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"Dancing" Corrals Best Scores Yet

"Dancing With The Stars," which concluded Monday night with a rousing group country dance, managed to rope in some of the best scores of the season for several of its stars.

Figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi, the leader everyone has been gunning for, got the season's first perfect score, winning 10s from all three judges. Both Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli pronounced her jive their favorite dance of the season so far.

"It was top-notch, high-definition entertainment," Tonioli said.

Photos: The "Dancing" Competition
Also getting their highest scores so far were R&B singer Mario, whose sultry rhumba fell just short of perfection; Chilean film star Cristian de la Fuente, whose foxtrot was called "an unexpected treat" by one of the judges: and actress Marissa Jaret Winokur, who waltzed her way to an eight and two nines.

Even though he was docked by Inaba for an against-the-rules lift, Mario ended up with a score of 28. Judge Len Goodman called his dance "Too raunchy for my tastes," but awarded him a nine. Tonioli gave the number a 10.

De la Fuente, who was in the bottom two last week, earned a 27 Monday, getting nines from all three judges.

"If you're in the bottom two tomorrow," Goodman told him, "I'll show my bum in the supermarket."

The actor later joked about getting better scores for his foxtrot than his Latin dances. "Maybe I am not a Latino," he said. "Maybe my parents lied to me and I was born in another country."

Winokur squealed with delight and jumped up and down when she got her score of 26. "You came out there like a true princess," Goodman told her.

Dropping out of the top rung for the first time was NFL star Jason Taylor, whose cha-cha earned him eights from all three judges for a total of 24. "I think you are dancing smaller than you should be," Inaba told the Miami Dolphins' defensive end, who towers over the other dancers.

Actress Shannon Elizabeth, who also tends to earn high scores, fell short with her rumba, getting eights from all three judges for a total of 24.

Coming in at the bottom of the leader board this week, with a score of 21, was actress Marlee Maitlin. Each judge awarded her a seven but also complimented the hearing-impaired star for what one called, "a great achievement."

Monday's show concluded with a western-themed number, featuring all of the stars and their partners. The fast-paced routine was filled with lifts, spins and stomps, but was not scored by the judges. Commenting on the costumes, host Tom Begeron joked that it was the first time Taylor had worn "a Cowboy uniform".

The judges' scores will be combined with viewer voting, and the lowest scorer will go home at the end of Tuesday night's results show. That show will also feature performances by Ashlee Simpson and Riverdance.

Next week, the remaining five contestants will be scored on two dances each.
By Mary Jayne McKay