‘DWTS: All-Stars’ Duos: We Put Them to the Chemistry Test

'Dancing' Pros Derek Hough and Cheryl Burke (Photot: ABC)

Dancing with the Stars has named its dynamic duosfor the All-Star 15th edition. But while some of the celebrities have been teamed with their former pro partners, others will have to learn the moves with brand-new ones. The hit ABC reality show is always won and lost based on how well the twosomes gel. So which partnerships will have the judges lifting their perfect 10 paddles and which will fail the chemistry test?

Here, xfinityTV “scores” the just-announced “All-Star” couples:

Apolo Anton Ohno and Karina Smirnoff: Olympics fever is sure to strike again when Apolo returns to the ballroom with sexy Karina by his side. The speed skater won Season 4 with Julianne Hough, and we think his teaming with Karina will be even hotter. Karina, who finally won her first mirror ball trophy two seasons ago with actor J.R. Martinez, is in as great physical shape as Apolo and their strong personalities should be a perfect match. The dancer’s publicist tweeted, “Best pairing. Nuff said!” We have to agree. Our Score: 10

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Gilles Marini and Peta Murgatroyd: This also promises to be a sexy couple, and with Peta coming off her winning run last season with football player Donald Driver, she’s more than ready to repeat. Although Gilles said before the partners were announced that he’d love to work again with his Season 8 pro, Cheryl Burke, he seemed to sense he’d get paired with a new dancer. Gilles told xfinityTV: “I joined [All-Stars] at the last second because of my [other] work. Maybe some of the other contestants asked in their contracts that ‘I want to dance with this person and that’s it.’ I didn’t have the chance to do that so it’s really up to them to put me wherever they want.” Producers have rewarded Gilles, who lost a heartbreaking close contest to gymnast Shawn Johnson last time around, with a terrific partner. Look for these two to really steam up the dance floor with sexy clinches and lots of eye contact. Peta proved last season that she can “act” any dance, a factor French actor Gilles will surely use to his full advantage. Our Score: 10

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Helio Castroneves and Chelsie Hightower: The race car driver hopes to finish first with the help of another bubbly young blonde. Helio triumphed in Season 5 with Julianne Hough, who later left “DWTS” for a movie career. When asked if he feared getting a new partner, Helio replied, “No, because they’re incredible talents, ALL the dancers.” And with Chelsie, we think the racer has a great shot at a first-place finish again. “Chelsie has some of the same qualities that Helio loved in Julianne — she’s hard-working yet enthusiastic, young and fun,” an insider says. “Chelsie has never been given a partner before with a real chance to win. Although it’s going to be a very competitive season, Helio is being called one of the favorites and Chelsie is determined to take home the mirror ball trophy.” Our Score: 10

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Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough: The gymnast had to drop her recent Olympics dream and retire due to a knee injury. Will she be pressing through pain during her All-Stars run? If so, Derek is the perfect person to help Shawn, as he has been a strong “DWTS” contender every season, even through his own injuries and those of his partners (like last season’s Maria Menounos). Another point in their favor is that Shawn hung out with Derek while she was winning Season 8 with his close buddy, Mark Ballas. The blonde couple will look great together on the dance floor and now that Shawn has gone from a girl to a woman, the tabloids will surely speculate on a showmance. Will we see them “double date” with Mark and his All-Stars partner, Bristol Palin? Here’s hoping! Our Score: 10

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Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke: The NFL star and his dance pro were a joyful team winning Season 3, but now Emmitt and Cheryl will face stiff athletic competition. Also, the show has become much more elaborate since Emmitt last strapped on his dance shoes. But Cheryl, who hasn’t won it all since her stint with Emmitt, is the perfect person to bring him back to dance training camp. “Cheryl is a fierce competitor and can’t wait to teach Emmitt some new tricks,” an insider says. And Cheryl herself thinks they’re more than ready, musing on Twitter about the partnership, “It’s as if no time has passed.” Never count out a football player on “DWTS”! Our Score: 9

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Joey Fatone and Kym Johnson: Joey and Kym were runners up to Apolo Ohno and Julianne Hough way back in Season 4. The former ‘N Sync singer had a blast with the Australian dancer, and their chemistry should sizzle again. Both have a sly sense of humor. But was their season too long ago and will the lovable goofball (who joked about being known as “Fat One”) be able to compete physically with the sports stars? He’ll face, er, Olympian competition again with his rival Apolo in the All-Stars. But savvy competitor Kym, who has two American mirror ball trophies on her mantle, should help Joey remind fans about his cheerful personality and underdog status. Our Score: 8

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Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani: Melissa and Tony finished 3rd on Season 8 when their odd hip-hop freestyle couldn’t match Gilles’ and Shawn’s routines. Of the pros, Tony has had the biggest drought, having never won the show in 13 tries. But he came close with the jilted “Bachelor” beauty, as both their dancing and upbeat personalities clicked. And Melissa now has even more in common with family man Tony, as she has gotten married and had a child since they last danced. “I don’t know if the audience wants to see you create a dynamic with someone new or with your old partner,” Melissa told xfinityTV before the couples were announced. We’ll soon find out if they can build on the old magic! Our Score: 7

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Drew Lachey and Anna Trebunskaya: On paper, the teaming of the Russian redhead and very American former boy bander looks odd, but the pro dancer has worked with partners as diverse as “Queer Eye” star Carson Kressley and martial arts tough guy Chuck Liddell. This time, Drew, who won Season 2 with Cheryl Burke, will be performing with a pro who has never taken home the mirror ball (though she came close in Season 10 with skater Evan Lysacek). Drew also has the handicap that “DWTS” has become much more challenging since his early season. Will Anna be able to bring Drew’s skills up to match those of the competitors from later seasons? Or will he miss his undeniable chemistry with Cheryl? “I’m going to look at it as the glass half-full point of view as far as a new partner,” Drew recently shrugged. “Part of the fun of the show is meeting other people and making new friends.” Our Score: 7

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Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovskiy: The soap actress was the very first “DWTS” winner, but the show hit its stride much later when athletes won. Kelly has admitted she hasn’t danced in seven years, so partner Val has a lot of work to do! They’ll have to really stand out early to survive, a task made harder by the fact that the pro dancer hasn’t been a show regular for too long and is still in the shadow of his brother Maks. Still, Kelly, who won with Alec (where is he now?) Mazo, is young, beautiful and determined, and has already tweeted that she’s “soo happy to be dancing” with Val. Our Score: 6

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Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: Ah, Maks. After 12 seasons on “DWTS,” the show’s resident bad boy has yet to win the top prize, and he’s more than hungry. But xfinityTV thinks a reprise of his partnership with Kirstie won’t give him a win this time, either. Although their edgy personalities are well-suited, they finished second in the relatively weak Season 12 and won’t be able to keep up with the tough All-Star athletes. Plus, Maks’ big mouth (he famously declared “DWTS” is “MY show!” and has constantly slammed the judges) seems to cause more harm than good in the popularity contest. We hope he proves us wrong with a surprise showing this season but our guess is he’ll continue to be a “DWTS” bridesmaid. Our Score: 6

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Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas: One of “DWTS’s” most controversial competitors, Bristol finished an incredible 3rd place in Season 11, despite all the doubters of her dance skills. And all of that is thanks to two-time mirror ball winner Mark, who was able to turn a true amateur into an (almost) credible dancer. Will viewers once again warm to the young team or will critics of her lightning-rod mom, Sarah Palin, and her own conservative views vote her off quickly? Bristol is thrilled she’s re-teamed with her old partner, writing on her blog, “Mark, I am honored to be paired with you again! I love you like a brother and I can’t wait to see if we can bring home that mirror ball trophy this time around.” But we say, Mark, please don’t put her in that monkey suit again! Our Score: 5

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Pamela Anderson and Tristan McManus: The “Baywatch” babe only finished sixth in Season 10, making her a huge long-shot. Last seen with Australian pro Damian Whitewood, Pam is now paired with Irishman Tristan, who will have to bring his unflappable style to the actress’ in-your-face sexuality. They seem like an odd couple that will bring more unintentional comic relief than heat. They may put the show on a trainwreck alert from time to time, too! Our Score: 5

“DWTS: All-Stars” premieres Monday, September 24, at 8/7c on ABC.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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