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