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"Dancing with the Stars": Maria Menounos Tops Semifinals Leader Board

ABC/BOB D'AMICO(LOS ANGELES) -- Maria Menounos on Monday night made a strong case for why she should be in the Dancing with the Stars finals. 

On the ABC competition's second-to-last performance show of the season, the entertainment news personality soared to the top of the leader board with two well-received dances that earned her a near-perfect overall score.

In a stunner, Katherine Jenkins, who has been the front-runner for much of the season, was the lowest-scoring celebrity. The Welsh opera singer was hampered during her second dance by an unspecified lower back ailment.

Each of the four semifinalists danced twice. Here's a rundown of the individual performances, in chronological order:

-- William Levy and Cheryl Burke opened the semifinals round with a tango set to the Eurythmics hit "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)."

Len Goodman applauded Levy for his crisp movement, though he noted that the telenovela actor was occasionally flat-footed. Bruno Tonioli said Levy was totally in command, like a "dictator of the tango."  Total score for first dance: 28 out of a possible 30.

For his second dance, Levy appeared to channel his Cuban roots with his samba. Carrie Ann Inaba was so hot and bothered by it that she sipped water before telling him that he lived up to expectations and then some. Goodman joked that he's "never looked at a man's bum for so long" in his life. Total score for second dance: 30/30. Overall score: 58/60.

-- Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas played a Bonnie & Clyde-type duo for the quickstep; the dance began with Ballas breaking Jenkins out of a cage. The song of choice was the Brian Setzer Orchestra's "The Dirty Boogie."

Inaba said Jenkins brought her A+ game to the semifinals, going so far as to say the performance may have been the best she's seen in the show's 14 seasons. Goodman said it was a fabulous number, aside from a "foot fall thing" for which Ballas took responsibility. Total score for first dance: 29/30.

Katherine later returned for an Arabian genie-themed salsa. It ended in awkward fashion, with her breaking down in tears after suffering an unspecified ailment. She later explained that she felt her back go out. She received medical attention after the show.

The panel reassured Jenkins and told her how proud they were of her. Total score for second dance: 27/30. Overall score: 56/60.

-- Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd slowed things down during the first round with a waltz to Des'ree's "Kissing You."

Inaba said she was trapped in the emotion of the dance but there were a few footsteps too many. Goodman added that Driver needs to keep his head up more, but tried to compliment him by calling him a "rough, tough cream puff." Total score for first dance: 28/30.

Driver and his partner posed as rich folks for a samba to Jean Knight's "Mr. Big Stuff." Tonioli praised him for putting his own unique spin on the dance, rather than sticking to the Brazilian flavor that's normally associated with the samba. Inaba simply smiled widely like a kid on Christmas. Total score for second dance: 29/30. Overall score: 57/60.

-- Maria Menounos and Derek Hough delivered a sexy Argentine tango that received the approval of all three judges.

Tonioli said every step of the dance had meaning and purpose. As if to demonstrate his point, he caressed Goodman, who quickly jumped out of his seat and away from Tonioli. Inaba had no shortage of superlatives to describe how much she liked the beauty of the performance. Total score for first dance: 30/30.

Their second dance consisted of Hough "reviving" a flat-lining Menounos using a defibrillator so they could dance the jive.

Tonioli said he enjoyed the quirky details of the routine. Inaba called her a "winner." Total score for second dance: 29/30. Overall score: 59/60.

One contestant will be sent home Tuesday night on the Dancing with the Stars results show, which begins at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time. Carrie Underwood, Alanis Morissette and former Dancing with the Stars pro Julianne Hough will be among the musical guests.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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