‘DWTS: All-Stars’: Mark Ballas Makes Unexpected Return

'DWTS' Pro Mark Ballas (Photo: ABC)

Dance pro Mark Ballas, who took controversial partner Bristol Palin remarkably far in the “Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars” competition before being eliminated this season, is making a ballroom comeback.

But it won’t be with Bristol. Mark is now replacing his friend Derek Hough as Shawn Johnson’s partner this week after Derek suffered severe neck pain. Plans call for Mark to coach Shawn in rehearsals, with the hope that Derek will be able to dance with the ex-gymnast on next Monday night’s performance show.

After his dance with Shawn this Monday, Derek had to wear an ice pack on his neck and he told reporters he has had a bulging disc in his vertebrae for a couple of years that requires surgery.

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On Tuesday night, the plan to have Mark substitute while Derek takes a week off to recover was announced on “DWTS.” After the show, Shawn confided to xfinityTV, “Losing Derek today was heart-wrenching, more so in the sense that I’m worried for him, relating as a competitor and as an athlete, I knew how hard the decision was for him, and I’ve never seen the look on his face this season that he had today — it was just pain and frustration.

“It crushed me.”

Shawn will now be under the familiar care of Mark, with whom she won Season 8 of “DWTS.” “Having Mark step in is great. I’m glad he did. I’m comfortable with him. I danced all season 8 with him but under the circumstances, it’s hard.”

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According to Shawn, Derek “is out for this week, not necessarily out for next show. He’s going to be in all the rehearsals to choreograph and make sure his control [is there] if he steps back in on Monday. I can only hope.”

Meanwhile, Shawn herself badly tweaked her left knee this week but said backstage, “That’s the least of my worries. I’m going to wrap that baby up and it’s good.”

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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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