spot in next week's finale.
They rose to the occasion. Judges rewarded three of the performances with perfect scores.
At the end of the night, NFL player Jacoby Jones and Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman were tied for first place, while soap opera star Ingo Rademacher was at the bottom of the leaderboard.
The star with the lowest combined tally of judges' scores and viewers' votes will be voted off the show Tuesday, leaving the final four to go into the finals. Tuesday's show will also feature special celebration to mark the program's 300 th episode.
"Dancing With the Stars" is in its 16 th season.
Each star danced two routines tonight. One was a traditional ballroom dance, followed by a newer dance style selected for them by fans who voted on Twitter.
Kellie Pickler: The country music star's Argentine tango drew roars of approval from the ballroom audience and earned the singer her first perfect score of the season. Head judge Len Goodman - who made waves last week when he harshly panned the perceived lack of classic content in Pickler's paso doble - was tonight enthusiastic in his praise, saying he "loved" the technique. "That was fantastic!" he added. Judge Bruno Tonioli told Pickler the routine was "superb," while Carrie Ann Inaba called it "perfection." Pickler earned 30 out of a possible 30 points.
Pickler's fan-selected routine, the flamenco, also drew a standing ovation from the ballroom audience, but judges had mixed reviews. Goodman told Pickler she had a huge talent, despite her small size. Tonioli said Pickler got the spirit of the flamenco, but said there were a few moments when she "tightened up" and lost the flow characteristic of the Spanish dance (he gave her a 9 out of 10, but displayed his "10? paddle by accident). Inaba agreed that Pickler's performance changed at the half-way point, and that it appeared she tensed up. Pickler earned 28 points.
Ingo Rademacher: Judges commended the "General Hospital" star for the effort he put into his samba, even as they said it could have been better. "Oh, my darling, I love your determination. You don't give up. It's like a dog with a bone … but from one extreme to the other," he said. Even though he appreciated that Rademacher put work into his dance, Tonioli said he needed to have softened his legs more, not lost timing and not forced the moves. Inaba agreed. "You're the underdog here and you have the biggest fight to make it into the finals, if we're really honest, and I think you have to step it up even just a hair more," she said. Goodman thought Rademacher had done a good job with a difficult dance. Judges awarded Rademacher 24 points.
Rademacher's fan-selected dance, the Charleston, drew approval from judges. Tonioli said the routine channeled the bubbly, inebriating, "slightly mind-bending, devil-may-care spirit of the Roaring Twenties," adding, "that's what the Charleston's all about. Fun, fun fun!" Inaba said Rademacher had "a few boo boos," but said they worked within the routine. "You hit a grand slam with that one! I thought it was fantastic … you made us all smile," she said. Goodman said the routine was bubbly and full of fizz, telling Rademacher that the semifinals were a "good time to do your best dance." Rademacher earned 27 points.
Aly Raisman: The Olympic gymnast's rumba drew rave reviews from the judges. Inaba told Raisman she had beautiful lines and showed maturity, sensuality and drama. Goodman said the routine was romantic without being raunchy, with a lovely story that was told beautifully. Added Tonioli: "You had us all enchanted," noting that the routine struck "the right balance between romance and sensuality." Raisman earned 30 points, a perfect score.
Raisman's afro jazz routine, chosen for her by Twitter fans, was athletic and energetic - and judges loved it. "Booyah! That was ridiculous," Inaba said. "I don't think people know how hard of a dance that was, athletically … you guys were in perfect synch. It was just fantastic!" Goodman, too, praised the routine, but said he would have liked to see more body connection between Raisman and her pro partner, Mark Ballas. Tonioli told Raisman she had "exceeded all expectation," showing incredible range throughout the competition. "If you don't make it to the final, I'm going to judge in Speedos!" he said. Raisman earned 29 points.
Jacoby Jones: Jones appeared frustrated during rehearsals, and his pro partner, Karina Smirnoff, suffered a jaw injury during practice, but when the pair hit the ballroom floor, their Argentine tango brought the audience to its feet. Judges were equally moved: Goodman banged his fist on the judges' table in his excitement. "That's what I'm talking about!" he said. "Mood. Intensity. Great feel. Ka-ching! Right on the money, Jacoby. That was great!" Tonioli said the dance had "unbearable" sexual tension, adding that it was Jones' best performance. Inaba smiled and cheered, and instead of giving comments, she stood, called Jones over and got a kiss on the cheek, then whipped her hair around several times. Jones, too, earned a perfect score of 30 points.
Jones' high-energy lindy hop brought the ballroom audience to its feet to clap in time with the routine even before it ended. Goodman pointed out that Jones danced on the wrong foot early on in the routine, but called the performance "full on and fabulous." Tonioli said the performance was a "frantic frenzy of electricity" that got "everybody powered up." "It has been a turn out of this world. For me, you nailed it, man!" he said. Inaba was equally enthusiastic. "Without a doubt, I vote you the number one entertainer of season 16," she said. Jones earned 29 points.
Zendaya: The Disney star has been considered a frontrunner the entire season, but tonight judges thought her rapid quickstep fell flat. While Tonioli appreciated the originality of the routine - calling it "a quickstep for the next generation" - he felt that it was so fast that Zendaya lost her footing a few times. Inaba also loved the concept but faulted the execution and body contact. "That was kind of a mess … it felt more like you were dragging each other through the dance," she said. Goodman said he thought parts of the dance were fabulous, but said the increase in speed came at the expense of style. Zendaya earned 25 points.
Twitter fans chose the hip-hop for Zendaya's second dance, and the Disney star didn't disappoint. An experienced hip-hop dancer, Zendaya had Tonioli gushing with admiration. "You've got to be kidding me. Just get out of here! I mean, that was ridiculous!" he said. "So cool it gives me chills … you were just, ugh! Incredible … Zendaya forever!" Goodman liked the humor and fun of the routine, and Inaba loved it, too. They awarded her a perfect score - 30 points.
The Scores (First dance, second dance, grand total)
Aly Raisman and Mark Ballas: 30, 29. Total: 59/60
Jacoby Jones and Karina Smirnoff: 30, 29. Total: 59
Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough: 30, 28. Total: 58
Zendaya and Val Chmerkovskiy: 25, 30. Total: 55
Ingo Rademacher and Kym Johnson: 24, 27. Total: 51