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Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Professional dancer Ashly DelGrosso greets her students and fans before entering Center Stage Performing Arts Studio in Orem Tuesday.

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."

"The judges obviously don't like us," DelGrosso said, "but I think America likes to watch us dance. They like to see us progress. Every week, (Master P) has been better, and we've put together a show."

This week, Master P and DelGrosso will be performing the Paso Doble, which, according to the "Dancing With the Stars" Web site, is a Spanish dance that creates the atmosphere of a bullfight. The male dancer takes on the role of the matador, with his partner as his cape and the bull.

Making Master P the focal point of the dance will be tricky for DelGrosso.

The pair's first three performances have seen DelGrosso do most of the dancing while Master P muddles his way through the routines to fulfill the with-the-stars requirement.

"We go out, I dance my butt off and he kind of frames me," DelGrosso said.

In fairness to Master P, he was added to the lineup late after his rap-star son, Romeo, was injured while playing basketball and had to drop out of the training for "Dancing With the Stars."

"I'm working with someone who truly has never danced before in his life and is really coming out of his comfort zone," DelGrosso said. "He really is scared to death to stand in front of millions of people to dance."

In that way, DelGrosso said, Master P has become her teacher.

"I'm learning from him to face my fears, and go out there and do something new," she said.

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