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On Monday night's Dancing with the Stars premiere, Jennifer Grey teared up as she explained how dancing with partner Derek Hough reminded her of her Dirty Dancing costar Patrick Swayze, who died last year from cancer.
Her emotional reaction not only got the judges' attention -- it surprised Swayze's wife Lisa Niemi, too. She admits she "didn’t expect there to be so much focus on Patrick" in the season 11 premiere, but says she was touched by Grey's heartfelt response.
"A friend asked me if I thought Jennifer was being sincere, and I said absolutely. I thought she was sincere," Niemi told EW.com. "There’s got to be some part of her that knows it will help her chances a little bit. But does that cancel out whether she really does care? No, it doesn’t. I think her feelings are very true and at the same time, I think she’s going to win!"
Grey and Hough ended the night with the top score, earning a total of 24 out of 30 points for their Viennese waltz.
"Of course, Jennifer is hugely associated with Dirty Dancing, and if you think about it — her dancing ballroom again — how could it not remind her of moment in time that was very important?" says Niemi, who sent Grey a good luck email before the show. “Jennifer is a very talented and very sensitive individual. It didn’t surprise me that she got so emotional.”
Over the years, Niemi says that she and Swayze always had "warm feelings" towards Grey.
“Jennifer is a very unique individual and she looks like dynamite. I’m sure some people thought Jennifer had all this dance training, which she hasn’t, but she has a lot of natural abilities. Coupled with her acting abilities, she’s a unique personality. She has a lot to bring to the show.”
But Niemi still thinks actress' role as "Baby" in the hit flick will give her an extra push with viewers.
“There is a lot of good will out there for Dirty Dancing,” Niemi continued. “Will that little magic help her? I think it may because she was such a big part of Dirty Dancing. Go girl and win it -- if you are going to do this kind of thing, I think!”
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