Dancing queen: Kym Johnson talks about her 'Dancing with the Stars' injury and victory

Kym Johnson	AP PHOTO
Kym Johnson AP PHOTO

With all due apologies to Dickens: It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.

Prepping for the semi-finals of "Dancing with the Stars," Kym Johnson injured her neck in a horrible rehearsal accident that was captured on video. In a complicated move, partner Hines Ward - a Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver - was holding Johnson's hands and swinging her through his legs. When she was upsidedown, he lost his balance and fell on her. She landed on her neck. At one point shortly afterward, she said, "I can't feel my arms."

Johnson was treated for what was reported to be a sprained vertebrae. She rallied enough to perform on the show, the duo nabbed perfect scores, and a week later, won the finals.

That means she's now got two of those mirror-ball trophies from America now - plus one from her native Australia, although she says that's much smaller than the American version.

Johnson may be still undergoing physical therapy, but she's also still dancing. She's coming to Mohegan Sun on Friday to dance with fellow "Dancing with the Stars" pro Dmitry Chaplin and to sign autographs as part of the Sun's Reality Check series.

She spoke by phone last week about all things dancing.

The video of Johnson being injured in rehearsal was stunning:

"I still actually haven't seen it myself. But, you know, I'm so much better now. My neck's feeling okay. It's actually my shoulder. I tore a little tendon off the bone when I fell on my neck, so that's what I have to look at now. And that's what I have to fix up. I'm just going to be having physical therapy, and I've got time now to get better."

When complimented on how easy she made dancing look on her first post-injury show, her response is:

"Well, I did have a few painkillers to get me through it. When the doctors cleared me, they didn't clear me until Monday to dance that day. ... I knew I wasn't doing anything dangerous where I could hurt myself again. We both decided, let's do it. I was more concerned about Hines because he knew to dance with me. It's hard when you have to then suddenly dance with someone else, and that's what we would have had to do. We both decided, yeah, let's do it. ...

"He was great. He really pulled me through the routine."

Johnson has partnered with celebs who each had their own level of abilities. She explained the knack of choreographing dances that makes them each look their best:

"The first (celebrity) I had was Jerry Springer. I had to be a little bit more accommodating for the routines because there were a few things he couldn't do. Then I had Joey Fatone, and Joey's an incredible dancer. So I changed it up with him. It really just depends on who you get.

"And then with Hines, he just had the whole package. I could do so much with him. He was strong, he was young. Donny Osmond, I would do a lot with as well. He was from a performing background. He was the showman, and we could be very showy with him.

"You just have to adapt to whoever you have. I have done 12 seasons, so you'd think I'd get bored with it, but each season is so different. Whoever you're dancing with inspires you to come up with different stuff, so you don't get stale."

Her introduction to ballroom dancing was via her brother, who took ballroom dance lessons so he could meet girls:

"I was more into ballet, jazz and tap. I thought that was real dancing. I thought ballroom dancing was something grandparents did. But there was a girl at school who was doing ballroom dancing, and my brother and his friend went along. I was going with my mum to pick him up, and I was like, 'Oh, this looks kind of cool.' I started, and he (my brother) stopped. That's how I got into it."

What drew Johnson to ballroom:

"It's just a beautiful form of dancing, and I think coming from the other world of dancing really helped me. That's very much the foundation of all dance - ballet and jazz. So that helped me adapt to the ballroom world. I enjoyed having a dance partner. I wasn't just dancing by myself and going to practice on my own, which is what you do when you're doing ballet. It can get quite lonely. So it was nice having a partner to dance with and work toward this one common goal. I ended up being quite good at it, and it sort of went from there."

Kym Johnson and Dmitry Chaplin of "Dancing With The Stars," 7 p.m. performance and 7:45 p.m. signing event, The Shops at Mohegan Sun; part of the Sun's Reality Check series; free; mohegansun.com.

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