'Melissa & Joey': Mark Ballas introduces America to the 'Man-go'

joey-lawrence-melissa-joan-hart-mark-ballas-large.jpgBefore he was teamed up with Bristol Palin on the current season of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," pro dancer Mark Ballas was paired in the fall of 2009 with Melissa Joan Hart.

He guided her to a 9th-place finish out of 16 celebrities (including a perfect-10 score for her Charleston).

Coincidentally, Hart now stars with another "Dancing With the Stars" veteran, Joey Lawrence -- who finished third in late 2006 -- in a new ABC Family comedy called  "Melissa & Joey," which premiered in mid-August.

Hart plays Toledo, Ohio, city councilwoman Mel, and Joey plays Joe, a down-on-his-luck former finance whiz now working as her nanny -- or "manny" -- since she's acquired custody of her teen niece and nephew ( Taylor Spreitler, Nick Robinson).

In the Tuesday, Sept. 28, episode, called "Dancing With the Stars of Toledo," Ballas guest-stars as himself to help Mel prepare for a performance at a fundraiser.

"It went great," says Ballas. "It was an absolute blast. I think the episode is going to be one of their best. When there's no pressure of judges and whatnot, Melissa was a lot more loose. It was a lot more easy for her to move around.

"She was like, 'Man, I wish I could have danced like this in front of a judge.'"

Apparently Hart hasn't lost her ballroom mojo in the past year.

"We were playing around with our old routines," Ballas says, "and she actually remembered them better than I did."

mark-ballas-joey-lawrence-large.jpgAs often happens with the misfortune-prone Mel, unexpected circumstances intervene, and Ballas winds up in a dance-floor clinch with Lawrence.

"Yeah, I had to dance with Joey," says Ballas. "I'm not going to tell you too much, because it's a surprise. I think you will definitely dig it. He did great. I think it's easier when [you're a guy being] trained by a guy, because I can show him what a man's supposed to look like.

"Sometimes it's harder when you're being trained by a girl as opposed to a guy, because you can't get that masculine kind of vibe."

As for the actual dancing, whomever it's with at any given moment, Ballas says, "We created a whole new routine for the sitcom. We did a bit of waltz, and we did a bit of tango."

Specifically regarding the dance with Lawrence, Ballas says, "The tango ... it was more like the 'man-go.' You have to tune in to feel the love."

Asked if he might come back if "Melissa & Joey" gets a second season, Ballas says, "If they do another episode in this vein, absolutely. I'd love to do it again.

"I'm thinking it's going to be a really fun show, and I think it's going to be picked up."

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Photo credit: ABC Family