Odd couple dances into Utah 'hood for fast tour

Highland dancer, rap artist in ABC's 'Dancing With the Stars'

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 25 2006 9:15 a.m. MST

Professional dancer Ashly DelGrosso greets her students and fans before entering Center Stage Performing Arts Studio in Orem Tuesday.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News

OREM — Ashly DelGrosso admits it's an odd partnership.

She's a 23-year-old professional dancer from Highland and a self-described "Utah County Mormon." He's a rap artist and music industry mogul from the Calliope housing projects in New Orleans who's afraid to dance in public.

Despite their differences, DelGrosso and Master P have survived the first three rounds of ABC's hit ballroom dancing series "Dancing With the Stars."

"This experience has been once in a lifetime for me," she said. "It's changed me for the best. I've learned about a whole new world. Two people nobody would ever think would be paired up have formed this partnership, and we're becoming the best of friends."

"Dancing With the Stars," now in its second season, partners celebrities with professional dancers who perform either a ballroom or Latin American dance during a live Thursday night show. Those performances are judged by a panel of dance experts and viewers who cast votes via telephone.

During the Friday results show, the team with the lowest combined score from the judges and viewers is told to hang up its dancing shoes.

DelGrosso and Master P were in Utah on Tuesday to practice for their upcoming performance and film a behind-the-scenes package to air during the performance show at 7 p.m. Thursday on KTVX Channel 4.

The visit to Utah was Master P's idea, DelGrosso said.

"He said he wanted to meet a real Mormon," she said. Her membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints apparently doesn't count, she added wryly.

DelGrosso took Master P on a tour of Salt Lake City on Tuesday morning, and the dance partners held an impromptu practice in front of onlookers at Main Street Plaza, with the Salt Lake Temple as a backdrop.

"Right when we got to Salt Lake City, I told P, 'Welcome to my 'hood. This is where I'm at, this is who I am,' " she said.

After lunch at the DelGrosso family's Highland home, DelGrosso stopped by the Center Stage Performing Arts Studio, where she has worked as a dance instructor for the past six years. The studio is owned by DelGrosso's mother, Kim.

About 60 young dancers greeted the studio celebrity with cheering, screaming and signs that read "We Love Ashly" and "Vote for Ashly and Master P."

Master P planned to visit the studio, too, but had an afternoon appointment in Los Angeles and had to cut the visit short, DelGrosso said. Instead of a practice session at Center Stage, young fans were treated to a dance by DelGrosso and her five sisters.

Also looking on was Andrea Hale, another member of the Center Stage team recruited by ABC for "Dancing With the Stars." The 27-year-old Sandy resident joined the cast of dancers this season and was paired with ESPN personality Kenny Mayne.

Hale and Mayne fared better with the judges than DelGrosso and Master P, but viewers made the final decision and sent the Utahn and the dry-witted sportscaster home after just one performance.

Professional dancer Louis van Amstel, who's partnering with actress Lisa Rinna for this season of "Dancing With the Stars," also has Utah ties. The 33-year-old Dutch dancer has lived in the Orem area and has produced shows in Salt Lake.

"There are a lot of good dancers in Utah," Hale said.

The Hale/Mayne pairing's departure was the first in what has become a pattern of eliminations dictated by the fans. Master P and DelGrosso have received the lowest score from the judges each week but have been kept in the competition by strong support from the voting public.

"It's definitely controversial," Hale said.

During last week's episode, judge Len Goodman told Master P, "I think it's time you and this show parted."

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